By Hailey Nuthals, Arts Editor
There’s no time like the present to dance, but there’s especially no time like the summer to shake away some of your troubles. Luckily, that happens to be the specialty of the eastern-London band Shopping. Their post-punk vibe, created with simple guitar melodies and vocals from Rachel Aggs, foot-tapping bass lines by Billy Easter, and driving drum lines from Andrew Milk, is purposefully the sort of sound that makes you want to groove. The trio is coming on tour to the United States this summer. In advance of their show on August 3rd at Baby’s All Right, Washington Square News managed to catch a moment to speak with Aggs over Skype. (This interview has been edited for brevity.)
WSN: What resources do you think are most scarce for bands that are trying to go DIY, and how do you cope with that?
Rachel Aggs: It depends on where in the world you are. But in London, everything. No, that’s not true, but at the moment, space is an issue. Practice space and gig space. When we started the band, a big thing was that we all worked at the same venue, which was called ALKSDFJ and it was in East London. It was really cool, because we were all involved from the very start. That place was run by a musician, and everyone who worked there was a musician, and so we used to use the basement – the gig space – as a practice space. And we would donate, like, put a bit of money in the till each time towards the renting of the space, but it wasn’t like each time you go you have to pay ten quid each. So we could all afford it, and we weren’t really working other jobs at the time – none of us were working full time. We had the daytimes really free, and we all lived in the area, so we would just really casually be like “oh, we’ll just go and practice tomorrow all day.” And we would, and it wouldn’t be a massive thing. Whereas now, there’s nowhere really – well, every now and then, I find a cheap place to practice, but it’s a bit more precarious. And I think that’s a big thing, just having the freedom to write lots of music and feel really relaxed about it and not feel pressured, in terms of starting a new project.
WSN: Along those lines, then, I know you guys have said in a bunch of different interviews that you’re not purposely writing political songs, and they’re more an effect of the climate you’re living in. Knowing that, what’s it like to try and write songs in this political climate that’s been so haphazard lately?
RA: We don’t purposefully go about writing songs on any particular theme. We don’t talk about it much until after we’ve written the song, and then we’re like, “oh, yeah, that’s cool, because that’s about that, and I was thinking about that!” We don’t discuss it, really. But I think we now – Andrew [Milk]’s moved to Glasgow now, and I think writing songs is going to be a lot less casual now. It’s going to have to be a bit more planned, and so maybe we’ll think differently now. But at the time, we wrote the first two albums – we just got together, and that’s the sound that came out. I think it reflected all of our different personalities, all of our different influences. And then the lyrics were just how we were feeling that day… I think politically, things are really complex at the moment. With the internet and social media, it complicates things even more and it puts pressure on you to have a voice, have an opinion, be constantly communicating with everyone. I think our music is kind of an escape route, a little bit. Because it’s political but it’s also like, okay, but just dance. Just scream, and freak out. You don’t have to have everything fully formulated right now. This is a space for discussion and action and coming together. Not a premeditated speech or poem. It’s messy. Which is how I feel the world is [laughs]. It’s a big, stressful mess, where everything moves ridiculously fast.
WSN: Do you think it’s an artist’s responsibility to have any sort of political platform, or responsibility to not?
RA: It’s easy to put artists down for not speaking out on big issues. But I think that that applies to artists that are really famous, so they have this reach. And if they tweet something, everyone’s like [gasps], it matters, or they perceive it to matter. I don’t know if the same thing applies for a DIY punk band to do that. But at the same time, it’s not really about responsibility. It’s just about a personal need. It’s just cathartic for us. We’re not really like “we’re gonna change the world!” It’s more like, we feel this way, so we need to do this. To make ourselves feel better and our friends, and if we affect some people or make some people happy along the way, then that’s cool. I don’t know if we believe we’re like, actually changing things.