Will Sheff (Okkervil River) on the Ceremony of Vinyl
In honor of the tenth anniversary of Record Store Day, we hit up a few of our favorite musicians to find out what vinyl shopping means to them.
Hometown: Meriden, New Hampshire
Based In: Brooklyn, New York
What’s your favorite record store and why?
There were two record stores where I grew up, and I didn’t really have a favorite. One of them was Strawberries, a now-defunct New England chain that was mostly owned by Morris Levy, the mob-connected head of the Roulette record label in the 1960s and ‘70s. I liked Strawberries because they had a calendar of upcoming concerts on a whiteboard on the wall. None of the concerts were happening anywhere near my tiny town and I never got to attend any of them, but it was fun to imagine them in my head. There was a nicer record store in a nearby college town, and I liked them because they had a cooler selection, but they were more expensive and further away.
Most of the best stores have shuttered in New York. I like Academy Records in Greenpoint because they have a wide selection of used vinyl and it’s fairly priced.
What were the first records you bought at your hometown record store?
The first LP I ever owned was Raffi’s Baby Beluga, but I didn’t buy it — it was bought for me by my first grade class when I was hospitalized and missed a lot of school. I don’t remember the first cassette I ever bought, but the first one I clearly remember receiving as a gift was the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The first CD I ever bought might have been Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints. Just recently bought a copy of that one on vinyl! It holds up.
What did you learn from shopping at record stores?
I learned that there was so much music in the world that it was overwhelming. Which is ironic because even the three-story Tower Records that once blew my mind when I visited Boston probably had about ten percent of the music that’s on streaming services.
What was the last record you bought? Where?
Peace and Love, by Dadawah. Ordered it on the Internet.
Why do you still buy records?
For people who still want music to have a ceremonial purpose and want to hold a physical incarnation of it in their hands, vinyl is the most beautiful. Also it’s impossible to shuffle on vinyl, and I think too much shuffling has a tendency to erode a person’s attentiveness.
Which record, in your opinion, do you need on vinyl? Why?
Vinyl can be an expensive habit and I live in Brooklyn where space is limited, so my rule is that I only purchase a record if I know for a fact I’m going to love it, listen to it all the time and still be happy that I own it in ten years. Sometimes the Internet can be a good arena to preview an album before I make that decision.
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