Back in November, before their show at the Red Palace, I met up with Boston band, Quilt—a delightful trio of true vinyl lovers, Anna, Shane, and John—at DC’s Crooked Beat Records in Adams Morgan. We browsed records for over an hour while discussing our shared love for the records and the store.
Dedicating time to hang out in a record shop embodies the one of a kind experience you only have with vinyl—sharing record stories, getting excited about random titles, and enjoying the intricacies of music we often forget about in an ipod/ streaming world.
Quilt’s self-titled album, via Mexican Summer, has remained a constant staple in my daily record rotation. It was love at first listen and remains one of the few albums of which I never tire, so it was a treat to do one of my favorite things with a band I enjoy greatly.
As Anna, the Vocals/Keys of Quilt, jumped right into record shopping, I asked her if she had a vinyl collection.
Anna: I do. I don’t collect as much now as I used to, but it’s definitely something I’ve been building up little-by-little over time. Cassettes, too. Hopefully in the next five years it will grow exponentially. I love collecting vinyl. I’m in between apartments right now, so I’m really excited to settle into a new spot and bring all of my music into one place. I’ll have my cassettes on the wall and my vinyl in their proper spot—it’ll be like a little music station. I love looking through the dollar bins and finding unexpectedly great records.
Are there any good record stores in Boston?
Anna: Yeah, there are some cool ones. Some of them have closed lately, but there are still some really good ones. In Cambridge, there’s Weirdo Records, which is run by my buddy Angela. It’s on Mass Ave and Central Square. It’s really small, like a tiny record boutique. She has a lot of local artists featured in one section, and on the other half is a lot of just bizarre, hard-to-find re-issues and old records, as well. She has a cool little DVD section, too. It’s awesome.
What was your first vinyl experience?
Anna: That’s a really good question. Well, I grew up with my mom’s Beatles records. Those were my precious items growing up. Starting when I was six or seven years old, I’d seclude myself in the living room with those records, and through the years I’d learn them inside and out. But in terms of purchasing, I think the first album I bought was in third grade. I was buying CDs, so I bought The Beatles’ Let It Be on CD because my mom didn’t have that one on vinyl.
She had Mamas and Papas and all sorts of others, but those Beatles ones had her name written on the corner in Sharpie, and I still have all of them. Super-sentimental value to those, you know?
So, your mom was really into music?
Anna: She was in her twenties in the ’60s. She keeps a lot of things from her life, like those records. My dad is a musician and always encouraged me to listen and play a lot of music. He raised me listening to a lot of jazz because he was a jazz musician. But it was those specific Beatles records that I got into on my own.
When I first heard of Quilt, I couldn’t find much on the internet about you guys. Was that on purpose?
Anna: I guess we were keeping it under the radar, and doing a lot of DIY, but with this record our audience widened a little bit. It’s been odd getting used to that, but great at the same time because I am really excited people are resonating with the songs.
What’s the music scene like in Boston? DC’s can be DIY and self-contained…
Anna: I think it’s different in every city, but there are similarities in terms of the support networks. It’s very delicate—people move away or bands switch cities. In Boston, two of the more established show houses recently got shut down by police, and that’s been a really big deal.
We got our start at Whitehaus Family Record. It’s a beautiful gigantic old house that’s been doing shows for five or six years now, and it’s gotten to a point where, between landlords deciding they wanted to start developing the land and the various noise complaints over the years, it’s all exploded and closure has been threatened. It’s sad, but at the same time these things need a shorter life span to have people appreciate it more as it goes down in history. You know, leaving with a sweet taste in your mouth. Of course I hope that particular collective can keep going, but also sometimes you just have to be flexible and roll with the punches. Regardless, it’s been a wonderful starting point for a lot of artists.
In terms of the Boston scene specifically, I don’t think it’s been made as national as some others, but a lot of amazing bands have gotten national attention, and it’s always really exciting when that happens. Galaxy 500, the Pixies, Dropkick Murphy’s, Magnetic Fields, and Amanda Palmer are all from Boston. Aerosmith actually just played a free show in Boston outside their old apartment. Mighty Mighty Boss Tones and Passion Pit are from Boston, too.
Do you ever hear anything about DC?
Anna: My dad grew up in DC, so I have a distant association, but no, I don’t really have a strong association with the city. That’s why I am really excited to be here—I’ve never hung out here much before. When we drove in, we were like, “Whoa, this is a really cool part of town.”
DC has a lot to offer, and it’s a shame that when bands come through they don’t really get to explore the non-tourist parts. I’m glad you are able to at least get a glimpse of what we call Adams Morgan.
Anna: Yeah, definitely. I’m still trying to figure out the identity of DC and how it sees it itself. Boston has such a large student population that the turnover rate is high. People leave and are replaced by new people in waves, and the music scene seems to follow. I’ve been going to shows in Boston since high school, and I’ve definitely seen the ups and downs. In the end, it’s always awesome no matter what.
DC is the same way; it’s very transient…
Anna: We have these good friends who started a great underground publication called the Countercultural Compass. They print huge amounts of them every month and distribute them everywhere. They write really good quality articles in order to promote the community. They’ve formed an organization around it called The Boston Hassle. They promote shows, and they’ve taken a serious approach to our underground scene. It’s now taken on a more tangible form, with a website and available internships.
Crooked Beat has a great selection of DC musicians. Are there any you recognize that maybe you didn’t realize were from DC?
I love Chain and the Gang—I didn’t realize they were from DC. I actually met them when they played at Whitehaus Family Record a couple of months ago. It was so cool to see them play there because so many people came out. Sam was taking donations at the door, and they were able to get a pretty good amount of donations. It was super-refreshing to see that from them, there was a lot of heart in the whole process. I forgot that they lived here.
Yeah, there’s your DC!
Anna: Cool, you’re totally right! That’s awesome.
Shane (Guitars/Vocals), what are some of your early record recollections?
Shane: We didn’t really have vinyl records when I was a kid. I grew up with cassettes, so I was a big cassette kid. My parents were into CDs, and they’d buy Pink Floyd and shit on CD. The first vinyl record I got was when I went to boarding school near Philadelphia. There was this record store in Princeton, NJ called Princeton Record Exchange. I didn’t have a ton of money so I’d just go search their dollar bins for weird rock and instrumental music.
I got into instrumental and religious music at a young stage and that’s what I’m mostly drawn to when buying vinyl nowadays. But, the first experience I had with purchasing vinyl was a Meat Puppets double LP—it came pink tie-dyed and had “Plateau” on it. I grew up listening to Nirvana, and they had always talked about Meat Puppets—so when I first heard the record I was blown away. That was my first memorable experience with vinyl, especially since it was warped. I learned quickly about the tweaks of the medium.
I asked John (Drums) about his first vinyl experience.
John: Probably going through my mom’s records that I found in the basement, like the Beatles and the Beach Boys. I got really into them and still listen to them on her old record player. I don’t have the biggest record collection, but I am thinking of buying this record today. This is a really cool album that’s actually kind of hard to find. It’s Norman Greenbaum’s weird folk band before he did his Norman Greenbaum thing. He did “Spirit in the Sky,” but this is his weird folk band from before.
I buy records here and there. I really like buying rare records for cheap from someone who doesn’t know what they have. That’s what happened in Knoxville. I found this record for five bucks—it was an elementary school teacher from the 1970s who wrote these songs and had her classroom kids sing them. I went online and found out it was an original pressing worth $70. It’s a really good album, too.
Anna: I’m thinking of buying this compilation. I think it’s pretty cool that it has Miles Davis, Soft Machine, and The Hollies all on one record. It’s called Different Strokes. I like buying these off compilations from the ’60s and ’70s because it leads me to artists that I’ve heard of before and ended up liking. And they are usually cheap and forgotten. I think this will be pretty cool, a good eclectic kind of record.
There’s a great record shop that I was recently at in Western MA called Feeding Tube Records. I was there on my birthday and got some really good stuff. I got a great Godley and Creme record, and a cassette there, too. The NE has some seriously good spots for records. I love the little hidden ones that are tucked away. There’s one in downtown Boston called Nuggets that’s been there forever. It’s one of those ramshackle record stores that has piles of stuff. But, you have to devote the time. I can’t be in a record store for only 15 minutes. I have to be there for a while to comb through for the gems. That’s how it always goes for me, at least.
With technology today, everyone is really accustomed with speed—it’s nice to get away in a record shop and take your time, without the over-consumption sneaking in.
Anna: Definitely. Oh, hell ya! I love the Partridge family. They have some really good jams (laughs). Seriously, these studio musicians that were on the Partridge Family recordings and showing up in the background of so much music from that time were really good. The songwriters they were hiring were great, even though they were ripping off some of the Top 40 stuff from that time. I think now that the cheesiness factor has been washed away by time, it remains just good simple pop music.
The Partridge Family is one of those that you have to remember you like. With something new to be consumed every day, it seems that music that’s only a year old tends be forgotten with the new buzz band of the week.
Exactly. Things are hard to keep up with. There’s also the feeling that you need to keep up with it, rather than things coming along at their natural pace. It’s a very highly charged environment, which in some ways is cool because there is so much being offered at a super-high-speed. I think it’s always been like that, but now more than ever.
What record are you looking at?
Shane: I am really into records that have long descriptions. This one called The Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky is a total keeper. It reads, “The sounds of the bamboo flutes lead the mind directly into spiritual thought. Thus a single tone from the shakuhachi can bring one into the world of nirvana…” The title grabbed my attention right away. It’s so elaborate describing this one instrument. This Mike Oldfield is a good one, too. I just started getting into him recently. I don’t know very much about him, but I do know he did Tubular Bells, which was used in the Exorcist. He was this psychedelic instrument dude. Anyway, I am excited to learn more about him.
Oh wow, check out this title, Depicting the Crane in their Nest. This is the kind of stuff you often only stumble across in record stores. It’s such a different thing than blog searching. In the blog world, you often find the same bloggers talking about the same stuff. In terms of buying vinyl… I don’t know why I have been drawn to this particular stuff lately…
There’s nothing that beats coming into a physical record store.
Shane: Yeah, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. I didn’t grow up with any record stores around me, so I found out about a lot of music from skate videos. Skate videos have the best soundtracks. That’s how I found out about Sonic Youth when I was 12, which was a huge thing for me.
I’m really psyched that there are all these DC bands’ records here at the store. I grew up listening to a lot of DC bands, like Fugazi. Growing up in upstate New York, Fugazi was one of the first bands I heard about that was doing DIY, so they’ve always had a huge impact on me. Daniel Higgs of Lungfish was also a big one; Lungfish was a pretty gnarly band, and now he does more of a story-telling thing with a Shruti box or banjo and makes cool books. Yeah, I dig a lot of DC bands.
Glad to hear it! Check out Quilt’s music, and don’t be a stranger to your local record store.
Photos: Julia Lofstrand