The release of Shopping’s debut album, Consumer Complaints, through Milk Records has captured the attention of yours truly. It’s got all the ingredients for brilliant and infectious political pop with catchy hooks and a unique post-punk sound that invokes nostalgia for The Slits. Clearly, there was only one thing to do, and that was for SLUG to catch up with Shopping’s guitarist, Rachel Aggs, to get the details behind their debut album, their take on political pop and the near-future US tour.
SLUG: Checking out your debut album, Consumer Complaints, which was released in November 2013, I find you have a very distinct sound—kind of a Gang of Four–meets–The Slits. What are you drawing from to create it?
Shopping: We do love that era of UK post-punk, plus bands like The Raincoats, Delta 5, X-Ray Spex, PIL, ESG … but our shared tastes/influences are also very varied! We mainly just try to write stuff that is fun and has a good danceable energy. We don’t think about genres very much when we write songs.
SLUG: How did you get involved with Milk Records?
Shopping: Milk was started by Andrew [Milk] in around 2008, and he started out just releasing 7”s and tapes. Later, Billy (Easter) joined him in running the label, and they released our first Shopping 7” and LP. We distributed both by literally driving to all the record shops and distros whilst on tour and dropping off records!
SLUG: Your music is very socially aware! How would you describe your political approach?
Shopping: We formed out of a really exciting DIY/punk scene/community in the UK, and I think most of the music that we (and our friends) produce has a certain political “awareness” just by being made on our own steam, in spite of having no money and outside of the mainstream. Our band name and some of the themes of our songs, I hope, poke fun at rampant consumer culture and express the kind of frustration that boils up from being trapped within a capitalist system. When we wrote the songs, we didn’t discuss any of this, though—we just wanted to have fun and make people dance! The politics come out in quite a sarcastic, silly way sometimes, but there’s also songs about stuff like having insomnia—a kind of desperate nervous energy, a need to cut loose, dance, shout … That can feel political, sometimes.
SLUG: How do you feel about the term “political pop”? Do you find that the term applies to your style?
Shopping: I believe that the personal is political, so anything you make has the potential to be read in that way when put into a social context. So yeah, I guess call it what you like!
SLUG: Do you find that music can still inform listeners about social justice issues? Is it an effective means to influence change?
Shopping: I hope so. I’ve never written a song with the intention of effecting change on one specific issue—like antiwar songs did in the ‘60s or something—but I suppose I always think about my position as a queer, mixed-race female person playing guitar in a scene that can be very straight, white male–orientated—visibility is important, and I feel like without examples, it can be hard to get motivated to make stuff. I hope, by continuing to be as visible as possible, I can help a little to change that.
SLUG: “In Other Words” has this sweet, punchy groove and has an interesting layer of dual vocals. Can you tell me what’s happening in this song?
Shopping: I guess there’s a call-and-response thing going on, yeah. It’s basically a claustrophobic breakup song about a situation where you start avoiding someone, and that makes going out this tense, melodramatic thing—but then, like most of our songs, the message in the music is to just get over it and dance!
SLUG: The track “For Your Money” seems to show a depressing and stagnant side to a relationship. What can you tell me about what’s going on in this number?
Shopping: Andrew is singing about superficial hookups with wealthy older men. It’s non-autobiographical. It could be about being used or using someone, being powerful or powerless in a relationship—a love song for our times!
SLUG: And finally, for my lingering curiosity, the track “We Say You Pay” seems to show two sides of a complicated relationship with money. What’s going on here?
Shopping: That song is named after the British game show You Say We Pay, where if you phoned in and said the right answer, they give you money. Our title is a twisted, fruitless version where there is nothing to win and the song is about plotting some kind revenge on someone who has lied, cheated or stolen from you.
SLUG: How do you feel about the results of the 2015 UK general election?
Shopping: The results were pretty depressing. Hopefully a stronger, more unified left is gonna form out of all the anger and frustration people are feeling, though.
SLUG: Can readers expect another album in the works?
Shopping: Yes! We have a new album out this autumn.
SLUG: Can readers expect a possible tour through the United States in the near future?
Shopping: Yes! This October/November—we are so excited!