‘I’m in the Band’ Ep. 8: Shopping
The UK post-punk band Shopping emerged from the London, DIY, queercore scene at the tail end of 2012. Dividing their time between London and Glasgow, the musicians who comprise the angular-noise trio keep very busy.
Guitarist-singer Rachel Aggs also plays in Trash Kit and Sacred Paws, which won the prestigious Scottish Album of the Year award. Bassist-singer Billy Easter plays in Wetdog and runs a record label. Drummer-singer Andrew Milk plays in Current Affairs, cofounded a record label and is a member of Spite House, a progressive, Glaswegian show promotions collective.
In this episode, the members of Shopping discuss the meaning behind their new album The Official Body and the importance of visibility and voice for marginalized people.
Rachel Aggs on representation within the scene… I feel really proud to be on stage and be queer, a person of color, and a female-identifying person that doesn’t necessarily present in a conventional way. I think that’s really important.
I hardly knew any other people of color making the kind of music I was. A huge catalyst to me starting a band was because of how invisible punks of color have historically been in the scene, but how crucial at the same time.
At almost every show, I’ve tried to make a point of dedicating a song to the punks of color in the audience, even if I don’t talk that much about it. I sometimes find it quite overwhelming to talk to a majority white audience about that. But even just mentioning it, people come up to me afterwards and say, ‘Thank you.’
Andrew Milk on queer visibility… Being a queer person, visibility is incredibly important. It’s the whole reason that I got into music. Discovering queercore and riot grrrl and having those voices resonate so deeply within me — I had to do more. I had to become more invested in culture, be a creator of culture and not just a passive consumer.
Billy Easter on expectations of women in music… As a woman in music, a lot of the time you’ve got to have something else going on, like you’ve got to be sexy and appealing to this and that. I’m not hugely confident, but I do feel that I can get on stage and play to people. I don’t feel like I have to conform to anything to do that. I don’t have to look like a beautiful woman. I don’t care. I don’t give a shit.
Rachel Aggs on letting it all hang out… I think people who look weird or feel weird in their bodies are often the best performers, because it takes so much to get on stage to overcome that. By the time you’re on stage, you just don’t care. You’re just a ball of energy. You’re not pausing to do your hair in between songs, ‘cause it’s not an issue. That’s what makes you a good performer. That’s a really exciting thing for me, and that kind of visibility is really important.
Andrew Milk on influences and influencing others… I’m really happy that we’re able to be part of a history of marginalized people getting their voices out there. We never discuss a political agenda, but I’m very happy that what we are saying is something that, when I was 18, I would have been looking for. It’s something that I hope an 18-year-old can listen to and get that same connection that I got when I first discovered riot grrrl — just hearing voices that are unabashedly talking about queer, feminist, and personally political subjects.
Rachel Aggs on musical influences… I remember thinking punk was like Green Day, which, at the time, was what people were calling punk. I really didn’t identify with any of that music. I thought it was boring, very male, very white and straight. I got more into jazz and weird experimental noise stuff when I was studying art. Then through that, I discovered riot grrrl and fun stuff that I could really identify with. And then the door opened into a whole new world of music and experimentation.
Andrew Milk on musical influences… I didn’t understand the big bands that were happening, like Green Day, Slipknot, Nirvana, Melvins. It was just these angry men. But then with queercore, I was like, ‘Yeah, I get this. I understand where this anger is coming from.’
Billy Easter on finding her people… I got expelled from school, and I was kind of alienated. When I was 17, I ran away and moved to London. I found a whole crew of people who were all freaks. It was based around this fleeting scene called ‘Romo.’ I just found my people. We’re talking mid-‘90s. We didn’t use the word queer, but people were queer, and nobody asked any questions. We did know that we were stepping out of society. I get asked a lot more questions now about how I identify than I did back then. But maybe I was just wasted and I didn’t notice.
(Photo credit: Christopher Grady)
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