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Make Leeds your vinyl destination

12 October 2015
Make Leeds your vinyl destination
With an increasing re-investment in vinyl, whether that is re-issuing releases from past decades or contemporary artists releasing both normal and special editions, people are discovering - not necessarily for the first time - the value of the record. There is something intrinsically collectable about something so glossy, fragile and tactile; the sleeve also offers between 7 and 13 inches of canvas from which some of the most iconic art can be found. We take a look at the sacred triangle of vinyl retailers who have been supplying Leeds with vinyl old and new for decades, and how they have weathered and survived the trends.

Jumbo Records

Make Leeds your vinyl destination - Article 1

Contrasting the ever fluctuating rise and fall of the popularity/specialist item status of the vinyl record which has now resulted in somewhat of a renaissance, Jumbo never really went away; the store has been a stalwart of the Leeds scene since 1971, moving around arcades and shopping centres to its long standing position with St John’s shopping centre. Matt Bradshaw, an official muso and veteran of the store, explains that while the industry has obviously changed massively over the years, Jumbo has weathered the change in musical genres, the diy scene, and of course the internet revolution came, and its slightly poisonous effect on illegal downloading. And now Jumbo still stands as an essential element amongst the resurgence of the vinyl record.

Their relevance is therefore partly owed to them ‘rolling with the times’; ‘The shop originally started out in the seventies selling Northern Soul and Reggae, then engaging more with the punk and rock scene, and then of course dance and indie came through. We’ve been there with all the major music scenes, and while they’ve been and gone, the shop still caters for that stock. Even the country scene in the late seventies…’

Now one of the shop’s other strengths is that they stock the ‘really modern stuff’ that people haven’t even begun to genre-fy yet. ‘We’ve always been a couple of years ahead of things, which is great because when that scene does take off we’ve already got it. But nowadays it’s tricky because the scene you’ve been supporting for years goes through change, you don’t get good deals, and it's hard to keep everyone happy, including your regulars.’ But Jumbo does seem to keep their regular punters happy, with an expert yet completely welcoming approach that ensures customers who love their music come back to buy independent time and time again, enjoying the more bespoke and personal service that Jumbo staff offer.

The democratic soundtrack choice in the shop also reflects their progressive approach to genre and newer music. The meticulous but open-minded curation process behind the well-stocked units, sampled regularly on the player, Matt explains, makes business sense and encourages customers to be introduced to new stuff, spurring recommendation and conversation.

We briefly discuss Record store day which Jumbo has been involved with from the beginning. Matt muses on the slight cattiness that has interjected the day and its reflection of the industry in general: ‘Like anything that becomes successful, it’s accompanied by a lot of sniping, but that tends to come from people who never step foot in a record shop or people with silly expectations of what it’s all about’. ‘It’s not just about slinging records but putting on a load of bands, introducing new music; it’s kind of a showcase of what a record shop is all about’.

Check out Jumbo’s twitter page for all the info on future in-store gigs, events and releases. They stock various free and priced music publications, infamous Jumbo t-shirts and sell gig tickets for all across Leeds. Check them out in store!

Relics Records

Make Leeds your vinyl destination - Article 3

As specialists of vintage vinyl, Relics don’t deal in any new stock other than around 5% of supplementary items. Their speciality is anything vintage, hard to find collectable, rare and… very rare- as Jon of Relics explains- exemplified by an £8000 Beatles Record that is kept under lock and key, ‘shrouded in steel’ in the back. By contrast, Jon also proudly tells me they have a designated £1 box downstairs, offering a treasure trove and weird and wonderful bargains and indicating the wide range of their stock.

Being of a vintage nature, the stock spans many decades and genres of music including jazz, reggae, punk and rock. It would be fair to describe the store as ‘old school’, regarding both its range of stock and its attitude to merchandise. Relics don’t digress from anything other than pre-recorded music; no slogging gig tickets or memorabilia, they are as Jon describes ‘purveyors of recorded music.’

This fairly strict and concise approach to music maintains their own ethic, and appeals to customers who value their more classic records; ‘Jumbo and Crash stock the more recent; that’s not our bag’ but they do recommend each other, and so Relics is often signposted as the go-to guys for the older, rarer stuff.

Although, like many record shops, Jon agrees that the truer lovers of music and vinyl will sniff out any stockists of note, the recent addition of Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen and other new bars in the area, has encouraged more foot traffic to the northern end of town. People coming from further outside of the City come and make the pilgrimage to the North side of Leeds, clocking the shop and making a return trip.

Employees in the store have their own specialisms, meaning they can be referred to for help on a particular era, recommendations adding to the bespoke, personal feel of the vinyl record. This is especially pertinent to age of the Internet/digital revolution that we find ourselves in, which to some, has made the vinyl record rather superfluous and therefore more of something to collect, treasure and indulge in. To those to whom the internet has always been commonplace, the idea of going back to analogue has, itself, a kind of novelty. Jon delights in the way that people discovering their parents’ archived record collection also re-ignites the interest of the older, original generation, creating a common interest between them; the love of vinyl.

We end agreeing on the sentiment that the people of Leeds do indeed demand good beer, good coffee and good vinyl.

Crash Records

Make Leeds your vinyl destination - Article 2

The third in the triad, Crash Records has been established in Leeds since 1985 where it was first located on Woodhouse Lane. They stock a wide and up-to-date selection of indie, alternative, rock, punk and metal 7 and 12” vinyl and CDs on the top floor.

The genres on offer reflect both the receptive scene in Leeds and the way that trends and interests have shaped demand, but also the way that employees of Crash try and push that which is slightly under the radar. Speaking to Paul, a longstanding purveyor of Crash Records, he describes the process behind the stock they sell and the demand as a kind of pendulum, aligning new trends in genre with stuff that Crash genuinely loves to listen to.

Underneath, the basement has been under various guises: once a skate and fashion shop that sold boards, shoes and street wear, the redundant space is now perhaps more appropriately utilised as a second hand record store, run separately from Crash but no less harmonious. While the top floor stocks brand new, current and classic records, below is a treasure trove of pre-owned wild cards, spanning even more genres. Paul admits the agreeable dynamic between their own, newer stock and the stock downstairs that perhaps fills in the gaps of those records not yet chosen for re-issue.

Crash also hosts their fair share of in-stores and listening parties, meaning it is worth keeping your eyes peeled on their events calendar, which also details many of the gigs lined up for the coming months in Leeds. Should one take your fancy, Crash also produces their own ticket sheets so you can keep it independent and buy there!

Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.