Interview: Trashing Trinkets and Loungin' Poolside with Steven Ansell, Blood Red Shoes.

With 90s D.I.Y. gritty rock ethic unperturbed within Blood Red Shoes' aesthetic and melody scratched onto the specials board it's anything but boring by the sea, provided you're rocking the boat with enchanting femme fatale Laura-Mary Carter and lightning-limbed Steven Ansell. Today sees the release of Heartsink, equal parts visceral and vitriolic, the video, directed by Steve Glashier (with whom the Brighton duo previously collaborated for the video to the jittering ADHD) sees a plethora of treasured possessions obliterated. Gracing Reading & Leeds' Festival Republic stage, it's brazen enough to force Axl Rose's gung-ho Guns N'Roses to cancel their sure-to-be-tetchy Reading & Leeds headline slots. Almost...

Dots: When comparing latest LP Fire Like This with BRS' debut Box of Secrets, there's little departure from the visceral Telecaster jabs and stabs of the latter. Was the initial intention not to break anything not in the slightest need of fixing?

Steven Ansell: Well our approach is that we're just evolving our sound and moving forward within the boundaries of what we do. There's a huge premium put on newness at the moment, everything is about "new music" or "new bands" and I think that emphasis on the novelty of a sound is detrimental actually. I think it encourages bands to totally change what they're good at just to get noticed on a follow up record. I mean, it's not like we were ever going to go electro. If you look at any influential or respected bands they didn't just sell up their art and totally change overnight - because it's not believable, it's just really superficial. I'm talking about bands like Radiohead, Queens of the Stoneage, PJ Harvey. these people evolved their sound and found new ground gradually. For us the challenge is to write better songs, then let the song dictate how the record sounds. So with this record we were really just mining the same way of working - guitar, drums and vocals, just improving it and trying to get to where we wanted to with the first record. That said, I think it's aa definitely step forward; I think the songs are stronger and the sound of it is more unique than the first record. Our voices are way better and less hidden with multiple tracks. I also think the sound of Colours Fade or When We Wake is something we'd have never tried before and opened up some more spaces for us to play around in.

Dashes: Is that dogged, entirely inept British White Stripes tag still haunting you in your wildest dreams?

SA: Actually since people heard this album, you're the first person to bring it up in an interview.

Dots: Forget I ever asked... The video to Heartsink features the desecrating destruction of fans' beloved possessions. From where does its inspiration stem and were you given free reign to smash anything in this universe, what'd bite the dust? And was shooting the Steve Glashier-directed video a childhood desire fulfilled?

SA: Well we always have a tendency to want to do something destructive and this idea came about when we sat and talked through some ideas with the director. Originally we wanted a kind of house party thing with lots of people, and to build a set where we could literally smash the walls.... Well since we're not rich enough for that we started coming up with alternate ideas, like using a wasteland in London (=free) and that the things getting smashed could be sentimental items that our fans choose. That way it throws it open to be defined in part by our audience which we thought would be vaguely interesting. So it wasn't so much a childhood desire just us trying to work our destructive urges into an interesting video.

Dashes: Your collective musical capabilities are aurally rather advanced. Do you feel peeved that this element of BRS is oft overlooked or could you not care less? And is there a lack of musical ambition and/or talent spewing out of Shoreditch contemporarily?

SA: UM, well, I'm flattered but I don't think we're that advanced really... You listen to a Don Caballero record, that's advanced. We're really just a melodic rock band it's just that our musical heritage comes from a punk rock/post rock/art rock/whatever you want to call it rock kind of scene. So we approach it a bit differently. Sometimes it frustrates me that people can't tell the difference, yes. Especially when we're compared to The Subways or The Automatic - those bands to me are much more of a mainstream thing and have less footing in our kind of world. I certainly can't listen to them and hear echoes of Hot Snakes, Sonic Youth, or PJ Harvey, but i'm pretty sure you can hear those things in us. Unless i've totally lost perspective. But then at the end of the day if you try to constantly control the way people perceive your music you'll end up fucking it up so it's best to put that out of your mind and just get on with it.

Personally I have no real idea what music is coming out of Shoreditch at the moment, as the majority of new music that I hear isn't that exciting save a few things like pulled apart by horses, 2:54, peggy sue... At the moment we both seem to be going back to older records to get excited, that's for sure. There's a lot of 'Sabbath and Led Zep going around our tour van.

Dots: Despite becoming a regular fixture in the NME index, BRS still pertain to a delightfully D.I.Y. essence. How conscientious are your subdued reservations when it comes down to record sleeves, stage shows and the like?

SA: That's just who we are. Like I said, we learned about being a band in the D.I.Y. scene where it's totally standard for you to control all those elements of what you do. It was always obvious that Laura-Mary would do the sleeves and we've never seen a good reason to change that. For us that's just our identity, we don't even really think about it much.

The sad thing is when you see bands who start off with managers and record labels around, they don't have time to learn enough about what goes on, so they get used to other people making decisions or doing their artwork or presenting the band in a certain way, way before they get a chance to think about it. So i'm very grateful that we had that time to understand all the things we can control, particularly as there are bands who don't really realise that they can say "no" to a lot of things and that's sad because it usually means someone outside of the band will fuck things up for them, through no fault of their own.

Dashes: Besides lucrative record deals and the entailed powers of being able to get hoards of youths to tear to shreds prized belongings, do you feel as though you're more or less the same band you've always been?

SA: Well we sure as hell don't have a lucrative record deal; we have a licensing deal, which means we basically pay to record our own records then the label just releases and promotes it. So we have to save up money from playing live or publishing money in order to record. I think that's one thing that certainly keeps us in the same mentality - nobody is ever throwing loads of money around so we can't really get that detached from reality or who we really are. The one difference I really see in our band compared to a few years ago is that we're more fussy about writing songs, and we've learnt a lot about playing live in bigger spaces like festivals. Aside from that we're basically the same deal. We're still a couple of control freaks with one foot in the 90s D.I.Y. underground rock mentality and the other foot wanting to be a massively successful band. I think that contradiction defines our band more than anything else actually.

Dots: How close to the bone are the lyrics to One More Empty Chair, or is even such an inquisition cutting things fine?

SA: Certain lyrics are pretty direct, whilst others are a bit more abstract. I think the new record is characterised by a move towards lyrical abstraction, as if you use them right you can express more than one person's experience and try to get to something deeper, connect on a much more emotive level. That said the straight up words on that song are pretty fucking straight up!

Dashes: Were you to concoct a cocktail comprised of ramshackle juice and production polish how much of each would be sloshed about in order to end up with Fire Like This?

SA: They're not necessarily opposites... Actually we spent more time on "production" on this record than our first album, although I think it sounds less "produced". It's just what I'd call "good" production rather than that kind of overdone, ten million layers, loads of reverb, loads of compression, crank-the-treble-for-the-radio kinda thing. We spent a lot of time using really expensive equipment to get things sounding exactly right on this record - that's "good" "production". It's certainly not lo-fi or ramshackle; it's just not mis-using the tools you have.

Dots: Finally, in what direction do these Blood Red Shoes trot once over the horizon of the imminent future?

SA: I don't really know, we tend not to over-analyze. We have touring plans stretching to March of next year, and we're recording a new EP in september which should, theoretically, be out early next year though timeframes for records seem to be an incredibly flexible thing. Beyond that we'll just get on with the 3rd record, where we'll probably blow out all our sense of honesty and just make a super-commercial piece of shit covered in overdubs and brass sections, get Hayley Williams to do a guest vocal, then sit back and watch the money roll in whilst we chill beside the pool.

Blood Red Shoes' latest single Heartsink b/w Into The Night, a cover from a Twin Peaks episode, is out now.

Blood Red Shoes' Myspace.