Shopping (the band) at Columbus Theatre, Mar 2

Shopping, the band

Shopping, the band

British post-punk trio Shopping are on a mission to make people move. The band that calls both London and Glasgow home has an organic approach to the style that’s abundant with rhythm. Their third album titled The Official Body released on Jan 19 via Fat Cat Records is a fine example with each track guaranteed to supply that sensation. They’re also three people who refuse to take themselves too seriously. As part of their United States tour in support of the album, this interesting act will be taking the upstairs stage at the Columbus Theatre in Providence’s west end on Mar 2 with Los Angeles no- wave act French Vanilla and local electro-pop wonder La Neve.

I had a chat with bassist Billy Easter, drummer Andrew Milk and guitarist Rachel Aggs about working with fellow Brit Edwyn Collins, staying in a house on a cliff, a recent music video they made and a new kind of social anxiety brought on by social media.

Rob Duguay (Motif): Shopping’s new album The Official Body maintains the band’s minimal approach to dancing rhythms and Billy’s bass is also very noticeable on a lot of tracks. When the album was being made, what was the initial artistic vision?

Billy Easter: It’s our third album, so we kind of knew what we were doing, but we wanted to develop it a little bit and bring in a few extra sounds. We didn’t talk that much, exactly, about what kind of album we wanted to make. We’re happy with what we did, but we just wanted to do it better.

Andrew Milk: I think we kind of amped up the party vibe, and making the synth and samples be more prominent helped keep the dance elements at the forefront. We didn’t really stray from a dance-orientated sound, but on our previous records there are songs that are more ballad-y, and on this one there’s nothing like that at all.

Rachel Aggs: In my opinion, the bass lines sound more complex. They are really intense at times.

BE: The bass lines on this album are a lot more difficult to play than on the previous albums.

RA: I think they’re great. On the track “Wild Child,” when we were writing it, Billy came up with the bass line, and I was noodling around on the guitar thinking that I didn’t need to play very much on this song because the bass line is so good. It felt like it should be prominent.

RD: I definitely noticed that while listening to the record. I like the tones on it too, the deepness coming from the bass melds well with the synth. Before The Official Body was made, you guys lost your rehearsal and writing space in London due to the building it was in closing down. Was it a big roadblock when it came to writing the songs for the album? Were you each frantically looking around for other spaces?

BE: Not really. Our space closed way before we started writing this album actually. It just affected our lives in terms of us moving out of London. It wasn’t a major panic for the band because, even though we practiced in that space, we didn’t always practice there and we’re pretty adaptive anyways. We were already busy with a bunch of different things so we would get together when we could and we would write then. It wasn’t like we were writing in the practice room daily or anything like that.

I wouldn’t say that it had a massive impact on our writing but then having a long distance element sort of did. We’re always sort of adapting to circumstances it feels in a way because all of our lives change quite a lot.

RA: The strain on the writing maybe put a little more pressure on the process but perhaps it was good for the songs because that’s the type of energy we thrive on. Frustration, lack of space and lack of time are inherent in most people’s creative process. We’re not the kind of band that panics when circumstances get in the way, we just deal with it and try to adapt.

RD: There are countless bands in Providence that have had their space close down and they’ve had to ask everyone they know about splitting a space and it can become a hassle.

BE: Yeah.

RD: Now The Official Body was recorded and produced fairly quickly over a 10-day period. Usually bands take a few months to make a new album, so how did everything come together so quickly?

BE: We wrote the album over the period of time of a year while meeting up in various places when we could, when we had a show, while being part of a festival, whatever. It was just the recording part that took 10 days and we did it with Edwyn Collins. He has a really great studio in the very north of Scotland, which the only way it could work was to stay there for a few days since it’s very far away. It’s a five hour drive from Glasgow, so you would have to go and live there. Previously we had absolutely no money at all and we had half a day here and half a day there. This time was actually the most luxurious, spacious length of time that we had to record.

RD: That’s awesome. Was the studio in a little town in Scotland? Was it in the middle of nowhere?

BE: It was really isolated in a town of 300 people and it was on the edge of a cliff looking out into the North Sea.

RD: Wow.

BE: It was incredible and a very spectacular, beautiful place.

RD: What was the name of the town?

BE: Helmsdale.

RD: That’s amazing that you guys got to record in such a magnificent place. Along with the new album, Shopping also released a new music video for the song you mentioned earlier, “Wild Child,” a few weeks ago. It’s a spoof on talent TV shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol.” Who came up with the idea for it along with all the fluorescent graphics that are present in the video?

AM: I think the idea came from all of us together when we were discussing what we wanted to do for that song, as with most things that we do as a band. The particular plan revolved around the mock-up of a game show or a talent show like all the ones you mentioned. It fit with the idea of a persona that you project and bizarre levels of fame that is present nowadays with social media. The lyrics reference a projecting of a persona that isn’t quite true, but people are fascinated by it and being drawn in by people’s online personas.

All of that really coalesced together into this weird idea of us presenting our alter egos and judging people who are seeking that “15 minutes of fame” doing quite mundane and ordinary acts. People can really just become famous from social media from having an opinion.

RA: Or having their dinner.

AM: If you’re really good at taking photos of your dinner, you can get like 12,000 followers [laughs]. The consequence of that is that we’ve become a culture of judging everyone and everything all the time. The merest mundane activities are now worth raging over. I have friends of mine who have social anxiety about putting photos on Instagram and worrying about how many likes they’ve gotten. That’s a real common thing now, people hold preciously the persona that they’re presenting online and it seems like it’s one big popularity contest with everything you do.

It’s a new sort of anxiety that people are experiencing and those things combined make the video what it is. We also didn’t want to be blatantly pointing the finger at people because everything is a mirror. We’re as complicit in all of that craziness as anyone else.

BE: We’re judging ourselves.

AM: Yeah, we’re making fun of ourselves and I hope that comes across when people watch it. Everything is a bit fucked up, but you have to be able to laugh about it.

RD: You make a lot of great points when it comes to social media and how many followers you have. It can also be narrowed down to being a bunch of nonsense, but, if you’re knee deep in it, especially if you’re a musician, you need social media to promote your work. It’s kind of a double-edged sword in that sense.

AM: Definitely.

RD: After the upcoming show at the Columbus Theatre in Providence next month, what does the rest of the year have in store?

BE: After the US tour, we’re coming back and then we got a couple more European tours that we’re going to do. At the moment we’re looking into jumping on some festivals and stuff like that for the summer but nothing in particular.

“Wild Child” music video:

Tickets for Shopping, French Vanilla, La Neve as the Columbus Theatre, Mar 2:


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