INTERVIEW

London DIY funk-punk trio Shopping want to make you lose control of yourself

shopping

“Need something / Want something / Buy something / Need something…’ And so it goes, speeding this way, then that, around the table. Need something, want something. Oh a sausage, I want a sausage. This is the general theme when one is shopping, and it also happens to be the lyrics to Shopping the band’s theme. Andrew Milk, Billy Easter and Rachel Aggs are explaining the principle of commerce to me, the odd one out at the table; it’s Andrew who wants a sausage.

You may have wanted Shopping’s debut single, ‘In Other Words’, but you’d have struggled to get it – the seven-inch sold out in just ten days. “We only pressed ten, though,” snaps Billy, the band’s bassist. Got to keep up, I think. See, Andrew, Billy and Rachel are a gang; the kind of gang who both start and finish each other’s sentences, answer for each other and laugh at the most primitive part of a joke. Today sees them celebrate the release of their debut album, ‘Consumer Complaints’, and it feels like a privilege to enter their goofy castle, at least for a moment. “I bought 50,000 copies on iTunes to make sure we’d get in some kind of top ten immediately,” continues Andrew [drums].

“I feel proud,” says Billy. “I feel like I have just given birth. It’s a relief.”

“It’s taken much less than 9 months to make though,” says Rachel [guitar and vocals].

Like any decent commercial model, Shopping formed under a year ago with the aim to be as productive as possible. Their grand opening, then, is a wilfully DIY debut album that rattles and shakes with its own personality, and pulls in funk and punk a la Prinzhorn Dance School, London duo Plug and Aggs’ old band Trash Kit. So how can I write this without mentioning propulsive bass lines? “You could say ‘repulsive bass’ lines,” Andrew deadpans, fast even for him.

I mention that it’s the first guitar album of 2013 that’s made me want to dance and everyone smiles. “That is our definite aim,” says Andrew, “for the music to make people dance and have fun, especially with the live shows. Maybe we’re not expecting people to dance, as such, but just lose control of themselves.”

“And they do,” confirms Rachel, speaking of the UK tour the band are currently halfway through. “It’s always surprising and people usually start off like statues and then by the end their funky moves are coming out.”

“The shows have been really good,” Andrew adds, “even in my London opinion of obscure towns… or do I mean very much established places where people live? Sorry Halifax. Bedford was funny – it was pretty much an empty pub with some rugby fans in it. They bought a T-shirt before our gig started because they thought it was a laugh; they were like, ‘yeah I like Shopping’, and then before we played they were shouting, ‘play some Stranglers’, but you could see them change through us playing. We got them dancing.”

Rachel proudly walks me through the highlights of the tour with expressive hand gestures, her hushed chat at odds to the spirited yelps and shouts of her singing voice. It’s definitely an underground racket that Shopping make, yet while retaining its alternative roots, there is a lot about ‘Consumer Complaints’ that cries dance-floor indie-pop. Chain store fodder might be pushing it, but only slightly, and not if the store is Topshop.

“I don’t have anything against any of the terms used to describe us,” says Andrew, considering anti-pop, post-punk-funk, DIY disco and post-indie. “If you’re going to call it something then that’s fine. The entire thing is open to interpretation, especially once you put ‘post’ in front of it. Then it could mean any number of things.”

In truth, ‘Consumer Complaints’ is a record of light and shade – of popularist guitar hooks and rough edges; of aggravation and surprisingly sentimental respites like ‘For Your Money’ and the thoughtful ‘Hard As Nails’. “That’s one of my faves,” says Andrews. “We play it live now.” And where might you have gotten those police sirens from at the end of the track, I ask Andrew. “Err the Internet. Google police sirens, probably.” Billy chuckles away at him. “I think it was that time you got arrested,” she says. We all look at him again. “Yes, funnily enough it was for copyright infringement.”

Shopping’s relentless wit translates on the record. Again they grin. “I’m glad,” says Billy. “I feel like that would happen anyway… as we are such hilarious people.” She’s in full sarcastic flow now. “We couldn’t disguise the amount of fun we have in making the music, it’s just a really fun and funny time, practicing together and creating these songs.”

“We are like a family on happy days,” says Andrew. “It’s all fun and joy and if that doesn’t come across on the record then there is something seriously wrong.”

Droll and intensely self aware, the band play for laughs, but the enthusiasm for each other’s company and happiness in what they are doing shines through most in ‘Consumer Complaints’. It’s an unapologetic record that’s honest in its humour. One track is even called ‘Hanover Cure’. “Oh yeah!” Andrew gives me a thumbs up, glad of the recognition.

“You had a bad hangover didn’t you?” Rachel says to him. “You were throwing up in a bag and we had to turn the music up so loud so we couldn’t hear you.”

The band wrote that song on their European tour earlier this year, as the incredibly well connected Shopping hit the road of the continent before playing UK towns (like Halifax) outside of London. “I looked around to see where our friends had played before and contacted the venues, but most of them were with this one guy we knew in Berlin that’s in a band that’s London based,” explains Andrew. “He comes over and plays a few times and I’ve put his band on in the past. He’s called Boitel and plays in a band called The Hummusexuals.” Andrew carefully maps out the punk family tree of Europe, and stuck firmly in its roots are Shopping.

To trace back this family tree, a good place to start is Shopping’s label, Milk Records. Started by Andrew himself in the heady days of MySpace, and since joined by Billy, Milk is the essence of DIY, releasing only a couple of seven inches a year. Andrew knows what he likes and it’s led to releases with Divorce, Teeth, Trash Kit and more recently Skinny Girl Diet, to name a few. His time running the label has given him an enviable contact list and network of bands to call upon, and it seemed like the natural home for ‘Consumer Complaints’. “It’s good to have control over everything,” he says. “The release date, the artwork, the order of the tracks – these are the things that record labels might have more of a say in, but I don’t know, I’ve never released with a big label. If you want to be as productive as possible, relying on other peoples timeframes is not good – we just wanted to get it out there.” Andrew is pretty passionate about this, as is Billy. “We’re basically just control freaks,” she says, “and it suits us perfectly.”

In 9 short months, Shopping have become a vital cog in the Capital’s punk scene, playing shows, sure, but they’re also ambassadors, too. Having met and formed in Power Lunches Arts Café (both Andrew and Rachel now work there), a venue that allows you to practice there as well as play shows in, the band are helping with the DIY Space for London campaign. “A group of us are trying to create a sustainable and long term, autonomous social centre space, venue and practice space used and run by musicians who are all involved in DIY activities in London at the minute,” explains Andrew, “so that is something that if anyone wants to get involved in then they should. We’re aiming to have ten grand by the end of this year.” Maybe this is my chance to join the gang; to penetrate the humour and in jokes and inner circle. “Need any help with fundraising?” I actually say out loud. “Hopefully we will be just what a certain local authority is looking for,” say Andrew, “something that is going to improve the community in general.” He nods sagely as silence falls. Seconds later they’re back pulling faces again.

dot

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »