The Record Store is located just east of the Sydney CBD, right in the thick of Darlinghurst’s cultural melting pot. It immediately stands out from the surrounding buildings thanks to a graffitied exterior wall, which is liable to be re-designed overnight. The store’s been there since 2003, seeing through plenty of changes in the pulse of Sydney’s music scene. It’s by no means the only record store in town, but it’s always had a unique personality.
“We’ve got a Diggin’ Sydney guide with over 30 shops,” says co-owner Stephan Gyory. “In terms of electronica, we’re probably the only shop that sells house and techno and electronic music and what have you, and 12-inches.”
The Record Store initially established itself by catering to the needs of club DJs, and it retains this function. However, they haven’t stubbornly ignored the fluctuating trends. “In the heyday of when DJs used to have to use 12”s there were 14 shops up here,” Gyory says. “They all had a separate specialty, but then one by one they went. We used to be specialists in breaks and drum and bass, but then breaks ceased to be popular and house and techno [became more popular]. Having said that, breaks are now rearing its head again. The sound always wanders around.”
In recent years, the vinyl stock has significantly broadened, appealing to fans of everything from house and techno to dubstep, drum’n’bass, jungle, funk, soul, hip hop, jazz, blues, rock, indie and reggae. “We’re a proper record store now, as well as being a DJ shop,” Gyory says. “We sell albums and second hand and turntables and headphones and needles and that kind of stuff. But we still maintain our electronic heritage – 12-inches is probably a third of what we do.”
While it’s not as DJ-oriented as it once was, The Record Store still sells DJ turntables, needles, cartridges and headphones as well as offering vinyl cleaning and de-warping services. But in accordance with their utilitarian expansion, they also offer Audio-Technica home hi-turntables and general-purpose headphones. “By far and away our biggest turntable stuff is the home hi-fi, so the [Audio- Technica] LP60 and LP120,” Gyory says. “When the DJ thing shrunk and it all went online and everyone was downloading, a lot of DJs had to go digital because that’s just the way it was going. But they all got there and they all went: ‘This is no fun’. So a lot of them buy records and just record them, and when they can buy vinyl they will; when they can’t they’ll play digital.”
“The reason we called it a record store and not a shop is because we wanted it to be more than just a DJ shop. And Audio-Technica was actually instrumental because Wes [von Grabill, brand manager] came in and he said, ‘I fucking love your shop. I want Audio-Technica in here, because at the moment we’re selling in places that are not cool and this is cool and I want my brand on your wall.’”
It’s no secret that Sydney’s position as a live music hotspot has been threatened in recent years due to increased urbanisation and the introduction of stringent lockout laws. However, this hasn’t quashed the music community’s blood flow, nor has The Record Store struggled to find an audience. For Gyory, the store’s primary success has been its contribution to the local culture. “People come in and go, ‘Why don’t you have this Cold Chisel record? Or why don’t you have this Beatles record?’ I’m like, ‘Man if you know what you want, you can get it anywhere.’ So what’s the raison d’être? You have to look at what distinguishes you, and it’s always in the community. That sounds glib, but you can sit in your bedroom and download music, and go to a gig and get wasted and shout in someone’s ear and never get to know anyone in your community. But if you’re rubbing shoulders in a record store – we do mixes every second week, we’re always drinking beers. It’s a place where people get out of their own particular little part of the dance music community and where they can socialise.”