Record Store Day returns this Saturday April 13th, and Peter Dennis looks at what Northampton has to offer.
In comparison to say Milton Keynes and Leicester, here in ShoeTown we are lucky to have three independent record shops who will all be participating in Record Store Day. I took a stroll around town to visit the stores.
At the bottom of Gold Street you’ll find Spun Out records. In a nice piece of symmetry Spun Out occupies 57 Gold Street, the premises that previously housed the much loved John Levers record shop. Owner Chris Kent gives a brief history: “We’ve been here over 19 years, and over the years we’ve always sold vinyl. Obviously to some degree we’ll be selling the vinyl what’s in favour. At the moment we’re selling lots of rock, reggae, soul and indie. In the past we sold a lot more dance music, which we still sell plenty of, but at one point that was a massive boom industry. The shop has always been predominantly vinyl with us. There’s plenty of other places that do alright with CDs, but for us it’s always been about the vinyl”.
Chris explains the importance of Record Store Day: “Having seen a slump in the vinyl market from 2007 I’d say it’s been THE godsend, because it’s pointed out to people who have an interest that you still have this resource out there. These independent shops where you can go and get immersed in music rather than pick at it from a distance, this is all about being involved in it. Once that awareness was raised by Record Store Day it gathered momentum and it’s down to the fact that there’s this really exciting day that would give you access to your local record shop; it should be yours. We run it, but in essence we should be proving a service to people who are into music”.
Walk through the Market Square and at 80 Abington Street you’ll find A. Watts & Sons Ltd. Enter the furniture shop and climb two flights of stairs and you’ll find Vinyl Underground. Founded by Aidy Harland primarily as an outlet to sell his beloved Detroit and Chicago imports the business is now 26 years old. Despite the specialised nature of his interests he fully grasps the concept. “Record Store Day, that’s crazy because there’s such a demand for it, we extend the shop and we blitz the shop every year and we have 3 to 400 people coming through here on a Saturday, it’s quite a lot to cope with so we change it up. We have a big sale and we have a lot the Record Store day things, we are an official Record Store Day outlet. We pick and choose, but we have a lot of the releases. There’s a big queue outside at 4am, all that kind of stuff, which is quite strange because a lot of them aren’t our regular customers. But we have a few who do come in all the time and everybody gets quite keen. For me it’s more about filling the demand, because we have Spun Out who are big on Record Store Day. But there are still so many people who come from Milton Keynes – they just don’t have any shops, so Northampton is quite good for representing Record Store Day”.
How does Aidy value Record Store Day? “I’d say for an independent shop selling more rock and indie I would say it’s been a lifeline. For us I’d say it’s been something we have to do. If we didn’t do it wouldn’t be the worst thing, but I love the fact that it supports independent and local businesses. So because of that I really want to get behind it and join in with it. From what I see Record Store Day runs really well. A lot of people come in here who aren’t regular customers just to enjoy the day. That’s what it’s all about for me: people coming in and enjoying it and talking about music, and then obviously the business is great”.
Adjacent to St. John’s Car Park you’ll find Spiral Archive at 4 St. Michael’s Road. Housed in an old print workshop Spiral Archive has an estimated 40,000 items in stock, so you’re sure to find something of interest. The shop is owned by local artist and musician Alex Novak, who opened his shop in 1999 when sales of vinyl was at a low ebb and CD sales were in the ascent. Was it a risky venture? “It’s always been a bit of a niche thing anyway” Novak explains. “I think if you can survive the lowest point you can survive any period. I think if you look at it as a niche thing those people don’t go away. The people who are interested in records will always be there, while other people kind of dip in and out of it. People keep saying vinyl is on the way back, or it’s come back, but the number of new releases. There’s more of them, but they’re more limited: they are runs of 500 or 1,000 and that’s it. The market is not going to be huge anyway”.
More than just a record shop Spiral Archive serves as a local information point. “I take flyers and posters and promote my own and other people’s events, so I’m an information source. It’s connected to local music. I do take in local bands stuff, it doesn’t sell loads but I do take it in. I do advise bands the best way to sell stuff is to play live, that’s your best outlet. I’m not going to sell huge numbers, but I do sell some stuff online as well and if I see a band live I tend to buy a record and get it signed and get some posters to get something slightly different in opposition to what’s already available.”
Spiral Archive will be open from 11am to 4pm and there will be a half price sale on everything. Then, after a hard days recording shopping head on down to The Lamplighter pub where there’ll be a record fair with DJs spinning vinyl ’til 1am.