Just a few months ago, we featured a great record store in Richmond, Virginia called Steady Sounds. Well looky looky we goin’ kooky again for another VA record store, our Record Store of the Week: Melody Supreme (Charlottesville, VA)! Well Virginia may be for lovers but apparently it’s also for lovers of vinyl as both these stores–just a short drive on I-64 from each other–are stocking up on tons of essential vinyl releases both new and used. Last week, we set down with Melody Supreme’s owner Gwenael Berthy to talk a bit about his shop, the so-called “rebirth of vinyl” and the mysterious record-digging elves of Virginia…
Tell us some stuff about Melody Supreme.
Melody Supreme was created at a turning point in my life, when after 20 years as a professional photographer, I made the decision to pursue my passion for music and for vinyl records full time. My wife’s family is from Charlottesville and through the years, each time we visited, I’d be frustrated that I couldn’t find a vinyl store well enough stocked to feed my vinyl addiction. I finally decided to establish my own store, dedicated to vinyl, and launch myself into a new adventure.
Do you specialize in certain genres or are all musical bases covered?
I carry just about all categories of music: from classical to techno, from blues to progressive, from indie rock to psychedelic. But even though I try to make sure that everyone finds what they are looking for, my own tastes lean more towards independent music, more obscure productions, folk, and psychedelic. I’ve been a collector for a long time and have a large and full collection, so naturally I am always searching for what’s ‘inhabitual’.
Without revealing any secret sources, how do you typically source your used vinyl? Do people bring in records to sell/trade or do you have a team of record-savvy elves digging across VA?
People usually contact me directly to sell their collections. My dream would be to locate a ‘dead stock’ – like those that existed in the 80s. I’ve heard stories of huge bundles of sealed records being found. I realize it’s not very likely – but a nice though nonetheless. And in the meantime, individuals who sell to the store are a good source of quality records (in between the inevitable lots of Perry Cuomo and the like).
What kind of folks frequent your store, and what sort of records do they typically buy?
The majority of my local clients are in the under-35 category, but Charlottesville attracts tourists, so I get them in all shapes and sizes. What I sell the most of is anything punk, post-punk or indie. After that, the classics remain a pretty safe bet – for those who are starting to collect or for those who need to replace that copy of King Crimson that’s been used beyond recognition.
I’d have to say that my favorite type of client is the one who arrives without knowing exactly what they are looking for and is open to new musical adventures. That’s when I get a chance to really shine and share a favorite that may be new, or simply ‘resurrected’.
And then, I shouldn’t leave out the ‘just-curious’, who come into the store to witness the ‘Return of Vinyl’ as if they were visiting some sort of museum – I really hate that.
Is there a record you play that someone will usually buy/inquire about every time?
Curiously, and despite its intrinsic value, one of my biggest sellers is the reissue of the first Suicide album (!!?). In addition, let me say that if a dead stock of Television’s first album is ever found, I want it! Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t come into the store asking for that album. But my final answer would have to be: Andrew Bird’s instrumental album, Useless Creatures – a record possessing the double ability to mellow ambience and thoroughly seduce you – all at the same time.
What is your favorite Light in the Attic release and why?
But there is also Jim Sullivan U.F.O.. Not wanting to seem like a flatterer, I felt that this record shows you as truly passionate people, bringing light to obscure gems through reissues that are beautifully and thoughtfully done – from the cover work to sound quality.
What is the coolest/most prized record has come into your store that you never thought you’d ever see?
I had the satisfaction one day of making the acquaintance of a gentleman in his sixties who had been part of a strange garage/pshych band called the Hot Poop. They made an album – their only album – in 1972 called The Hot Poop Does Their Own Stuff’. Because the album cover was thought too provocative (it is in fact, one of the most provocative I’ve ever seen), no store wanted to sell it. The result was that only a few of the 500 albums made were ever sold, and this gentleman still happened to possess several sealed copies.
It was an incredible thing to discover: this testimony to the exuberant, uninhibited creativity of the underground music culture of the 60’s and 70’s.
OK, now for the serious question (well, not really serious!). In musical mortal combat between Kevin Ayers and Roy Ayers, who would emerge as the victor?
Without hesitation, Kevin Ayers. For Soft Machine, for Shooting at the Moon, one of my favorite albums, for his collaborations with Robert Wyatt, and for his love of French ‘grand crus’ wine.
And lastly, how’s the scene down in Charlottesville? Any cool local bands we should be on the lookout for?
A couple of months ago I came across the extremely well produced album of a local band called Invisible Hand. They excel in a type of power pop that’s delicate and energetic with just the right dose of psych. It’s a great album – only 500 copies made – and is available, of course, through the store.