Vinyl records are large, unwieldy, and, as anyone who’s ever hefted a milk crate full of them knows, very physically present. There was a time when these characteristics seemed like liabilities, but as technology strives to further alienate us from our music, shifting lately from locally stored MP3s to remote, server-dependent streaming, plenty of people crave vinyl’s warm sound, big gatefold covers and hands-on playback. New Orleans has a lot of good record stores, and on Nov. 22 the city gains one more - the underground-oriented Sisters in Christ at 4920 Freret St.
[jump] Behind the hideous mural adorning Gasa Gasa, Sisters in Christ has hand-built racks full of new records by both local artists and small-label musicians from all over the planet. The shop is the creation of Bryan Funck and Michael Moises, a pair of longtime local showgoers, show-throwers, and musicians - Funck is the vocalist for the Baton Rouge-based doom band Thou.
The store’s official opening is Saturday, but on Tuesday, while setting up the space, they already were getting a trickle of customers. As Funck and Moises doggedly and apparently inexhaustibly sorted bins of fresh LPs into individual plastic protective sleeves, I bothered them with questions about their new venture.
How would y'all characterize what your store carries?
Moises: A lot of punk, indie hardcore, some metal. Our philosophy is to mostly stock contemporary music.
Funck: Yeah. New releases, for the most part. And we're trying to keep the prices reasonable. Both of us shop at all the other records stores, so we're just trying to fill in the gaps here, to provide stuff that isn't being carried in the other shops we like. A lot of shops have great punk sections, just not always new or contemporary punk.
What's behind the name, Sisters in Christ? The record selection seems primarily secular.
M: It was just an idea me and my friend threw around when thinking of band names.
F: I think it's just part of our lives, being from here. We both grew up Catholic, went to Catholic high schools, then Loyola - so Catholicism is sort of ingrained in us, however we might feel about it.
There have been a bunch of record stores that have opened in New Orleans post-Katrina. Are enough people still buying music in non-online formats?
F: I don't know as far as this being good business sense, but I know both of us buy records. I don't really buy MP3s, I just download 'em.
M: Yeah, I don't think I've ever paid for an MP3. And for people who like music and want to have it, there's no point in anything that isn't vinyl. CDs just suck.
F: We do have tapes, too.
"Now Freret's posh and bourgie, but I like being in the middle of that, the same way I liked when Iron Rail was on Barracks in the French Quarter. I like being in the thick of things, not hidden away." - Bryan Funck, co-owner of Sisters of Christ Records
How did the business come about?
F: I'd been selling records out of the Iron Rail for the last six or seven years. It hasn't been immensely successful, monetarily, but it's been immensely enjoyable. Moises and I both have day jobs that can be kind of mind-numbing, so we wanted to get into something that we cared about and that was fun.
M: It's something I always wanted to do. I used to help Bryan table at shows, and then a year and a half ago we started talking about opening a shop. I thought it sounded impossible at first, and then realized if I saved up a little money, we could do it. We made definite plans, both started saving and looking for spots, and then I saw a Craigslist post that Gasa Gasa was looking for someone to rent this space. Before us, it was an organic clothing pop-up.
If someone local has put out a tape or record, how would they get it into your store?
F: Just come into the store. There's no consignment; we buy outright. We're open to carrying anything local except maybe CDs. We already have a pretty good local section with regard to indie stuff, punk, metal, whatever.
Do you have memories of Freret from back in the day? How's it seem now?
M: It's nice here. It's only been in the last couple years it's become what it is - when I went to Loyola, I spent most of my time on Oak street.
F: It was Maple Street for me. But I used to go to Eve's, a health food store that was here until Whole Foods put them out of business. My friend used to do shows at the boxing gym that was here. It was always kind of college-y on Freret, even back then. Friar Tuck’s was right up the block, although that was more a high school bar than a college bar. Now Freret's posh and bourgie, but I like being in the middle of that, the same way I liked when Iron Rail was on Barracks in the French Quarter. I like being in the thick of things, not hidden away. And I like Crescent City Comics. I used to go their shop on Elysian Fields, so it's cool being next door to them.
Do you have a website? What will your hours be?
F: No website yet. We’ll get to all that. We’ll have our inventory online, so people can see what we’ve just gotten in.
M: We’re here 12 to 6 p.m., every day.
F: Every day for the rest of our lives.