“It’s bullshit, man. We never lost our fucking passion.”

Today’s first lesson, then, is never to trust a press release. This year marks a decade since Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter formed Blood Red Shoes in Brighton, a band born out of a shared love of punk rock, Twin Peaks, red wine and blisteringly loud guitars. They’ve flown under the radar of the UK’s mainstream rock press in that time, but have built up an ardent worldwide fanbase, constantly explored new territory with their recorded output and spent more time on the road than off of it. Unlike so many of their contemporaries, they come across as the kind of band that make music because they need to, rather than merely because they can.

The offending statement suggested that their new, self-titled fourth record sees them ‘rediscovering’ their passion; given that I’d read about how tumultuous the process of producing their last album, In Time to Voices, had proved – marked by frequent arguments and an unrealistically perfectionist approach – it didn’t seem unreasonable to conclude that they might have been suffering from a little bit of burnout afterwards.

“It has to be difficult to make a record, or it’s not worth making.” The sheer forthrightness of that assertion is typical of Ansell’s rhetoric throughout our half-hour conversation; he peppers it, too, with a delightfully liberal helping of Malcolm Tucker-level profanity. “We forced ourselves to be uncomfortable. We were writing in a way where we weren’t jamming; we were getting the acoustic guitars out and focusing on having the vocals and melodies lead us on. We were trying to be songwriters, basically.”

“We sort of had it in our heads that we were going to make the perfect studio album, and put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” adds Carter. “We wanted to try it, and I’m glad we did – we really learned so much – but I think it did us good to take a step back from it, once we got on tour, and reflect on the fact that we’re still here, ten years on, four albums in, and with a fanbase that still really cares about us.”

Last year’s three-track Water EP was the pair’s immediate response to their last album; where Voices had been characterised by instrumental experimentation and a more subdued, atmospheric sound, Water took them back to the three things the band had been built on; guitar, drums and the sharp end of the volume dial.

“It was just the sound of us completely running off in the opposite direction,” says Ansell, “and so is the new record. We loved that spontaneous feel that the EP had, and we brought it into this album. We tempered it a bit, because we didn’t want to make it really one-dimensional; there’s tracks like “Stranger” and “Tightwire” where we we’ve aimed for something a bit more melancholy, a bit more beautiful. But we were really aiming to just not be so fucking perfectionist, and to not overthink things too much.”

“Everything was in its right place on the last record,” reflects Carter. “We were out on tour in America, playing really small rooms, and we realised we missed that kind of frantic element that we’d had on previous albums. As a band, we’re not perfect, so it didn’t really suit us to try to sound that way.”

The previous modus operandi for making a Blood Red Shoes record had been to write it in their native Brighton, then record it elsewhere; at Monmouth’s Rockfield Studios for debut Box of Secrets, and then at The Motor Museum in Liverpool on follow-up Fire Like This and In Time To Voices. This time, though, the duo decamped to Berlin to start writing, having apparently decided that it really had gotten boring by the sea.

“We thought about Paris or Brussels,” says Carter, “but we settled on Berlin. It just seems like our kind of town. There’s something harsh and dirty and brutal about it, but it’s got such a rich musical heritage, too; there’s a balance between gritty and creative there that made it feel like home to us.” So much so, Ansell adds, that they stayed for longer than they’d planned to: “The idea was just to write over there, but it kind of spiralled into recording because it was working so fucking well; there was momentum there, an atmosphere that was working, and we thought, “right – let’s not fuck with that.” It really worked out, making it there. We couldn’t have picked a better city.”

Holed up in a sparse studio space, enclosed by concrete walls, they produced the most accurate distillation yet of the sound they’ve always been aiming for; Blood Red Shoes is outwardly aggressive, noisy and fizzes with genuine vigour, but there’s plenty of vulnerability, and insecurity, if you scratch beneath the surface a little. That energy, in particular, is something that they’ve imported directly from their raucous live shows.

“We figured out, on the last album, that there were only five songs out of eleven that we could play to our satisfaction,” says Ansell, “and this time we had a rule that we wanted every song to have that same spark that a live show has, where you feel like you’re always standing on the edge of chaos. We never really play the same way twice; we’ll speed things up or slow things down, jam things out, fuck things up – we wanted to make something that had a real sense of being out of control, rather than something where we’d done a hundred takes to make it perfect. Last time, we didn’t give a fuck if we could play it live, but I think we needed that energy back. I mean, we intentionally were recording these songs as soon as they were written, so as not to lose that edge.”

There was, as Carter points out, a caveat to that; one that makes sense, given I once read Ansell argue convincingly in favour of Nirvana being a pop band, and considering there was a review of their last album that labelled them a ‘grungy Fleetwood Mac’. “We wanted all of the songs to be pop songs,” she says, “with catchy choruses, things like that. We wanted them all to sound like they could be a single. I’m not sure we managed it, but we went in with that intention.”

We get onto the subject of music videos; their new one, for “An Animal”, sees Ansell in a wedding dress, running through the streets of a grainy, projected-backdrop London. “We were just trying to fuck with ourselves, because we really like David Lynch and we were always making really moody videos; we never did anything fun. To be honest, I don’t really like making them. They’re a vehicle for the song, really.” I ask if he’s seen the video of Noel Gallagher’s scathing commentary on his own promos that recently went viral. “Dude, he totally sums up my thoughts. I don’t know if anyone cares, really. I mean, I grew up without MTV, I didn’t have Sky. They don’t mean much to me, and I say that as someone who uses YouTube frequently. They’re the one thing I’m not watching.”

It’s this honesty that might be my favourite thing about Blood Red Shoes; they’re happy to wear their fierce pride in this new record on their sleeves, and yet don’t flinch at discussing their perceived shortcomings (Ansell’s take on Box of Secrets: “too pop, vocals too loud, too many layers, not raw enough.”) Carter, too, is candid about her burgeoning confidence as a musician.

“I’ve always been into music that’s had those really loud, kind of fucked-up sounding guitars, but I feel like I’ve been learning to play the whole time I’ve been in the band,” she says. “It’s taken me a bit of experimenting to get to this kind of sound, where I want to try to come up with these big riffs, and then mess about with the effects and distortion to make something that’s pretty brutal-sounding. It’s been the same with my vocals; I think that’s something you can teach yourself to be better at, once you realise where you’re strengths are. I mean, I’m never going to be Adele, but on the last record I realised I’m a lot stronger singing in that lower register, and that was a bit of a revelation.”

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