Born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri, July 16, 1911, and taking her stage name from a mispronunciation of Virginia and her stepfather's surname, some say Ginger Rogers was born to dance. One of the brightest stars during the early days of cinema, many of those who knew her as a little girl said she could dance before she could walk. Indeed, there's an account ingrained in Hollywood folklore that tells of an occasion when she rehearsed a dance routine so hard, so passionately and so vigorously, that when her choreographer returned to visit her after a short break, they presumed she'd changed her white dancing pumps to red ones. Truth is she danced so hard she'd inadvertently soaked them violent red with blood procured from cuts on her dancing feet. "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did," recalls an old, unattributed quote. "But she did it backwards and in high heels."
Born Blood Red Shoes in Brighton, England, November 2004, and taking their name from the aforementioned yarn, likewise, some say Laura-Mary Carter (guitar / vocals) and Steven Ansell (drums / vocals) were destined to make music together the moment they first met. "I used to go see Steven's then-band Cat On Form," says Laura. "They were great; pretty popular on the punk scene, and I pretty much knew I wanted to be in a band with him the moment we first met. He stole my hat from me and held its return to ransom until I'd agree to meet him. It was blatant flirting really..." And so it came to be that, when Cat On Form wound down, Laura agreed to meet Steven to reclaim her stolen hat, and the duo found themselves in a draughty south coast rehearsal space, rattling through muddy, fuzzy rock'n'roll that defied the fledgling union between the two of them. "Blood Red Shoes do everything Mudhoney and their grunge ilk did," says a quote attributed to NME. "But they do it with glamour, style and poise."
"Blood Red Shoes is the perfect name for us," says Steven. "Bleeding fingers and toes is what makes music great. The noisier it is, the more painful things get. That’s where I always want to be, especially at live shows. It makes people dance."
That day in the rehearsal space they wrote their first song. Then, when someone asked them to play a show two weeks later, they stayed up all night emailing each other back and forth, deliberating over the name to go on the flyer. A band was born. That bit of the story is unexceptional - it's just the way these things work out. This bit is not. They got together and wrote two more songs. They threw together some makeshift words. They played their first ever show with three songs. For a band born from such humble beginnings, the music that followed was nothing short of sensational.
"We knew we had something as soon as there was just the two of us in the room," says Laura. "We thought about getting a bassist; some people suggested that was the way to go; but we were scared that would dilute what we had. We knew there was something there that doesn't happen between two people very often. We listened to the sound we were making. It sounded mighty."
That sound quickly became their life. Like anyone with a brave heart and the realisation they're on to something good, Laura (the Babes In Toyland devotee), and Steven (the boy who'd spent a childhood getting "punched in the face for being a long-haired Nirvana fan"), practiced night and day. They'd wake up, rehearse, fall asleep in the rehearsal room, and, if they woke up at the same time – even in the middle of the night – they'd rehearse some more.
When they were ready ("kinda," they laugh), it was only logical that they'd take to the road with a diligence that embodied Steven's time in the DIY punk scene and the
music the twosome found so inspiring (riot grrrl, DC hardcore, early Sub Pop, any band who ever existed outside of the homogenized major-label culture). At the time of writing, they've played over 300 shows, many of those only achieved by utilizing friendships and contacts the length and breadth of the UK, sleeping on floors, relying on kind promoters for handouts of food, and "driving, driving and driving some more". Many of these promoters would release their records too; the band releasing great early 7" singles on the likes of Jonson Family, Try Harder, and the Drowned In Sound label.
While it'd be yucky to call it a 'connection', the bond the two say they feel when stood in front of amp and behind guitar, was further forged by this relentless giggling. It's a time Steven and Laura both describe as "when we learnt to be a band". Onstage, the two of them have developed a series of ticks, gestures and looks that inherently imply mutual understanding. They both share vocals; complex, innovative arrangements. They both write songs; sometimes charming, sometimes savage pop songs. Every night, Laura will attack her microphone with fury. Steven will play with such passion he'll sometimes make himself physically sick. "That’s when I know it's been a brilliant show," says Laura. "When Steven comes offstage and hurls."
Then came a spot on the NME New Music Tour, a record deal with V2 Records (Steven: "Coming from the scene I come from, it makes you think about music and culture in a different way. It was a decision we had to make. But you've got to eat haven't you?"), dates with Biffy Clyro and Maximo Park; and now, an album; the intriguingly titled, 'Box Of Secrets'.
Due April 2008, Blood Red Shoes' debut takes its name from another of the duo's inter-band nuances. "It's a phrase me and Steven have," says Laura. "It means things that we can talk about with each other, but that we can't share with anyone else. Sometimes one of us will say something, and then the other will be like, 'There's something for the box of secrets'… The box is getting pretty full now."
Which, in essence, embodies everything a great debut record should be. Something to reach in and delve around in; a hodgepodge of emotions and sentiment, where something new and exciting can be pulled out with every rummage. This 'Box Of Secrets' delivers on. Made in a punk-as-fuck 20 days, former single 'I Wish I Was Someone Better' sounds like you imagine The Stooges' very first rehearsal might have sounded like, and thus is a more culturally valid splurge of noise than any piece of music released in about 10 years. Then there's the record's best song, the doom-pop lollop of 'Doesn't Matter Much', which nods its head to the disparate likes of L7, Pixies and PJ Harvey with every big chorus that comes rumbling by. These are but two highpoints of a great debut album.
"I was never really bothered by the idea of making a great debut album," says Steven. "I just wanted to make a great record. We were listening to Nirvana's 'In Utero' a lot before we started. That was the standard to reach. Their third and best album. Aim high, y'now?"
"My favourite is called 'Say Something Say Anything'," says Laura. "The lyrics are by Steven. They're about something he misses. I can't say anything else, but it's a really sad song. There’s one called 'This Is Not For You' which I like too. The guitars sound really American and chunky. I quite like that. I love the whole record though. It's exactly the record I wanted us to make."
"There are 11 songs on there," adds Steven. "Some are new ones; some are ones we've had for a while that we re-recorded to sound a million times better. We don't do ball
ads, but we've relented slightly with one that Harriet from Los Campesinos! plays violin on. It's called 'Hope You're Holding Up'. Did it feel weird having someone else in the room with us? Yeah. It kinda did."
Indie-punk-rock-n-noise wasn't invented in her day, and so one can't comment on whether Ginger Rogers would approve. It is an absolute certainty, however, that – upon hearing this special record, by this special band – people will concur that Blood Red Shoes are bloody great.