With some vinyl playing softly in the background, we sat down with the owners of the record store Cinderblock People, Pat and Emily. In their hole-in-the-wall Hamilton Heights shop, we chat about their personal collection, what record they would be, and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.
By Veronica Brusilovski
RC: How did your passion for music start?
Pat: I grew up with a baby grand piano that my mom made us all take lessons on, so I grew up with music and experimenting with sounds. I played in bands all throughout high school. I studied film in college, but if I could go back, I would study music. My mom and dad’s records growing up also helped, as I realized how the records and turntables in my home came together.
Emily: Growing up, music wasn’t as much of an escape for me, but my parents took me to violin lessons from a young age. Learning how to follow directions and sit still was part of my discipline growing up. Music was also a huge part of my family’s life, and part of getting together for a holiday. It was also about listening to records and getting exposed to new things.
RC: What’s it like opening a small business?
Cinderblock People: It’s a lot of ups and downs, and it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of navigating through the dark, with one hand behind your back through a forest. A lot of learning as you go.
Rare Candy: How do you choose the music you play in the store?
CP: I think that this is an extension of our home, so we like to play what fits the vibe for the day. We have a wide palettes of tastes and a wide array of genres in the store at all times, and people constantly give great feedback about what we should play in the store.
RC: What about choosing your displays?
CP: We try to put up stuff that different people would be interested in. We have some customers who just bought their first turntable and want to play Kendrick Lamar, and we have some people who have been collectors for years and want to buy rare jazz records.
Emily: DAMN. is our bestseller, and it’s definitely more fun to have on vinyl. We ultimately try to cater to a lot of different music tastes and genres.
RC: Why records and physical music and not digital streaming?
CP: The digital format is convenient and is great, but there are limits to having an iPod or iPhone. Streaming is not always about appreciating the art and work of an artist, and artists are paid a fraction of a cent for every stream. Records are about collection and memory, and buying music helps connect the music to a place and a memory, something you can’t do with a phone. I can’t imagine not buying records and cassettes. There wouldn’t be a store or a place to meet or talk without physical music.
When we have in-store performances, people who arrive completely separately can meet and talk about music in person and start a friendship, something that’s impossible to do without a physical store. If you make your own music and can’t afford to press your music in vinyl, you can put out a tape for a third of the cost and give someone a physical version of your music. We also have a 10% student discount in the store to help with the costs of buying music.
RC: Why do you think vinyl has had a rebirth in recent years?
CP: I think in recent years the pendulum has swung. Spotify started in 2005, and it’s around then that vinyl sales started tracking up. As more digital music became popular, people also craved physical vinyl and craved having a 12 x 12 piece of art to show and share with others.
RC: What do you choose for your own collection?
CP: We have to show a lot of restraint with our collection, but we try to choose things that are very special and rare. Sometimes we see things that are from small mom and pop shops.
Something we found recently that we really treasure is a record from Linda Martel, who was the first black woman to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.
RC: What are your current music recommendations?
CP: So, off the bat, Footwork is music that we’re really interested in. It comes from Chicago and DJ Rashad has left a legacy in the group Teklife and in the production of great music under that brand. We also have a cassette tape of Japanese Footwork, so it’s not just out of Chicago.
When we get weekly shipments, we also send out an email with our top picks.
We always try to put a blurb for music in the shop. We really want people to discover new music and for music to be accessible.
RC: If you could be any record, what record would you be?
CP: I once heard somebody say that A Love Supreme by John Coltrane is like the dictionary, and everyone should have it. Why wouldn’t you want to be the dictionary?
Emily: We recently found this Nina Simone record called Baltimore. She’s usually very stoic, but on this record she’s smiling, and it’s so lovely to see her that way on this very emotional record.
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