Blood Red Shoes
When you are involved and passionate with the music scene you consume a lot of albums, which is the nice bit; but you are also dedicated to read a lot of articles about bands biographies, releases, live gigs. That is not as entertaining.
I came across Blood Red Shoes reading lots of words before listening to a single note of their music. My opinion was inevitably and unfortunately predisposed by my readings.
From articles and interviews I learnt that their inspirations (or critics’ associations) involve names as different as PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Pixies, Sleater Kinney, the Tings Tings and, God knows why, the White Stripes.
They are also included in genres varying from punk-hardcore to Techno-disco, passing through Grunge. Bingo!
Ticking so many names that I love, I pointed the Junction2 curious to meet Blood Red Shoes live.
I must acknowledge Raconteurs got it right. Releasing their album to the entire world, without a pre-release for the press, they avoided that the public passively underwent to reviewers. Fans couldn’t be lead astray by opinions coming either from a professional journalists or a music blog. They could make their own opinion.
Debate is open, I stand for Raconteurs’ choice and I got my view on Consolers of the lonely listening to the album, not reading about it.
The opposite happened for this Brighton pair. When Blood Red Shoes appeared on stage, I knew everything about them, save for their music.
My mind wasn’t blank and I wasted the start of the set trying to link up their refreshing indie-rock to those readings. It took me few songs to realize that most connections don’t exist but in the mind of some reviewer.
Music press has a desperate need to classify and associate everyone to something known and familiar. It must be to avoid a kind of nervous tension which emerges when they can’t place unusual material. They must feel lost, I call it the “away from home” syndrome.
Truth is that none of those big names quoted are ultimately wrong, except for the White Stripes whom only similarity to the Blood Red Shoes is the number “2” and a familiar colour in their name.
Referring to those rock-stars is more useless than useful.
Blood Red Shoes music dips into punk attitude without endeavouring punk rhetoric. These two friends weren’t even a project in the mind of their parents in the heyday of punk and just kids when Grunge was storming Seattle.
Nevertheless their music draws inspiration from last 20 years of indie-rock, as any indie-rock band, anytime, anywhere does. Difference is that the final product is modern. They live in 2008 and theirs is 2008 sound.
Despite teenager dissatisfaction about their Brighton emerges from the lyrics of It’s Getting Boring By The Sea, I compare them to a barefoot run on the Brighton beach after a Friday night pub crawling. You breathe their songs as you inhale the breezy air that helps to outlive those last pints.
Steven (Ansell) drumming reproduce the sound of the beach pebbles crushing under your steps and Laura (Mary-Carter) angular chords scratch the songs as a seagull abruptly cries, breaking the rhythm of the waves, than flies away.
The concert goes like that run; they chase each other in their mix of music and singing producing a constant dialogue, a continuous exchange of ideas that reveal the improvised jams they confessed to be at the origin of any piece.
Despite a regular structure, a sense of freedom permeates the single songs. Few persistent bars into it, Laura intervention is unpredictable and often surprising. Few of her strums Steve drumming takes an unexpected direction.
The tunes benefit of the absence of a bass guitar, confirming present-day garage-rock is a difficult period for unemployed bass players.
Is that everything so perfect? No, not yet.
Their mutual understanding definitely is, but their fruit is slightly unripe and needs to mature just a little bit.
They pay the weight of all those inspirations without the self-confidence that experience gives. Even if they have played hundreds of gigs, they are very young.
Further jamming will improve creativity and ideas, leaving those influences working in the subconscious, then they need to build up a bunch of “rock”-solid songs.
I am patient and, so far, pretty optimistic.
Their debut album Box of Secrets is just out on Mercury. They signed to indie-label V2 just before it was bought by Universal. Indie-rock nowadays is more a state of mind than a label address.
If you want to have a listen before buying it, Blood Red Shoes official links are here: [myspace] [website]
Let’s talk about shooting drummers!
(the following pictures aren’t of Blood Red Shoes, “mouseover” them to discover who is who.)
The appearance of an increasing number of duos has a nice advantage. Shooting drummers is much easier.
In a duo the drummer is closer to the edge and often on the side of the stage, instead of being hidden behind the bass drum in the background.
This allows you to avoid telephoto shots, which look often impersonal, and to frame the subject from a lateral perspective which is generally better.
So, if you want to get some nice drummers’ shots, my suggestion is to choose a duo. Since the White Stripes they are trendy, it is plenty around, it won’t be long until you bump into one of them.
Second thing to consider is the drummer action, which is usually quite energetic.
You have to choose either to play the “blur” card, which is often effective, or wait for a static moment.
In the first case set a slow shutter speed, 1/30s is usually enough. Hands and drumsticks move incredibly fast you’ll get them blurred, best if you pick a moment when the arms move and the body doesn’t. Otherwise slow sync flash can be very effective to freeze the body as well as showing the motion. Be aware that flashing someone 50cm from you is quite possibly forbidden!
If you want to freeze the motion, first you want a faster shutter time, I’d say at least 1/125s. You then want good lights and, most important, you need to follow the music to understand when a pause is about to arrive. It lasts an instant so don’t hesitate or you’ll miss it.
If the drummer is on the classic place on the back and you are in the pit, there is not a lot you can do. Try to include other band members to add value to the image, wait he does something funny.
It is helpful if the band name or a logo is stuck on the bass drum, this allows the viewer to understand who is who. Drummers faces are not as famous as the singers.
If any of this is possible, your last chance is to wait for The Shellac to tour your town. Todd Trainer sits behind his kit inches away from the edge of the stage, you’re guaranteed to get close-ups of him with no effort.