Sometimes a day turns into a week – sometimes it turns into 2 years. But wait no longer! After taking a “leisurely” break, we’re re-launching our regular Record Store of the Week feature, con gusto! Look out for regular installments starting, like, NOW.
First up is Euclid NOLA – a great store embedded in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood – a district with a rich musical history that carries on to this day. We spoke with Store Manager, James Weber Jr. about punk rock, the Cosimo Code, and the unique joys of record store life in the Big Easy.
Thanks to James Weber Jr. and the Euclid Records staff for doing the interview!
Tell us a little about Euclid NOLA. The OG Euclid is in St. Louis – how did you end up moving to New Orleans and opening one there?
After a decade managing a big beast of a record store, Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis, I got the itchy travelin” feet and headed to New Orleans mostly on accident in September of 2009. I arrived with a strong determination to not be “record store guy” anymore and promptly got a job at a record store. Oops. A fellow recent arrival from New York, Brian Bromberg, was also employed at said store. We decided quickly that we had more to offer the city running our own shop. A few conversations with pal and gutsy record store owner Joe Schwab of Euclid Records in St. Louis, and we were on our way. Joe’s heart to take such a blind chance on a couple of young kids who love records cannot be overstated. He had years of history with the city and it’s record world, but we were still a little surprised when he said “Find us a location and we’ll take the best shot.” 7 months later Brian and I were turning the key at the corner of Chartres and Desire.
2. I imagine the culture is a little different there than St. Louis in terms of the used records you see coming through and what you’re selling regularly. What are people generally selling and buying?
One of the beautiful things about record culture is that each city/region/state/country has its own particular flavor profile. Record shoppers who travel tend to become record tourists, aware that they will probably see a slew of wax they’ve seen before and a healthy chunk they haven’t. However, we’re afforded a little more square footage by setting up in the neighborhood we have. This allows us to carry all the niche-y stuff the die-hards love, but also try to be all things to all people. We sell a lot of used wax spectrum-wide: soul, blues, classic rock, jazz, yadda. We try to load up on as much regional soul, rhythm & blues, swamp-pop, and local stuff of historic/cultural/comedic import. On the niche end, we move a lot of the KBD and power-pop reissues that have cropped up the last 5 years (labels like Sing Sing, Last Laugh, Rerun and BDR Records, etc.). We see a lot of the record store standards, but we’re most excited when a collection walks in with regional recordings that are new to us.
3. Do good records regularly walk in the door or do you have to go out and find them?
A little of both. We advertise regionally which delivers a steady flow of phone calls within say a 100 mile radius. We’ll be open three years in September. By this point, odds are if you are talking about selling records in the city, someone knows someone who will suggest Euclid Records. We do our best to buy everything we can, stock is the name of the game, but being honest with folks about their collection and its value (or lack of…) has built a lot of good will/good karma. Word of mouth keeps ‘em coming in.
4. Do you have a record that will sell/people will inquire about every time you put it on?
When Rerun Records reissued the Manic Depressives/0:30 Second Flash we immediately sold the heck out of it. It’s an LP of recordings from 1980-81 by New Orleans punk scene-builder Larry the Punk. He published the Final Solution fanzine (copies are often available from the actual Larry the Punk on ebay for something like 18 bucks, all 9 issues!) among other endeavors, and these recordings flat git it. Our customers, as you’d expect, bend toward regional-obsessive, so a combination of “it’s actual local history” and “this dude rocks it like somebody sluggin’ your jaw, who is this?!” = a record that will sell.
It’s awfully easy to sell the classic New Orleans R&B, as well. Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio has a strong stake as *the* crucible of American R&B. The records and performances are just undeniable. If you are reading this and curious about the universe of New Orleans (the city and the music both, a double helix), those boxsets are the thread to yank first. In selling records, conversation is always the most important thing. What people want and what they ask for aren’t necessarily the same. When customers ask for “New Orleans Soul” or “New Orleans Blues,” what they’re often trying to say, really, is “I want New Orleans R&B from 1945 through about 1965.” In 18 years worth of record retailin’, I’ve never seen so many different customers’ faces light up at the same songs, so start with Cosimo and you can’t go wrong.
5. What is the coolest/weirdest/most prized record that’s come into the store that you never thought you’d see?
Most prized is probably the test pressing for Big Star’s “Third/Sister Lovers” displayed on the wall on it’s own special, one-record-wide shelf. Coolest/weirdest are the same: Radio commercial on a 45 for Fat Albert’s Chicken outta Lafayette. Must be heard to be believed. There’s loads of oddities down here to discover, seems like every 2nd person was a recording musician who had something to say, often truly amazing even if it isn’t truly good music.
6. What’s the best thing about having a record store in New Orleans?
We get to spend our days making people happy with music. I do love living in New Orleans, but it’s important to note that the record store experience is vital for the cultural life of any city. In a world of DMV’s, red tape, filling out forms, internet’s-down, fender benders, and much much worse, everybody needs a safe zone. That’s the record store, and it’s humbling that we get the opportunity to provide that happiness to our neighborhood, music community, and city.
7. Has Dr. John ever come in? What famous New Orleans-ers? have come through the shop?
No Dr. John nor Mac Rebennack. We get plenty of “Huey Piano Smith’s my father” and “Lee Dorsey’s my Uncle!” A lot of oral history bounces off our record store walls, and we do our best to remember it, put the pieces together. The threads of music here are very tangled, it’s a fun puzzle. Every week some new connection is made and we giggle like schoolkids. Then someone comes along and does something incredible like cracking the Cosimo Code http://cosimocode.com/ which no one even knew existed, and we get put back in our place. The Cosimo Code website is insane! Through numerical notations on every record made at Cosimo’s J&M, you can piece the order they were recorded. What musicians were in the studio on the same day they made each record, who was coming, who was going. Worth a google!
8. How’s the scene in NOLA these days? Turn us on!
Punk-rock wise, Pelican Pow-Wow Records (full disclosure: Pelican Pow-Wow mastermind Sarah is an employee at Euclid Records) has put out some well-received singles. She just got the test press for the new Mac Blackout 45 today – it rips pretty great! Mario Abney is an exceptional trumpet player on an upswing. Hurray for the Riff Raff on the “indie” side are doing some dates with The Alabama Shakes. They just announced their deal with Shakes’ label ATO Records (My Morning Jacket, Old Crow Medicine Show, etc) and have their first record out with them in 2014. All our store employees (amateur and schooled musicians both) recently put a sludge-y thing together called Mollock’s Mollusk to back up our neighbor, friend, and metal super-fan Todd. He’d never been in a band, but the guy’s a natural! Eh, It’s the summer, life is slow.
9. What’s your favorite LITA release and why?
Not to be a total homer, but I still can’t put down that Country Funk 1969-1975 2xLP set. It’s New Orleans summer music through and through. Smooth, just enough funk backbone, but not so much ya gotta move a lot. I mean, it’s hot out! Tony Joe White is king, and that record is like hanging out at his palace. Hard to narrow, as keeping things like the Louvin Brothers, Wendy Rene (who last year played the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, a mostly-annual 2-day festival that seeks to raise awareness of the architects of American music), Michael Hurley, Serge Gainsbourg, and Betty Davis all available to the record-buying public is really important work! The “Hypnotic Cajun / Obscure Zydeco” and Blind Blake Higgs collections you guys distributed for Moi J’Connais are getting a lot of in-store play.
10. When is the Grandpa’s Ghost reissue coming out?
For those who are not in the know, Grandpa’s Ghost out of Pocahontas, IL made the greatest acid/fuzz/prairie-psych/
Thanks so much, Light in the Attic!
3401 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA 70117
Monday through Saturday 11AM to 7PM
Sunday 12AM to 6PM