Shirani Rea has a suggestion for anyone who feels stressed at the end of the day.
Play a vinyl record.
Or, as she says: “Go home and drop that needle.”
“In split seconds, you forget what you’re worried about,” said Rea, who runs Peaches Records Uptown with her family. “Music makes you happy and keeps people connected.”
But her daughter, also called Shirani, believes it’s more than that.
“There’s a ritual associated with vinyl that other mediums lack,” she said. “You go home and pull out your crate; dig through it; put the vinyl on; and drop the needle.”
“It’s therapeutic,” added another daughter, Lillie. “People come over to my house just to listen to records. No one is going to come over to listen to my MP3 playlist.”
For years, national media outlets and industry trade publications have touted the widespread rise of vinyl sales. Now, Record Store Day, April 22, promotes independent record stores across the country. Vinyl is pressed specifically for this day and distributed to participating shops, including several in New Orleans.
Saturday, when the annual event takes place, local records shops will offer special store hours, refreshments, live music and limited edition vinyl.
“What’s so wonderful about these releases is that they’ve either never been put out before on vinyl, or they have beautiful packaging, so they’re the most collectible of the collectible,” said Lillie.
Although Peaches’ festivities happen throughout the weekend, on Saturday the family will have deejays spinning vinyl, free beer, snoballs from Hansen’s Sno-Bliz and discounted tickets for upcoming concerts. They’ll also raffle off music listening gear like headphones.
“It’s a celebration of all things music and vinyl related,” said Lillie. “We go home tired, with huge happy smiles on our faces.”
Across town in the Bywater, Euclid Records will host a celebration that highlights local artist Guitar Lightnin' Lee, who is experiencing health problems. In addition to holding a benefit raffle for the musician, Euclid will offer exclusive releases.
“We’ll probably be getting more than the other record stores, because we’re one of the ones that celebrates Record Store Day big,” said co-manager, Lefty Parker.
Euclid’s primary focus is vinyl, but the shop also sells music on CDs, cassette tapes and “almost every format that you can buy music in,” Parker said. “For us, it’s about the music, more than the format.”
“Our business has always centered around vinyl, but I don’t think that was necessarily the purpose of what we did; that’s just what happened,” he said. “As it happened, we adapted to it.”
On the Record
The Reas remember a time in the 1990s when a small section of Peaches (originally located in the French Quarter) was devoted to vinyl, because there wasn’t much interest in that format. Now, the brightly lit shop is filled with rows of records secured in colorful packaging.
“We’ve been open since 1975," said Lillie. "We’ve witnessed the rise, the fall, and the rise again. We’ve seen all the cycles.”
Music lovers younger than 40, including teenagers, seem to be the driving force behind the movement, partially because new albums are being released on vinyl.
“We have 12-year-olds coming in here buying copies of their favorite album, which you would never expect,” said Lillie. “Most people in that generation are stuck on their phones.”
Why collect records, when songs can easily be downloaded from the Internet?
Lillie described the act of listening to vinyl as an “experience,” where the musician tells a story, from start to finish. An MP3 playlist often becomes “background music, determined by a streaming company.”
Barry Smith, the owner of Louisiana Music Factory, believes that analog recordings have “a warmer, fuller sound.”
Being able to hold the item and admire the album’s cover art is also a plus.
“People want a tangible product and the experience of having something when you pay for it, not just a download,” said Scott Wells, of Skully’z Recordz.
But despite the hoopla surrounding vinyl, some industry experts, like Parker, remain skeptical about the alleged increase in sales.
“You can certainly point at figures about vinyl sales growing, but I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. Those numbers are always funny to me and I’ve never understood how they’re getting them,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I see a vinyl explosion, as much as there are more stores now featuring vinyl.”
A Beginner's Guide to Vinyl
Before you drop that needle, make sure you have a high-quality record player, collectors advise. And skip the thrift stores selling cheap vinyl, which is often scratched or dirty.
It's important to have an open mind and enjoy the search for something unexpected.
“You never know what you’re going to come across, especially with the vintage stuff, because they’ve been out of circulation for so long,” said Lillie.
With music, brick-and-mortar stores might have an advantage over online retailers.
“People see it as appealing to get recommendations from a real person, as opposed to a computer analytic telling you what you need to buy,” said Parker.
He explained that in New Orleans, each record store specializes in a certain music genre or format.
“There’s a place for all of us. I don’t see any of us in competition,” he said. “It’s a situation where we’re able to sell music and get the right music into the right hands. It’s not the easiest thing to do. We’re all getting better at it all the time.”
Where to Go on Record Store Day
Domino Sound Record Shack
2557 Bayou Road, New Orleans 70119; (504) 309-0871
Noon to 6 p.m.
3301 Chartres St., New Orleans 70117; (504) 947-4348
10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Louisiana Music Factory
210 Decatur St., New Orleans 70130; (504) 586-1094
11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
NOLA Mix Records
1522 Magazine St., 70130; (504) 345-2138
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
4318 Magazine Street, 70115; (504) 282-3322
9 a.m. ‘til (events also take place on Friday and Sunday)
907 Bourbon St., New Orleans 70116; (504) 592-4666
9 a.m. to 8 p.m.