‘Pop’ is the word of the day for Shopping. It rears its head in every direction our conversation travels down and contorts each band member’s face into jovial masks each time it is uttered. “We definitely wanted to up the pop factor a little bit,” explains bassist, Billy Easter on their obsession. Their pop offering can be heard on All or Nothing, the band’s fourth album and their most hip-shaking to date, bringing together the jittery, bass-centric post-punk they’re known for, with a new wave dance-punk, Chicago house, and pop sensibility.
So have the UK post-punk band gone full pop then? Well the answer is ‘probably not’, but it’s a goal that keeps the band fired up. Easter explains: “I feel like it’s something we’re always striving for. We want to write pop songs, but we write the songs that we write.” Guitarist, Rachel Aggs (also a member of Trash Kit and Sacred Paws) agrees, adding: “In our heads, any sort of deviation from the most minimal way that we sounded when we first started is radical to us and I think, maybe for someone listening in, it still sounds like us.”
Though Britney mics and synchronised moves aren’t on the cards in the band’s near future, they have come a long way from their scrappy beginnings. Formed in 2012 out of the embers of the short-lived London DIY band, Covergirl, Easter and Aggs, along with drummer Andrew Milk, released their debut album Consumer Complaints, encapsulating an era in DIY punk history with their spiky, tumultuous rhythms. Following the release of their second album, Why Choose (2015) when they lost their practice space to gentrification and Andrew moved to Glasgow, they pushed through and came back with the elastic funk spirit that was 2018’s The Official Body.
“There was a lot of change in circumstances, a lot of upheaval and risks; risks were a big theme on the record.”
Now with Aggs and Milk both permanently relocated to Glasgow and Easter based in LA, the band are as dedicated to Shopping as they’ve ever been, carving out time to get together and write when they can. It is an approach demonstrated in their fearless new album title, which became a motto for the group during the writing and recording sessions. “It ties back into the whole pop production thing,” says Andrew Milk. “Since we were going to try and do something a bit more poppy sounding, we were just like, ‘sure, let’s just add more. More production.’ There’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek reference at our own process for the record.”
They haven’t gone full throttle for a Spector-esque wall of sound. Working with producer Davey Warsop, All or Nothing fills in the blank spaces of Shopping’s usually sparse arrangements. They were inspired by artists who reached a wider audience while staying true to themselves, whom they defined as Depeche Mode, Yeah Yeahs Yeahs, and Public Image LTD.
The dance-forward outlook can be heard on ‘Initiative’ which reaches a climax of buzzing synths and choral harmonies as Aggs demands you “show some initiative.” ‘For Your Pleasure’ bounces around with even more wild abandon when a crisp sampled snare beat enters the conversation. Creating a record that would appeal to a wider audience and bring even more juddering dancers to their anticipated tours was a top priority. “We were consciously trying to make things a bit more melodic at times because I think it’s quite easy for us to write a certain type of song that’s maybe a bit monosyllabic,” says Aggs.
Though monosyllabic, a Shopping song could always pack out a dancefloor in seconds, even when the subject matter drew on the chaos of the world outside the club. On first listen, All or Nothing sits in the same vein as previous Shopping releases, drawing on the issues of work-life pressures, privacy, identity, and fear of false prophets. It’s only on further listen that it becomes clearer that worries closer to home were also on the band’s mind. “There are quite a lot of legit personal issues that are going into the songs and the songwriting on this record,” says Milk. “There was a lot of change in circumstances, a lot of upheaval and risks; risks were a big theme on the record.”
Taking risks has given the band permission to write more openly, and grow into a new sound, expanded beyond drums, bass, and guitar. It is a growth which fans at their upcoming shows will be delighted to witness, and which bring us back to the word of the day: “Our live set is going to be quite different now,” boasts Easter. “Not giving anything away. It’s going to be more along the lines of a pop show.” Maybe there’ll be Britney mics after all.
Photo by Matt Draper.