Actually we saw a false beard shop recently. In the window there was a woman’s face with a beard attached. Where was it? Bremen? Bremen was weird…
Incendiary interview Blood Red Shoes
There are times when being prepared Boy Scout-style is not enough. After waiting for the Shoes' sound-check at Rotown to finish and finding a spare ten minutes free that was amenable to all parties, fate cruelly intervened in the form of a dying tape recorder. Still, both Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell were happy enough to ramble on at a slightly reduced pace allowing yours truly to attempt to annotate the interview via a peculiarly stumbling form of shorthand.
They are a funny pair, Blood Red Shoes. A real sense of disquiet and frustration is projected in everything they seem to do, but rather than this being off-putting it's bloody appealing. They do seem to have tapped into some private godhead, which makes their quiet, strictly authoritarian air of command all the more arresting. Its not often I'm put out of my stride by people half my age, but Blood Red Shoes manage to do it effortlessly. During the interview they rarely make eye contact, preferring to stare out into space, as if trying to make their snarls of frustration with all around them concrete.
IN: Reading the blurb on your website, I was struck by the amount of passion and desire inherent in your ideas about music. You seem to be ready to take on things you dislike, you seem to like to express forcibly what you like and don't like, yet at the same time there's this "utopian" desire to break down musical barriers; for instance between audiences and performers on the night, barriers you see as "old" and "boring", which sort of fights against this idea of having exclusive. Do you see this as a contradiction?
SA: To say you are or aren't anything musically is a boundary in itself. Having said that I agree we are surer about what we don't like than over what we do. Everything involved in creating music is in someway a barrier, and it does piss us off, but sometimes you find a way to circumvent stuff in a way that works for you. And I suppose the things we loved - early punk stuff and garage - to some extent gave us a direction.
IN: What is it about being in a duo that works for you?
SA: It was accident, I promise. We were in different bands, and I suppose that we found our previous bands quite... passive and not really expressing things we wanted to so we decided to have a jam. We never intended to do anything more than have a jam together. I think our music comes from this in that we're all about accident. Everything is an accident in Blood Red Shoes. Nothing is pre-ordained! We improvise, and in that sense we don't actually have a vision to adhere to or to understand or formulate...
IN: And now it's paying off and you are "famous". How do you reconcile your stance with the machinations of the Music Bizz?
L-M: It's worrying, it feels very uncomfortable. I mean we're getting asked already for Christmas presents for third parties. And people don't think that we go on our Myspace or read the comments, but we do, and some of the things written are well... surprising.
SA: It's always difficult. I always want to argue about music, especially over people's perceptions of our music but in some ways we can't show this. People saying they understand and can categorise our music and people's expectations of our music are in some ways creating difficulties, unnecessary difficulties at that. We ask people, what do you expect? And why get disappointed? I mean, you want to be in a great band, but you want to do it in the most human way possible. Otherwise it becomes routine and loses it's meaning, especially if you're worried about other people's reactions all the time.
IN: My splendid art my sad profession... is this how things are in the UK music scene at present?
SA: We feel as if we've been born in the wrong era. I don't like many UK bands at the moment. No-one thinks of anything but being big. It's the end of the world if they get dropped and that's a ridiculous way to think if you want to create something.
L-M: Everything is careerist. Bands absorb so much industry pressure. They have no self respect, and at present where we are there aren't many bands breaking out of the underground.
IN: Onto more eccentric matters. I've been reading Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley. There is a passage where the "hero" decides to spice up his sex life by wearing a false beard and adopting the personality changes that would necessarily accompany this change of appearance... I'm toying with the idea of a false beard, just for fun... I wondered would you do something similar.
L-M: Actually we saw a false beard shop recently. In the window there was a woman's face with a beard attached. Where was it? Bremen? Bremen was weird...
After this, BRS make apologies for the truncated interview and get ready, for show time approaches. A show which is all the more anticipated as the support act is none other than Official Friends of Incendiary and Heroes of Dutch Garage Pop, the Sugarettes. Earlier we have been talking to bassist Cox and singer Mariska, who agree they find themselves in an interesting position. Things are going to get serious for the Sugarettes soon. Events have bowled on at a frantic pace since we first interviewed them in a Haarlem pub. Tours of England, pretty heavy radio interest and gigs in (of all places) Sardinia are the order of the day, along with favourable reviews of their debut LP, a work which is charming, messy and very much a set of songs you feel they will outgrow soon.
Cox recently admitted she's working 60 hour weeks to fund all this foreign gallivanting...
It's time for serious matters to be set in place, and proper rehearsing to be undertaken, a thought which leads me to my one criticism of the Shuggies; their ramshackle (but utterly understandable) approach to being a live band. Time has been a precious commodity with them, so much so that they hardly ever seem to rehearse. Their gig tonight has moments of brilliance (stonking versions of Little I Love and Enola Gay) tempered by a stage shyness and diffidence to all around them. On the pus side it's as if they're growing out of the girl-boy pop band they originally projected themselves as, becoming a looser, groovier beast. But, typically, they seem happy to let this birthing happen on stage with little regard to the audience, which is a shame as a bit of attention here and there will win a lot of people over to them. At present they seem happy to let their undeniably catchy pop do the talking and to be fair Rotown like them, which is not always the case with support acts (anyone reading this remember the mauling Monster Bobby got?)
Blood Red Shoes do know how to put on a show however. Whatever is lacking in variation is made up in a tremendous stage craft and attention to the basic essentials of rock and roll; loud energetic, tub thumping, hollering rock and roll, offset by an airy sullenness which makes the spine tingle. The audience bounces about with abandon, and Laura–Mary scowls at the admiring glances thrown in her direction. She is the obvious counterpoint to Steven Ansell's dictatorial presence behind the drum kit. The singles (possibly the only tracks which this Dutch have heard) get an ecstatic reception and the short, thirty or so minute set is like a brisk, bitter, invigorating tonic. Great things await.
Words: Richard Foster
Photo: Courtesy Alan Bell