- 20 Apr 18
STUART CLARK looks forward to the vinyl lovers’ Christmas with some help from Otherkin and Run The Jewels, plus the pick of this year’s Record Store Day goodies and a guide to the wondrous independents stocking them.
As resurrections go it’s pretty damn spectacular! Having registered a 27% year on year sales increase, vinyl is now back to the level of popularity it enjoyed in 1991 when Nirvana piledrived their way to the top of the Irish album chart with Nevermind.
It’s the same story on the other side of the Atlantic with 13.8 million pieces of shiny black (and occasionally coloured) plastic being snapped up by music lovers who still want the real physical deal.
In danger a decade ago of going the same way as the dodo, wooly mammoths and Renua, vinyl is now in such high demand that former DJ Hugh Scully and musician Darragh Molloy have ended a 30-year Irish pressing plant drought by opening Dublin Vinyl, a state-of-the-art facility in Glasnevin, which by the end of 2018 will be able to produce up to 200,000 superior quality records a month.
From the extra racking space in Tower Records and Aldi stocking record players to Golden Discs having a floor dedicated to vinyl in their Cork superstore and the emergence of a new wave of specialist shops like Blackwax in Dublin and Arklow’s Beat That Records, the myth that Irish music lovers are nowadays content to do all their listening online has been well and truly shattered.
Along with such back catalogue giants as David Bowie, George Michael, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, 2018 also saw contemporary artists like Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, P!nk, the brothers Gallagher and Kasabian making a dent in the Top 30 Vinyl Sales chart.
Among those keeping the home turntables revolving are Otherkin, Wyvern Lingo, The Hot Sprockets, Le Galaxie and Fangclub, thoroughly modern outfits all who insisted on there being 12” versions of their respective latest opuses, because, hey, that’s what proper bands do!
“Having OK pressed on vinyl was a huge moment for us as a band,” enthuses Otherkin’s Conor Wynne. “Getting that test pressing back was the first time it really felt like the album was complete. It was important for not only us, but also everyone who’d been supporting us until this point. After hearing the test pressing we all felt the album sounded massive on this particular nformat, so we asked the good folk at Rubyworks to put a ‘Play Loud’ sticker on it, because in truth that’s the best listening experience you can have with an album.
“It’s incredibly easy to find new music in the current digital age,” he continues, “but we know as music lovers that having that vinyl in your hand is a different ball game. I grew up discovering some of my favourite bands through my parents’ record collection. It’s really satisfying reading the liner notes and looking at the artwork. It was amazing seeing people post our vinyl once it came out, and having that same feeling of discovery that we’ve had with so many records.”
It was also with a sense of righteousness that Born Optimistic, the label run by his pal Donal Scannell, last year made Mic Christopher’s sumptuous Skylarkin’ available on vinyl 15-years after its original CD-only release.
“If Mic Christopher was still around and you told him that Skylarkin’ was one of the top Irish vinyl releases of 2017 I’m not sure how he’d react,” Donal reflects. “It’d be much cooler, of course, if he was still with us and Skylarkin’ was only the first of many amazing solo albums he released. Alas, Skylarkin’ is all we have, this perfect album that lives on beyond that amazing man.
“I started a label because of Dublin Vinyl opening their new pressing plant. It made it all so real I couldn’t not put records out. Mic was the only place to start. My dearly departed mate and his wonderful family kickstarted Born Optimistic in a way I could never have dreamed of.”
Asked about its current place in the musical scheme of things, Scannell continues: “Vinyl has moved from being a discovery platform as it was for me growing up. It was how I heard new music. Crazy as it seems, I and millions of others would pay about €20 to hear music we didn’t know. We did it week after week. Travelling the world, grabbing records we’d heard about and would only get a chance to hear on rubbish headphones in a noisy shop. Vinyl now comes after discovery. Long long after! Purchasing something on vinyl is what you do when you’re a mad fan. It cements your fandom.”
Next from Born Optimistic are a live album from Cathy Davey, which will be out on Record Store Day - see Music News for full details - and the May 11 re-release in conjunction with Universal of Here’s One We Made Earlier, the long-deleted and much-loved 1992 debut from The Pale.
Along with the artistry, vinyl has also emerged as an important revenue stream for artists who are increasingly cutting out the middleman and selling direct to fans at gigs. With 1,000 fully-packaged 12” discs costing from €2,790 and vinyl considered a premium product that routinely sells for upwards of €20 per album, you don’t need to be an Economics graduate to spot the potential for making a few bob, which will likely as not go towards under-writing the loss-making aspects of being a gigging musician.
With Saturday April 21’s Record Store Day hurtling towards us, let us hear from one of this year’s ambassadors, Run The Jewels’ El-P.
“I grew up going to independent record stores and when I became part of the music scene independent record stores were huge for me,” he proffers. “As an artist, I want to be part of that culture because those stores are a cornerstone of the community. That’s what we appreciate about record stores; you’re not just a place to press a button and get a song.”
Putting their vinyl where their mouth is, the chaps have prepped The Stay Gold Collectors Jewel Box, a thing of 12” beauty that’s adorned with Marvel-branded art and comes with its own RTJ slipmat for Technics SL-1200 (have you seen the new reboot!) cueing purposes.
As with puppies and Christmas, vinyl is not just for Record Store Day, so make sure you keep your needle in the groove all year round!
Four Irish Record Stores To Check Out
4 Steamboat Quay, Limerick
Tel. (061) 311 696, steamboat.ie
“It’s busier than any of our days at Christmas. We’ll probably open at 8am, but even if it was in the middle of the night there’d be queues outside. People really get into the spirit of the thing.” Steamboat’s Mark Carey is looking forward to Record Store Day 2018, which will once again be celebrated with much gusto – and just the right amount of mayhem! – in their riverside Limerick store. “We get very well treated by the labels and last year, for instance, had 15 copies of the David Bowie album, which was insanely difficult to get,” Mark resumes. “There are three Bowie records this year, so he’ll probably be the most in-demand artist again. Last April, we had 17 acts playing on the day, split between here and two of the nearby Dolan’s venues. This year we’re having Emma Langford, Síomha, Toucan and Hudson Taylor coming into us on April 1st for a pre-Record Store Day event – Harry and Alfie are playing at 2pm, which I imagine will be pretty crazy! – with more local acts throughout the day on April 21st.” Steamboat always goes the extra yard to support Limerick and Clare artists. “I’m really looking forward to the vinyl album Emma Langford is bringing out in the next few weeks: she’s amazing. Hermitage Green, Fox Jaw, Windings, Protobaby and Anna’s Anchor have all sold well on 12”. Our buyer, Damien, really knows his music so the racks are bursting at the moment with Irish artists on both CD and vinyl.” Mark and his Steamboat colleagues rose to the record store occasion in 2016 when HMV closed in Limerick. “If we hadn’t at that point decided to expand our existing music equipment business, the city would’ve been left without a dedicated record shop,” he reflects. “No record shop would eventually have meant less people enjoying and playing music. The selling of instruments being our lifeblood we stepped in, and I’m delighted we did because it means we’ve been part of this incredible reemergence of vinyl.” Subscribe to Steamboat’s mailing-list for the chance to win a €250 voucher, and be first in the Record Store Day queue, which means getting your pick of the goodies!
15A Wicklow Street, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 707 9955, freebirdrecords.com
Fighting the good fight since 1978, Freebird has had numerous homes but always maintained the same evangelical zeal for vinyl. Classical, film soundtrack, country, Americana, electronic, hip hop, rap, R&B, psychedelic, garage, punk, metal, dub, ska, reggae, rock, pop, indie and rockabilly fans are all supremely well catered for in a shop that’s straight out of the pages of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. In addition to perennial bestsellers like Dylan, Bowie, The Beatles, The Smiths, The Ramones and the Velvet Underground, Freebird is the go-to place for new releases with Young Fathers, Wyvern Lingo, Franz Ferdinand, Rejjie Snow, Kendrick Lamar, Fever Ray, David Byrne and Dublin guitar whizkids Fontaines D.C. all flying off the racks recently. Numerous friendships – and, indeed, bands – have been formed in its aisles, which have been walked up and down by such esteemed musicians as Andre 3000, Robert Plant and Ryan Adams. Record Store Day is an extremely big deal at Freebird with loads of tasty limited-edition 7” and 12”s to feast on, and in-stores from the cream of Dublin’s emerging talent. If you can’t make it to Dublin, fear not, because they also have a wonderfully browsable online record store.
BEAT THAT RECORDS
32 Main Street, Arklow, Co. Wicklow
Tel. (087) 190 4247, @beatthatrecords
A bastion of vinyl in the heart of the Garden County, Beat That was set up four years ago by James Charlton whose first 7” purchase was The Jam’s ‘Beat Surrender’ – hence the name of the shop, and its logo’s nod towards Paul Weller & Co.’s record label, Polydor! We’re warning you now – you’ll spend hours flicking through the albums in their racks, which the last time we were in ranged from Cannibal Corpse’s Gallery Of Suicide, Bruce Springsteen’s The River and Queen’s A Day At The Races through to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and the original pressing of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars. James is heartened by the fact that, in addition to older music fans, there’s a new wave of young vinyl lovers starting their 7” and 12” collections from scratch. With loads of Record Store Day specials, we’d strongly recommend being first through the door when Beat That opens at 10am and allowing yourself plenty of time to browse!
Unit 6, McMahon Buildings, The Demesne, Dundalk
Tel. (042) 938 6406, classifiedrecords.ie
Describing themselves as “specialist but not elitist”, Classified have brought the magic of ‘crate digging’ back to the North East of Ireland, with every inch of their shop crammed with quality new and pre-loved rock, pop, indie, soul, funk, hip hop, punk, metal, electronic, jazz, blues and experimental vinyl. Add in Stapleton record players, vinyl cleaning kits, Sennheiser and House of Marley headphones, DJ accessories, Irish music on CD and DVD, live instore performances, art installations and exhibitions – phew! – and you can understand why 2fm’s Dan Hegarty, Jinx Lennon, King Kong Company and Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records are among Classified’s multitude of social media followers. Head honcho Neil Waters, who has a wicked Bowie mix of his available at soundcloud.com/evil-presidentes, promises that Record Store Day there is going to be a blast!