Queer pop-punk trio Shopping--comprised of Rachel Aggs (guitar, vocals), Billy Easter (bass, vocals) and Andrew Milk (drums, vocals)--released their new album The Official Body this weekend via FatCat Records.
In support of the album, the unabashedly rebellious group will embark on a tour across the US and Canada, beginning March 1 in Canada, which will take them all across the continent, including a stop in SXSW.
The band also released a music video for their single "Wild Child" ahead of the new record's publication. A quirky, wacky clip drawing inspiration from an American Idol-esque reality show, "Wild Child" is directed by Jack Barraclough and reflects the falsities of online persona and the constructed concept of "making it" in the entertainment industry.
Take a look at "Wild Child," then read our interview with the group below.
How does queerness influence your music?
Billy Easter: I think in general it just reenforces our desire to look outside of social constructs in terms of what is "acceptable" in the music industry, we don't play by the rules when it comes to sex and gender and we aren't that interested in applying rules to our music making either.
Andrew Milk: None of us identify as straight, let's put it that way! We write songs in quite a spontaneous way when we practice and lyrics can be quite off the cuff, taking influence from our day-to-day and whats playing on our minds, so our homo lives definitely "come out" there and then. I identify as queer and I think that developing identity and my interest in punk music and DIY culture coalesced at the same time. Where previously I would say I identified as gay and listening to other types of music predominantly, I was not involved with music or culture. I found riot grrrl and queercore simultaneously and the very basic punk rock ethos of Do It Yourself, have a voice, create-your-own culture that ran through those movements influenced me hugely. And any music I create collaboratively in Shopping or otherwise is informed by this. I found messages and voices that had been missing for me in that music and I love that, potentially, Shopping are able to communicate in the same way to people. I think what queer should be is a liberating and unifying expression of your own "weirdness." I think we write songs that are queer in this way as well.
What's the story behind the writing of 'Wild Child?'
Easter: The baseline just sprung out of my mind to my fingers and it was fast, bouncy, and exciting so I just carried on playing it, then Rachel (Aggs) started singing that killer melody and Andrew and I started chanting "Wild Child". It just went from there, the song then became about identity, masks and escaping a life constricted by stereotypes and constructs: "Melt down your wedding ring!!"
What led you to this wacky 'American Idol'-esque video concept?
Milk: I think we had been throwing around ideas for a concept that involved instant gratification and the pursuit of fame. We--weirdly, I think--get people at gigs coming up to us to let us know they thought we "really had something" and that we should "keep trying, you could make it".
We wondered what it is they thought "making it" would look like? At what point do you "make it"? Is it when you get a gold disc on a wall in your LA pool house? Was there an "Official Body" that would determine you had made it? Would a panel of distinguished judges decide?
This combined with the lyrics of the song, which reference projecting a kind of devil-may-care persona, and watching people from a distance (such as on social media) who seem to create a reality for themselves made for a concept of a bizarre talent show, judged by our larger-than-life alter egos. We always want to be able to make fun of ourselves and never point fingers without owning up to being complicit in this weird, fucked up world. Hopefully we can all see oursevles in these hopeless hopefuls and/or the confident and extroverted judges.
What bands would you say influence you most sonically?
Rachel Aggs: We all have such different tastes and influences--Andrew is an encyclopedia of 90s R&B and Billy loves the Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, PiL, Sade, Talking Heads... I listen to tons of South African pop music--but specific influences are really not something we discuss often. Our writing process is very intuitive and collaborative so although I'm sure all our different tastes come out in the end product, we never tend to talk about what we're doing! I think our biggest goal is always to write songs that sound fresh and exciting to us whilst also working towards the ultimate dance floor-filler, and I imagine we draw from almost every band we've ever loved whilst trying to get there.
How does 'Wild Child' fit into the larger context of The Official Body? Was it easier/ harder to write than the rest of the songs?
Easter: "Wild Child" was one of the last songs for the album that we wrote. We often write our most satisfying songs when the pressure is on and we don't have much time to think too much about it. We liked it instantly and instead of adding guitar Rachel jumped on the synth, it just comes in sporadically, which is fun because it gives her a chance to grab the mic and dance about without her guitar during our live set!!