Tenth annual Record Store: Reflecting on the trend

Coffee – Enjoy a single, instantaneous cup at the push of a button. Grocery shopping – Tap the computer screen and a store employee is gathering, bagging and delivering ingredients to the house. Music – Stop swiping the phone screen when a favored selection appears.

Most daily experiences lack a sense of process they once required. Stirring a pot of coffee on the stove or writing a grocery list (with an actual pen and paper) and driving to the store. Music however, though constantly evolving distribution outlets, is being met with an increased consumer demand to resuscitate a particular platform that requires a process to experience it: vinyl records.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the vinyl record industry sold 430 million dollars in 2016, a 15 million dollar increase from 2015 and the highest the statistic has been since 1988. The cause of such resurgence is likely due to the general tangibility of records – the experience.

“You get something you can have and hold. If it’s got really cool artwork or cool packaging, it’s something you can stare at and analyze because you’re forced to sit down and listen to your record as opposed to skipping from track to track with just the touch of a button or a screen,” said Scott Hagen, general manager at UHF Music in Royal Oak.

Vinyl is no groundbreaking comeback in 2017. It’s been slowly gaining traction back in popular culture and the economy. Although the last few years of business have shown vinyl vendors that the trend’s current strength is in young consumers.

“If I were to put an age range on it I would say anywhere from 13-60 years old seems to be the average age of everyone coming in but in the last four to five years we have had a steady increase of teenagers and young adults coming in,” Hagen said.

Hagen, who opened the store with its owner nearly seven years ago, remembers when only a small percentage of music was pressed to vinyl during that time.

“Now almost every title that comes out seems to come out on vinyl as well,” Hagen said.

It took quite a while for new, mainstream releases to get pressed to vinyl, though manufacturing never ceased completely. With the help of cult music cultures, consumer interest remained on a small-scale basis.

“Small, independent labels have been pressing up [12-inch records] in certain genres, specifically electronic dance music and hardcore music, since before cassettes and CDs started to gain popularity,” said Andrey Douthard, owner of Paramita Sound in Detroit.
“So that’s like a whole sub-industry, in a way, of vinyl records. A culture that hasn’t stopped and won’t stop. The things that had been. Now everything’s getting pressed. New artists, unknown artists that aren’t on labels, everyone knows how important it is to have tangible product to sell and people connect with vinyl,” Douthard said.
Douthard, who opened Paramita Sound in October 2014, said margins on new releases are “really low” (a.k.a. expensive for shops and consumers). Thus he uncovers another culture of vinyl that never expired: used records.

“With the up-swinging trend of new records being pressed and sold, there’s a whole other world of trade with records that doesn’t even hit the Neilson ratings. I mean … millions of used records that trade hands,” Douthard said.

 

 

At the corner of Woodward and Nine Mile in Ferndale sits The Rust Belt Market – an art market with several gallery-like stations occupied by local artists, crafters, and hobbyists. Sitting in the center-most station of the large industrial space is used-record vendor Mike Trombley.

Trombley has been selling records at Rust Belt for five years and opened and operated a record shop in Philadelphia for four years before that. Although he sells a small variety of new records, Trombley sources his used records from estate sales and newspaper ads.

“During the week I make house calls and buy up collections,” Trombley said.

Trombley has been in record retail since the mid-90s and has also noticed an increase of young consumers in recent years.

“In terms of my business, I’ve certainly seen a lot more younger people buying vinyl, buying players, buying receivers, which I think is awesome,” Trombley said.

After decades of personal interest in vinyl, Trombley credits the experience it requires for his perpetual passion.

“I like the whole experience of playing a record; having to put it on, having to flip it over, checking out the art work, checking out the liner notes. It’s just a much more personal experience. Streaming is a very disconnected experience,” Trombley said.

When vinyl started to fade out in the late 80s, so did the pressing plants. Until this year, Detroit housed one – Archer Record Pressing Co. in Hamtramck. On February 25th, Third Man Records in Detroit’s Cass Corridor opened the city’s second pressing plant, which utilizes the newest presses in thirty-five years. The plant also occupies eight presses as opposed to Archer’s two.

The storefront opened in November 2015 after the brand was started by native rock legend Jack White in 2001. TMR is a brand and a label, and though the new pressing plant presses music releases respective to the label, they manufacture outside orders for bands not on the label as well.

Aside from records and books under the brand’s publishing wing, the store is filled with an abundance of ancillary trinkets with the brand’s logo: socks, matches, coffee mugs, pocket knives… The main draw though, is the music that can be touched.

“Being on the sales floor, it is easy to see that records are sold much more than our apparel,” Jessica Artt said, Third Man Records sales team member.

“Its something that you can actually interact with, which I think is what interests people the most,” Artt said.

For record retailers, April in particular is a month that doesn’t stop spinning. The international holiday, Record Store Day, falls on the 22nd every year. This year will be the tenth. RSD is a chance for music artists to release songs never previously released on vinyl, fresh vinyl color variations, re-mastered editions; records that are rare in some way either pertaining to the track list or physical look/packaging. Record stores that participate in RSD will carry these exclusive releases. Some stores also have live, in-shop entertainment.

According to Douthard, the RSD environment in a record store is the equivalent to St. Patrick’s Day at an Irish Pub.

“Record Store Day is a whole world of things but for the most part it’s a very positive thing for all record stores, whether they’re participating officially or not,” Douthard said.


Super dreamy and almost trippy shoegaze, make out to Living Hour

Shoegaze. The term is one of many that recently has me thinking whoever names marijuana strains must also name music genres. Lately, it seems like music genres and sub-categories surface by the minute, whether they are new experimentations or nostalgic resurrections.
Coined after slow paced indie-rock bands that spend much of their set ‘gazing’ at their effects pedals, shoegaze is closely related to the sounds of dream pop, chill wave and psychedelia… see what I mean?

“When it comes down to genres those are all somewhat fitting but I think there are a few unique elements that wouldn’t necessarily fall under a specific genre,” said Living Hour’s Gil Carroll, before their set at Detroit’s Marble Bar on Sept. 20.

Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Living Hour released their debut full length earlier this year on Lefse Records (Portland, OR). The self-titled record featured songs that began as ideas in Carroll’s notebooks six years ago, as well as tunes that the quintet approached more collaboratively since forming two years ago.

“I think there’s new (genres) just because there’s so many different sounds you can make now with digital equipment and different instruments that there’s so many influences coming together that it forms different sounds that haven’t been heard before,” said guitarist/back up vocals Adam Soloway.
“It’s super hard to characterize that under indie-rock for example, but were also super dreamy and almost trippy at times so you kind of have to tell people that because they might think that we’re like Pavement but we’re more like Slowdive,” said Soloway.

Living Hour’s first ever tour was two years ago last week and with little time to showcase their comfortably noisy debut, their current tour includes dates in the states, Canada and Europe and the U.K.
Aside from their non-stop self promotion on Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets, the band attributes their respective niche style for garnering geographically widespread audience in such little time.

“I think we also need to credit the shoegaze community,” said Soloway.
“Just because it’s so tightly knit across the world that if one person hears something and they post something in an online forum or shoegaze facebook page, tons of people will listen to it and it doesn’t matter how big you are because people get super into it because its… shoegaze.

Living Hour’s Marble Bar set included slow outros that felt like sun-set glistening ocean waves crashing at your feet.
Female vocalist Sam Sarty’s soothing vocals filled the room like a cool September night’s window breeze. Her nurturing melodies directed the rest of the members as they swayed with eyes closed, joining the audience.
“We want people to make out to it… If they want to,” said Sarty.
“Sex music,” added Sarty.

And just like that… another genre floats to the surface.


The Dream Is Over, PUP begins touring for their second album in Pontiac

The life of a contemporary touring musician includes an abundance of grueling hurdles. Obstacles that paint life on the road differently than the lavished fame and fortuned experience that music striving millennials may have dreamed of.  A more realistic example of the experience is meticulously chronicled through the perspective of Canadian punk quintet Pup in the music video for their song, “Dark Days,” released last July.

The video is an animated glimpse of the band’s touring life. While tirelessly driving a tattered van through snowstorms and flashing passports, the late-twenties Torontonian buddies Facetime significant others on shattered phone screens and puke in empty dive bars from too much boozing between playing gigs and sleeping upright. Their journey has high moments as well, though it is hard to overlook the rock star dream’s inevitable “disillusionment,” as singer and rhythm guitarist Stefan Babcock would call it.

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“I started realizing in my mid twenties that you’re faced with some sort of disillusionment at a certain point where you’ve grown up being told you can do anything you want and you think that, ‘when I grow up this is what I’m going to do,’ and at a certain point you face up to the fact that… man… you’re pretty much grown up!” said Babcock.

“And maybe those dreams were not realistic or not compatible with your lifestyle or your skill set,” he added, “but you just have to learn to adapt and it can be a pretty cold, hard reality check but that’s called growing up ya know?”
In hindsight, the video for Pup’s “Dark Days,” which is an uplifting, catchy punk anthem and highlight of their self-titled first full length, accurately depicts their last two years of perpetual globetrotting. That record earned plenty of critical praise including Rolling Stone’s Break Out Acts of 2014.
“Part of the success of that record probably was us just writing for ourselves,” said Babcock. “We didn’t expect the first record to be anything.”
On May 27, Pup will release their sophomore LP, which has many similar themes of “disillusionment and disappointment and frustration.”
It is theoretically titled, The Dream Is Over.
Babcock, who suffered a band—threatening vocal injury last July, titled the new record after a conversation he had with the doctor who diagnosed his hemorrhaging. His screaming style is one of the factors that forced Pup to drop out of several tour dates with Modern Baseball, Jeff Rosenstock and Tiny Moving Parts.
“I don’t think there’s a technical way to do what I do,” said Babcock.
“The way I sing is technically incorrect but it sounds the way it does because I do it and I’m not really willing to forfeit that,” he added.
The band’s constant gigging was the contributing factor.
“There were times when we did thirty some shows in a row, which is a lot for your voice without a day off and then there would be days during those thirty days where we’d play a show and someone would ask if we could play their house party after the show and we’d say sure, fine, why not?” said Babcock.
After two weeks of vocal rest, Babcock was offered the option of surgery, which would have cost him have six months to a year.
“I kind of got this once in a lifetime opportunity and I don’t know if it’s still going to be around in a year,” said Babcock.
Recently, Babcock has been exercising his voice to rehabilitate it and is looking forward to getting back on the road after just a handful of stationary months.
“I’m a little nervous but I feel a lot healthier than I did going into our last tour,” said Babcock.

PUP 4

He added, “And it’s always nerve racking after spending so much time off but you just gotta get back on the horse and do it and I’m confident. I’ve been working hard on recovering so I’m confident that everything is cool.”
In June Babcock and friends Steve Sladkowski (lead guitar), Nestor Chumak (bass guitar) and Zack Mykula (drums) will be back in their element, their van. They’ll be headlining the “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” tour with Rozwell Kid. Charly Bliss and Pkew Pkew Pkew will be splitting the opening duties.
The tour opens at the Pikeroom in Pontiac.
“We’ve never played in Pontiac so I’m not exactly sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to it,” said Babcock.

“From what I know there’s a pretty solid punk rock scene out there and we’ve always had pretty good luck going to new towns and Michigan and our Ontario stomping grounds are pretty similar so hopefully it will be good,” he added.
“Our last Detroit show was a lot of fun so hopefully this one will pick it up a notch.”


Detroit natives, The Social Bandits, are toying with live music platform, and it’s working

Detroit natives, The Social Bandits, are toying with live music platform, and it’s working.

In the hodgepodge of colorful characters and versatile sound that has become Detroit’s music industry, there is said to be an overwhelmingly saturated rock and roll scene. This statement made last year by Dave Zainea, owner of Detroit’s Majestic Complex in midtown, was a foreshadow of his future business plans.

Zainea teamed up with Amir Daiza, owner of Pontiac’s Elektricity nightclub and the former Clutch Cargos venue. Together they renovated the Majestic Complex’s iconic rock venue, The Magic Stick, and turned it into a stomping ground for electronic dance music events. One year later, the red ribbon cut and decades of rock band stickers and delusional scriptures scraped from the restroom walls, the city has only the ghostly memories of a monumental atmosphere for Detroit rock and roll.

bandits-msu-moody-10What happens when a band breaks the traditional tropes of bar gigging and creates an innovative platform for the delivery of their live music marketing? The Social Bandits take the stage.

From OU to every other U

Detroit’s alternative quartet, The Social Bandits, pin their original sound on many influences aside from rock and roll.
“There are a lot of solid 70s and 80s cover bands that make a good living and there is a huge metal and hard rock scene, not my vibe, but it’s cool they still play so many shows downtown,” said Brad Rude, co-lead vocalist and bass playing bandit.
“But I would say there’s not a whole lot of ‘rock and roll’ that is current and original in Detroit right now. There are few bands like this and I would consider The Social Bandits to be one of them,” Rude added.

“But I would say there’s not a whole lot of ‘rock and roll’ that is current and original in Detroit right now. There are few bands like this and I would consider The Social Bandits to be one of them,” Rude added.

With a broad range of influences including The Beatles, Bob Marley and The Killers to name a few, The Social Bandits have an innate love for Detroit’s historically staple sounds of funk and jazz. Oakland University’s jazz program was a catalyst in bringing out the boys’ Motown inheritance.

“I was pleasantly surprised when they came in; I nicknamed them the Swing Brothers,” said Sean Dobbins, OU’s jazz combo coordinator and assistant program instructor, about Rude and drumming band mate Dylan Walsh.

There are a lot of solid 70s and 80s cover bands that make a good living and there is a huge metal and hard rock scene, not my vibe, but it’s cool they still play so many shows downtown

Brad Rude, co-lead vocalist and bass playing bandit

“They had this connection they could play with and it was obvious from day one that they could have careers as musicians and go far,” added Dobbins.

According to Dobbins, studying jazz teaches musicians a sense of subtlety and introduces musical texture. Rude, who believes jazz is the root of all modern music, says that jazz is a big part of his musical life especially from an educational standpoint.

When the Swing Brothers aren’t busy playing jazz combos at Detroit’s Cliff Bell’s and other smokey landmarks of the city’s musical authenticity, the Social Bandits are making entrepreneurial moves. They are currently making a conscientious aesthetic change in formats through which they deliver a live set. Although the band play their fair amount of bar gigs, the traditional route up the ranks, in recent months they have been taking advantage of an environment that draws a particular fan base: college parties.

“There are a lot of good venues that support local music but if you’re [the band] not bringing out enough people then it’s hard to make matters worth-while,” said Rude.

bandits-msu-moody-11

He added, “So we’re going right to the source which is college kids at parties. They’re going to be at parties anyways, they might as well listen to the Social Bandits while they’re there.”

As a band with a desired demographic of younger listeners, there seems like no better setting to cater to than college parties. Rude says the response has been beautiful.

“We’ve had parties at MSU where the basement is packed wall to wall. You couldn’t fit more people in there with a shoehorn.”

Thus far, the band has traveled to The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.

The Social Experience

The element that separates the aura between the binary of a Social Bandits bar gig and a college house show is the level of crowd interaction that the band is able to participate in, coupled with the deliberate differences in song choices. Spencer White, frequent Bandits show attendee, said that being able to get strangers dancing is one of the hallmarks of being a “good band.”

“The bar gigs are great but there’s a certain disengagement you can have at a bar gig where you can wander away, grab a drink, things like that,” said White.

“But at the college shows you’re packed into a room and it’s a party ya now? You’re committed. You’ve got your booze with ya, you’re with all your friends, you’re hoppin’ around in a tight space. Regardless of the setting, the Bandits have great command of the room but it shows so much more in a tight place like that” White added.

the-social-bandits-central-4oAs a live concert guru, White explained the best type of live interaction is “in-song” interaction. Something that a band can afford much more of in a house show due to the band’s relative proximity to the band.

“The Bandits never miss a chance to have you clap, or yell with them, or sing their lyrics or even hop on the drum kit for a little bit during the drum solo whereas at the bar gigs you can’t always do that type of stuff” said White.

“It’s that kind of stuff that makes people involved with the music, makes the experience more than just songs that are being played at you,” he added.

Playing to a crowd rather than at them is what Dobbins considers being the most important part of catering to a live audience.

“Act like you’re taking apart a movie and make sure your repertoire has all of the emotions there can be,” said Dobbins.

“Happiness, sadness, drama, comedy, everything that you could think of that would go into a movie should be in a set because you’re trying to get your audience members on every emotion possible,” Dobbins added.

As for variations in song choices, the Bandits typically play their originals everywhere, however different platforms get different access.

“We play a lot of original songs,” said Jesse Medawar, who handles half of the band’s vocal and guitar duties.

“We definitely play original songs at a bar gig but we play all of our originals at the house shows where we’re trying to market ourselves as The Social Bandits rather than just receiving a paycheck,” Medawar added.

Cover songs, on the other hand, vary between show platforms because of relative target audience. Bar covers include Pink Floyd’s “Money” or Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads”, where covers on a college set list include Sublime’s “Santeria” or Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop”. The fact that Miley Cyrus can’t stop the band sheds light on their aesthetic diversification and perseverance in giving audiences a memorable emotion to take away with them as Dobbins claims vital.

On The Horizon

Moving forward, The Social Bandits have a spring college mini-tour coming up. They are booked to play college house shows through April and May in Lansing and Mount. Pleasant. Audiences at these shows will hear a taste of original songs from the band’s first full length LP, which is set to release this August. After the release of the record, the band plans on taking a two-week east coast tour.

“We’re bringing out other musicians to feature on it and its very diverse,” Rude said about the currently untitled, upcoming record.

“I think there is something for everybody on it. It’s about half way done and I think it’s going to be huge for us.”