East London’s sharpest post-punks just want you to dance with their sophomore album Why Choose.
MEMBERS: Rachel Aggs (guitar/vocals), Billy Easter (bass/vocals), Andrew Milk (drums/vocals)
FROM: East London
YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM FROM: Their self-released debut, 2013’s Consumer Complaints
NOW: Just about to tour the US in support of their sophomore album Why Choose with the help of their new home, Fat Cat Records
All signs point to “social commentary”: Shopping’s first album is called Consumer Complaints, and they released it independently, on drummer Andrew Milk’s MÏLK Records. Their songs have titles like “We Say You Pay” and “For Your Money.” While bassist Billy Easter acknowledges this, she insists that Shopping doesn’t have a message to get across. “Our hundred-percent main thing is to make the music that we make. We’re not interested in being part of scenes. It sounds really cheesy, but it really is all about the music.”
They’ve been labeled a political band largely because of Power Lunches, the Hackney DIY hub from whence they came. It’s arguably the preeminent space to see hardcore, feminist, and queercore acts in East London—a physical place as well as an idea. Milk handles its booking and events; Aggs and Easter are bartenders. Shopping writes, practices, and performs there, but their music isn’t overtly reflective of its origin. “There’s not an element to us that’s about preaching, and we’re not trying to get this subversive message shoehorned into dance music,” says Milk.
Like Consumer Complaints, which was re-released by Fat Cat, sophomore album Why Choose is a kind of post-punk throwback, reminiscent of Gang of Four and The Slits without being a retread. It’s incredibly fun and accessible, free of smarminess and posturing. You don’t need to be in on anything to enjoy it.
“There’s not an element to us that’s about preaching, and we’re not trying to get this subversive message shoehorned into dance music.” — Andrew Milk
Everything about the band is homegrown, so it’s plausible that the decision to hand over management duties to Fat Cat, an established label with a healthy roster, was a tough one for them. Easter says that’s not the case. “We’d achieved a lot by releasing [Consumer Complaints] on our own label,” she says. “We toured Europe twice and sold out of our release once already. It was actually becoming a lot of work, and we wanted to do things like come to the US, and our label couldn’t afford to do that. It just means that we get to travel further afield and play for new audiences.”
Much like their politics, the band’s musical roots aren’t as easy to spot on Why Choose as you might think. Aggs comes from a family of folk-music appreciators. Easter grew up listening to grunge and house music. “We all had very different upbringings,” Milk says. “I listened exclusively to R&B and hip-hop.” He recalls hearing En Vogue on his dad’s car radio. “I remember, like, loving it, and I listened to that constantly.” They all overlap on Michael Jackson, though. “I had ‘Black or White’ on seven-inch,” says Milk. “Classic tune, that,” adds Easter.
Easter and Aggs have toured the US before with their respective previous bands WETDOG and Golden Grrrls. “I’ve been to New York on holiday like three times,” says Milk. “But I’ve never gone over there as a musician.” Their excitement about touring America as Shopping for the first time is palpable, and they’re hoping for packed venues. “I like the idea of it almost being this sort of cathartic tour,” says Easter. “Like, if you can dance away your angst about the way we have to live now, that’s cool.” FL