Blood Red Shoes guitarist Laura-Mary Carter says it may be the scene that keeps her band touring as hard as it does. Punk rock acts just tend to take their music out to listeners, she says. But the duo isn’t just playing gigs around its native Brighton, England. Blood Red Shoes is making its way around the globe.
The band will be playing Red Palace in D.C. Friday during the band’s return to the States. They’ll join American punk rockers The Gaslight Anthem later this fall and cross the pond for their European tour, then head on to Australia and Asia for dates of their own.
The response is different everywhere the band goes. Their brand of music works better in some places than other. Germany and Holland understood their sound pretty quickly, Carter said. There have been surprises, too. Thanks to the power of the Internet, fans in Indonesia and Brazil were singing along to their favorite Blood Red Shoes songs when the band performed there. But a two-year absence stateside has the band playing smaller gigs, in contrast to the massive crowds they entertained at festivals across Europe this summer, and working to strengthen their following here.
“It’s like starting again there because we haven’t been there as much as anywhere else,” Carter said. “It went down well, but obviously we’ve been playing a lot smaller shows in the States than we’ve played everywhere else.”
There’s no question that doing shows night after night has influenced the band when they get into the studio. Carter admits that the first two Blood Red Shoes records are much like live records; their songs sound on the album as they do when they’re performed on stage. While the band earns praise for what they can do with just a pair of musicians in those live shows – “people always say they can’t believe how much sound comes from us two,” Carter said – there are inherent limitations to performing as a duo. For their third record, In Time to Voices, Blood Red Shoes sought to test those limits.
“I think it was partly because we don’t want to just recreate the same thing all the time,” Carter said. “That would be really boring for us and for our fans that have been with us forever.”
Carter and drummer Steven Ansell turned their album writing process upside down. The jam sessions from which previous albums were born were replaced by more deliberate, methodical consideration of songs.
“We just thought, let’s make the song the best it can be without worrying about what we do live,” Carter said. As the tracks took shape, they added the layers of sound they felt the songs needed, beyond what two voices and four hands could accomplish in front of an audience.
“It’s the kind of stuff we always dreamed we would do,” Carter said, “but it takes a lot of time to learn and be able to do it right.”
Sometimes that meant adding many different guitar parts. Other times it meant writing lines for entirely new instruments. Carter highlighted the use of keyboards on “Two Dead Minutes,” as not exactly the type of thing the band would have considered when first starting out, when they were just two musicians jamming in between projects.
Fans may not find the album’s lead single, “Cold,” so much a departure from what the band has done on previous releases, considering its complex and aggressive rhythms, thrashing guitar lines and howling vocals. But there are softer, more subtle places on the album that Carter says, while different, are a natural part of where this band has been heading. The album’s title track kicks off with such a tone, and brooding vocals and gentle accompaniment slowly build to a more familiar hard-rocking apex.
“It seems like quite a bit of a drastic change from our previous records, but we have been experimenting with weirder, sort of melancholy type sounds in our songs, so a lot of our longtime fans won’t be surprised that we ended up doing something more quiet or soft,” Carter said.
Carter is proud of the album; in fact, she says this is the most proud of an album she has been. But with a packed schedule of tour dates, and plans for an EP already in the works, this album has her excitement stoked for what’s to come for the band.
“I think it’s great,” Carter said, “but I am always looking ahead.”
• For more information about Blood Red Shoes, visit bloodredshoes.co.uk.