DIY act Shopping battle with an audience obsessed with their phones, and revel when they finally embrace the moment.
Text by Julie Jackson
Photography provided by Shopping
Approx reading time: 5 mins
Listening time: 5:15
Talking to London-based DIY band Shopping, the subject of the immediacy of our lives came up quickly, and somewhat inevitably given that few things seem more “now” than their urgent and current sound. We rarely stay away from screens and social media long enough to pay attention to such things - things more real. Ironically, the band now speak through the portal of an iPhone screen...
“It’s kind of like fighting for space and fighting for people's attention… Put your phone down and dance and try to live in the moment!” says Rachel Aggs (guitar) describing their sound, one of two members of the band present, while Andrew Milk (drums) was away promoting a new album.
“You feel like you’ve really achieved something when people are lost in it,” says Billy Easter (bass). “Even when they turn around to dance with their friends and aren’t really paying attention to you anymore.” But, the dancing is innate to the music. Shopping have something to get lost in: a deluge of zig-zagging basslines and punchy percussion bombarding your senses. “I imagine trying to listen to our music when you’re on your phone would be a bit difficult,” Billy comments. Shopping are not about distraction from such things, they are about forgetting it ever existed.
Shopping are DIY in every sense of the word. Since the three-piece all began in other bands of a similar nature, ‘doing it themselves’ came naturally to them.
“It just meant that we were quite lucky in that we didn’t struggle to find gigs, or struggle to get a kind of immediate fan base. There were lots of bands to play with and lots of venues to play at and lots of people putting on parties and shows,” says Easter.
Since Milk and Easter established a record label of their own, MÏLK records, it has proved a lot easier for them to become established in the scene. But the band are clear in pointing out that any decisions they have made as a collective were unconscious and not deliberate.
DIY came naturally to them and seemed a logical progression from where they started in their other bands. And although they promoted and booked their own gigs, social media and extra help was needed. “I don’t want to give people the wrong impression. We started off really DIY but then Shopping became quite a lot of work. Now we are working with FatCat Records, we work with people who help book our shows and we play all over the world and it is really amazing to have started from that,” says Easter.
‘Longevity’ is a word that was frequently used when the band described their goals: “I want to keep going for a long time. I don’t want us to be has-beens” says Easter, and when asked about the music industry and major record deals they didn’t think it was the best path to follow. Shopping don’t want to be known as a ‘fly-by-night’ band or ‘one-hit wonders’. In fact, it is less about making it big and more about making music that people can enjoy.
Whilst big record labels throw money at bands one minute and then they are gone the next, Shopping are about enjoying the ride. “We are about showing people that we are a fun band rather than shoving it down peoples’ throats, which can happen with bands that just over-publicise,” says Aggs.
More than anything Shopping are about the music, as any band should be, and when asked about hitting the big time their answer is resolute.
“I couldn’t really care less about 'the music industry',” says Easter. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s like let’s make music that’s fun that people will like. We get joy from people liking that music.”
The band started its life in the belly of Hackney in Power Lunches, a venue iconic within London’s DIY music scene. “We worked in the bar, we put shows on there, we practiced there, we basically lived there,” says Aggs. Power Lunches closed down in late 2015 and Shopping reflect on the end of an era. However, whilst the DIY scene is all about visceral home-grown and homemade talent, it does eventually come down to the money when such venues are struggling to stay afloat.
“Sometimes we do end up playing, not to knock it but, quite dry venues that are quite generic with advertising and sponsorship everywhere,” says Easter. Now, whilst venues have to make money, it is indisputable that by having London venues close down it is in danger of alienating the talent and creativity than runs in the veins of the city. Instead, it is being injected with money-driven, heavily sponsored, corporate-run establishments that are not reflecting the raw talent trying to push through.
Aggs says, “there is a sort of bitchiness about people selling out, but it’s quite hard to avoid the sponsorship and the corporate owned venues.”
In their most recent album, ‘Why Choose’, we are reminded that in this day and age we can have whatever we want because we have been taught that we have the right: “There’s such emphasis on individualism and it’s just like ‘why wait for anything when you can have whatever you want?’ and ‘why choose when you can have any choice that you want?’ and there’s no emphasis on working together in anything and working on things slowly for better,” says Easter.
And whilst the lyrics make you want to think, the jolty twangs of guitar, pacy heart-beating bass and drums help you get lost in the moment of a juxtaposition that Aggs described as an “expression of freedom in itself”.
“It’s quite anxious and frustrated-sounding. It’s desperate sounding music and that is how a lot of people feel at the moment,” says Easter. But all at once it’s like dancing recklessly to the sound of raw, homespun London talent. Shopping’s sound grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until you do.
Text by Julie Jackson
Photography provided by Shopping