Outside of The Melons Nottingham hasn't really had a great pop band. But that might change with Red Shoe Diaries getting everyone's hearts a flutter. They've been good enough to do an interview for me, anyway.
Tell me how you all met - were you all friends, or did you bump into each other in the street?
Ash: Tom and I used to play Sensible Soccer on the Megadrive, watch X-Men cartoons on Saturday mornings then go kick a ball around from a very early age, and we've been making music together since we were 12. Mike was a friend we made at college who turned into the backbone of a number of musical projects we worked on, one of which became Red Shoe Diaries. I worked at Gamestation with Nath, and we spent many a happy hour dj'ing for the customers. Leanne completes us, we just had to get her in the band, her voice is like a flurry of magic tickling your ears so it was just a joy when the five of us practised together for the first time. I remember thinking 'It doesn't matter if no-one else in the world ever hears this, we get to play it together and that's worth a million cd sales in my book'.
How would you describe the Red Shoe Diaries sound?
Ash: With difficulty. It's not a case of being like your average grumpy music interviewee who despises pigeonholing, I understand that it is necessary in the vast behemoth that is music, It's just I'd like to nominate us for so many pigeonholes we would need our own post code! I try and come at the way I play from somewhere between Weezer and Motown Records, tossing in a little of that 50s Telstar sound and a pinch of spanish guitar music, but the beauty of this band for me is that you could ask the other 4 members and they would describe an equal amount of totally different influences, and all would make sense without being too apparent in the actual finished product. We listen to a hell of a lot records, sure, but it doesn't mean we can't make an original one.
Tom: We aim for glittery-literary-pop. Who knows if that's what other people hear.
I'm not going to ask you about the band's name. Oh, well, I suppose I am: was it a toss up between Red Shoe Diaries and Midnight Caller? And when you're famous pop stars, do you expect you'll have to call yourselves Red Shoe Diaries (UK)?
Tom: I like that postmodern tradition of referencing pop-culture, be it in your lyrics or the band's name. Do you remember Kenickie? Sweep The Leg Johnny, is another personal favourite.
Who are you favourite bands right now?
Tom: The Hold Steady are fast becoming one of my all time favourite bands. It probably doesn't come through in our music, but I think Craig Finn is one of alternative rock's greatest lyricicists; loads of biblical references and recurring characters, all against the backdrop of American teens getting wasted. His half talk half singing style and incessent narratives owe a lot to hip-hop I think. People who bundle them in with Counting Crows et al are really missing the point. They're a band that I would strongly advocate listening to chronologically, the first two albums are so rich in imagery, they're great. I got into Springsteen after the comparisons were made, rather than the other way round I'm embarrassed to say. I'm also a huge Mountain Goats fan. They've dropped off a bit of late, but The Sunset Tree is fantasic, tune after tune woven through with great lyrics, and it also manages to be almost a concept album, dealing with an abusive step-father I think. Other than that I'm listening to the new Andrew Bird album and Love is Overtaking Me by Arthur Russell.
Ash: It's winter, so at the moment it's a lot of prog for me, though come summer, I'll be dropping the reggae left right plus centre. Current favourites beside those, however, include The Cave Singers, Destroyer, Papercuts,Get Well Soon, Throw Me The Statue and Mew.
What's the best thing about being in Red Shoe Diaries?
Tom: The camaraderie; we're all great friends. Some of us have known each other longer than others, but when you have something so precious as music you've created yourselves in common its very special, familial definitely. I'd like to think these songs would find an outlet anyway, but playing them with friends is just easier and more fun. Plus the other guys are the most talented musicians in Nottingham.
Ash: So many things. We've recently started doing a Spinal Tap-esque Hands-In before each show, and they are actually pretty lovely. The best thing probably is the times when we all click. I especially remember driving back from Derby in Tom's car playing the EP to Leanne for the first time, that was really special. It's not like you'd expect; playing on stage isn't the greatest thing for me, it's abstract things like the look on people's faces, the myspace comments we get, the strange things that we find on the internet about us... being asked to do an interview. They are the times when you truly get to reflect on what a great opportunity you have in front of you to try and do something with your life, and it fills me with more joy and wonder than any round of applause ever could.
What do you make of the Nottingham scene, such as there is one at all?
Tom: I love how disparate yet connected it is. I think it's a scene with no agenda, no one-type of music is embraced and others shunned. It's testement to what nice, open-minded people the musicians of Nottingham are. Everyone helps each other out, it's like six degrees of seperation sometimes in terms of band members and associations. For example I could get from JC Decaux to We Show Up on Radar in less than six moves!
Ash: The Nottingham scene is great! I've been contemplating moving to Manchester for some time, but firstly the fact the band lives here means I could never live without this new family of mine, and secondly the scene here is the best it's been since The Grips and Punish The Atom were carrying the torch! Fists, Swimming, Amusement Parks On Fire, Becky Syson, We Show Up On Radar, Joey Chickenskin, Natalie Duncan, Bonsai Projects... the list is endless and fulfilling, my friend.
Will you be releasing any records soon?
Tom: It may be out by the time you read this. But if all goes to plan Friday 20th February at Brownes is our EP launch. We're very excited! Ash: It's a 5 track E.P which we recorded in two sunny days not so long ago, and we're so happy with it we just can't wait to get it out there. It's a handmade thing, a really lovely object to hold in your hands. That was important to us, that you could tell we'd worked hard on every copy. Especially Mike, who hand-wrote the tracklisting on every single one.
What's the last record you bought?
Tom: M Ward's Hold Time. Post-War was great, I've not totally got into the new one yet but he's a great songwriter.
Ash: It was Close To The Edge by Yes. As a lead guitarist it's my sworn duty to listen to good guitar players, whether prog is a four-letter word or not, and that truly is a life-changing album. I guess it depends on how your ears are tuned. I recently bought Instant Coffee Baby by The Wave Pictures for my lovely fiancee, then not long after that we were asked to support them so that was exciting!