Touch Vinyl opens
in West L.A.

Westside vinyl fanatics will no longer have to make the arduous trek across town to buy new releases. Touch Vinyl specializes in new and used records, with a focus on independent labels. Their grand opening July 1st doubles as a benefit for breast cancer charity Beats for Boobs.

The store will host a full roster of live acts throughout the day, including Alicia Murphy, One High Five, Nacosta, Eyes Lips Eyes, and The Health Club. We spoke with owner Sebastian Mathews as he prepared for opening week.

What inspired you to open a record store?

I only got into vinyl two and a half years ago. I was a complete digital kid before that – I worked at the Apple store, and have collected just about every Apple product there is. Randall Cooley at Optimal Enchantment got me into my first turntable, a Pro-Ject 1.3. I started collecting, and it became an addiction very quickly.

I went on a trip to Scandinavia, and every city I went to in Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden – the people aren’t particularly warm, but if you go to the record stores you immediately find this community, and it’s a universal language. I really dug the stores there. They all had different feels and catered to specific communities. I also liked that you could have three or four record stores on the same block. They served different types of listeners and had different vibes. My favorites were the homey ones where if you stuck around for a while, you’d be talking music eventually, and getting an espresso from the owner.

 Why did you choose to open the store on the Westside?

I live in Santa Monica, so part of it was the convenience of not crossing the 405 barrier. Also, I thought the Westside was under-served for new vinyl. When I go record shopping, I have to travel to the Eastside to find the new stuff. I was listening to everything digitally, and keeping up with everything – but to get the vinyl I had to go over there. The passion for me is new vinyl, and getting the independent releases, and supporting that world.

Do you think there’s a market for it?

I definitely do. There’s always a set of people who are interested in new music. I think live music and festivals prove that the demand is still there, when you look at lineups for FYF or Treasure Island. These bands that come up each year as being standout, great music makers – the M83s, and the xx, the Arcade Fire, things like that – with those types of releases, you see what I think is the same passion that you would have seen for a Rolling Stones release back in the day. Maybe not the exact same, because girls don’t scream at concerts anymore.

Maybe you’re going to the wrong concerts.

Maybe that’s it. That’s the young kids, and that’s not even counting the nostalgia. Yesterday I was in the store late, playing Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene from the 70s – this crazy progressive electronic thing. This guy was there with his family: teenage daughters, grandma, everyone. He heard the music coming out of the store, and came in and said, “I know this…what is this?” He figured it out after a few hints, and he told me this whole story about how they had bootlegged it on cassette when he was in college. It was so touching to see that generational divide sealed up. He told his kids all about vinyl, and they started peeling through new records, saying, “Oh, there’s Florence and the Machine. There’s Adele,” and getting excited.

Do you think vinyl is catching on with younger listeners who grew up with digital music?

I do. Again, I’m a big futurist and tech-head, and I love that world. I have a Spotify account, and it’s what I use most often. I think we’re all headed to a place where we’ll be able to get any song, anywhere, anytime, for pennies on the dollar. It’ll be even cheaper than it is now. We’re paying $9.99 to get that service. I think it’ll be cheaper once everyone in the world is putting in money, and we’re all streaming that same version down from the cloud.

At that point, you still have human sense of touch and feel and dimensionality that makes you say, “What am I gonna put on my shelf? What can I say I have that’s not on the cloud?” Is it a bootleg recording of a concert that was pressed to vinyl, or an analogue recording of an in-store show? I see people still wanting to have something that is special, and that sounds the best.

What do you have planned for the opening?

For the grand opening we’re working with a non-profit called Sounds for the Cause, which organizes events based around music, live shows, DJs, etc. to raise money for other non-profits. In this case, the event is going to benefit Beats for Boobs, an organization that funnels money to people fighting breast cancer, people who have recovered, and to organizations that support breast cancer patients. We’re going to have a bunch of different bands.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when some of the people from the Eastside come over here, instead of us going over there. We’re on the same block as Cinefile, so I’ve actually had destination shoppers – people who are from Echo Park and that area who come to Cinefile because it’s such an institution, or to the NuArt. The Westside has musical taste too!

Do you have a favorite record or records of 2012 so far?

The Killer Mike release; I went to school in the Dirty South, and it brings back memories. I’m really digging this Lemonade album called Diver. The Erika Spring release that’s coming out has not dropped yet, but I’m really digging that as well.

Touch Vinyl is located at 1646 Sawtelle Boulevard, at the intersection of Sawtelle and Santa Monica. (310) 933-5540.

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