Q&A: Shopping On Consumerism, Making Music For Fun, & Their Sophomore Album Why Choose
London’s Shopping are often described as a political punk band, a trio deeply concerned with rampant consumerism wrought by capitalism, but that’s less than half true. If the personal is inherently political, then Shopping are doing exactly what’s expected of them: writing songs that reflect the world at large through a microscope lens. There are no outright lyrical screeds, there is no diplomatic statement of intent. Billy Easter, Rachel Aggs, and Andrew Milk just want to make songs with dizzying riffs and a post-punk rhythm section that makes people want to dance. If their music forces you to think a bit deeper about the way you’re living your life, then that’s a more-than-welcome byproduct. Shopping self-released their debut album, Consumer Complaints, last year on their own MÏLK Records, and hand-delivered copies of the record to shops across London in the hopes that the album would be heard. The first pressing sold out fast, thanks in part to the fact that all of the members of Shopping have played in other well-known DIY punk acts including Cover Girl, Golden Grrrls, Trash Kit, and Wet Dog. Brooklyn’s Fat Cat Records re-released the debut this year, giving Shopping a Stateside presence and making room for the trio to release a sophomore album. Why Choose is due out this fall, and Shopping will embark on their first-ever U.S. tour immediately afterward. Listen to their new single, “Straight Lines,” check out tour dates, and read our Q&A with bassist Billy Easter and drummer Andrew Milk, below.
STEREOGUM: How did putting out your first record independently lead to its re-release with Fat Cat Records? I know you only pressed 1,000 or so copies on your own label when you first made it; can you talk about the band’s journey since forming in 2012?
BILLY EASTER: When we set out with Shopping, we were determined to write, record, and release as quickly as possible without all sorts of bureaucratic things like looking for labels to do it. Andrew’s been running a label called MÏLK Records for a while, and I joined that with him so we could release our own album. We got help from friends who worked in the music industry as well, but only on a really independent level. We asked them to do press and photos and that kind of stuff. It went really well, got really good feedback and reviews, and we made sure to tour a lot as well. We did a European tour before the album was even out. And then, I guess it got a bit too much for us two to handle for our label, because we’re pretty small. That’s when Fat Cat approached us.
STEREOGUM: How do you feel about putting out this next record on a label, albeit an independent label, while still maintaining a sense of agency as a band? Did a lot of thought go into that decision, or were you just like, “We can’t handle self-releasing another album that’s going to be this popular”?
ANDREW MILK: [Fat Cat] have been really cool. The way they go about doing business is really like the way we do it. There weren’t any horrible schedules to work [around]; they were really into getting stuff out when we wanted it out, and they wanted us to be as busy as we wanted to be. There was no being held back or anything. They were super on our wavelength when it came to stuff like getting as much done with the limited time we have on this Earth. They were really behind that.
EASTER: We would have liked to release it ourselves again, but we just got too popular I guess, which is a good thing, ultimately. It felt like too much to do it ourselves again. We’re happy now that there are other people to do the work. We wouldn’t be coming to America if we were doing it ourselves again.
STEREOGUM: Can you talk a bit about the scene in East London? Is that where you still live? Are you all originally from there?
MILK: We actually have been living all over London. Rachel [Aggs] lives in South, Billy’s kind of North, and I’m quite far East. I’d say East London is the home of the band. It’s where we play, where we practice, and write stuff. I work at, book, and do the events at a venue in East London called Power Lunches — Rachel and Billy also work here behind the bar — and we all practice, record, and write all our stuff here. We’re actually here right now. It’s in between Dalston and Haggerston in the East London scene I suppose. We’re all from 40 minutes outside London, but I guess we were really at home in the DIY punk scene that was in London. When we started, we were given a lot of space to perform. We played a lot of really great, quite big gigs for a band that just started out, like supporting international touring punk bands.
STEREOGUM: We’re premiering the song “Straight Lines.” What inspired the song lyrically?
MILK: Anyone can interpret lyrics and probably come up with something better than what I initially thought. We did this song on the first record called “For Your Money” and it’s always a big crowd-pleaser here; people love that track. We really enjoy playing it live, and it became obvious that “Straight Lines” was kind of turning into a continuation of that song, a kind of reply to that character that I swear is not autobiographical. [Laughs]
The character is a gold-digger, basically. He’s in a relationship for the cash that his partner can provide and the doors they can open for him. With “Straight Lines” I wanted to have that role be reversed and hear the side of the story from the guy that’s got the cash, got the influence to help someone else and is complicit in being used in that way, like they’re aware of their role in the relationship which is very one-sided, but they’re okay with it to a certain extent.
EASTER: We don’t really write any song by sitting down and saying, “Let’s write about this.” It’s just quite organic; we jam and get together and write the music on the spot and one of us will just start singing with whatever we come up with. That’s what happened with this song and what came out came out really well with “For Your Money.”
MILK: It wasn’t that we just sat down and started to write a character voice to that “For Your Money” song, but as it happened, maybe that was playing in my mind a bit. And now I’m happy to call it the answer song to “For Your Money.”
STEREOGUM: Talking about money or capitalism, a lot of the narratives surrounding your music has been centered around politics, or the politics of consumerism. I was curious to know if you see that as an important part of your music, or do you think the music is just inherently political?
MILK: We would all be in agreement as a band thinking that the most important part of our music is the element of fun — like, getting people to dance and having that kind of release. You could say that the content of the songs are political but it was never our intention to become a political band or make a political statement with the music. We’re just making dance music that lyrically resonates on a political level, because that’s just what we’re thinking about when we’re writing. You can’t be detached from commercialism or the trappings of modern life. We are slaves to the system, so we have to write our frustrations down when we make this music. But it was never the intention to be political; we explicitly just wanted to make people dance.
EASTER: It’s a good thing that we can take these frustrations that a lot of people have and set it to music that you can dance to. It’s fun, hopefully, and cathartic maybe.
STEREOGUM: Thematically, what do you see as the overarching theme to this record in comparison to Consumer Complaints? You said you write spontaneously. Is there ever one specific idea that you hope to convey overall?
MILK: We definitely didn’t have like a, “Let’s make this record about this” or like, “Let’s differentiate it from the first record by doing it this way.” We maybe had a vague notion that we didn’t want to reproduce the first record exactly, but we liked the record a lot, so we just changed up the song structures a little bit and wanted to make a bit moodier kind of stuff. We were quite content with how Shopping has been going; we weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, we just wanted to develop a bit more with what you could to with dance-y post-punk genre. We kept playing with the same themes we were working with on the first record.
EASTER: Generally, there’s not really that much thought that goes into stuff we do. It’s just like, “Yay, let’s write some music!”
STEREOGUM: Are you looking forward to your first U.S. tour?
MILK: We’re touring with some amazing people — Ought, Priests, Shannon And The Clams — and in the middle of that, we get to go around and experience the heartland of America by ourselves. We’re going to vanish into the wild somewhere.
09/01 London, UK @ Village Underground ^
09/02 Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute ^
09/03 Brimingham, UK @ Hare and Hounds ^
09/24 Bristol, UK @ Fiddler’s Club
09/26 London, UK @ Oval Space
10/07 London, UK @ Dalston Victoria
10/16 Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg *
10/18 Providence, RI @ Columbus Theatre *
10/19 Boston, MA @ Great Scott *
10/20 Winooski, VT @ Monkey House *
10/21 Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz PDB *
10/22 Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern *
10/23 Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory *
10/24 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean *
10/27 Madison, WI @ The Frequency *
10/28 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry *
10/31 Seattle @ Neumos
11/01 Portland, OR @ Star Theater *
11/03 San Francisco, CA @ The Knockout
11/04 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
11/05 San Diego, CA @ The Hideout
11/06 Santa Ana, CA @ The Constellation Room
11/07 Phoenix, AZ @ 51 West
11/08 El Paso, TX @ Low Brow Palace
11/10 Dallas, TX @ Double Wide
11/11 Austin, TX @ Mohawk
11/12 Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
11/13 New Orleans, LA @ The Hi Ho Lounge
11/14 Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
11/15 Durham, NC @ Pinhook #
11/17 Washington, DC @ Black Cat #
^ w/ Ought
* w/ Shannon and the Clams
# w/ Priests
Why Choose is out 10/2 on Fat Cat.