A successful revival
Revival Records is a particularly fitting name for a burgeoning downtown business breathing life into a once depleted, now nostalgia-fueled demand for vinyl records.
With the annual Record Store Day as well as underground movements, artist support and wide publicity all shouting ‘Save Record Stores!’ it seems to actually be working.
All this despite the fact that according to a January article on NPR, all vinyl sales still make up less than one percent of total
album sales for 2010.
It’s a seemingly minuscule slice, but small record shops like Revival Records (418 S. Barstow St.) right here in Eau Claire are pulling out all the stops they can in order to try and keep the medium from slipping into extinction, or worse: apathy.
And for the most part, it has worked. Revival Records is celebrating its one-year anniversary this weekend and for an upstart business in the industry of selling vinyl records primarily, that’s a significant birthday.
With the trend of listening and collecting records modestly and steadily growing, its reach hasn’t bypassed Eau Claireans like junior Andrew Vanderleest who prefer vinyl.
“It’s cool to kind of be taken back to an older time when we didn’t have all this fancy technology and higher quality music,” Vanderleest said. “You get a different sound; it’s a nostalgic feeling for a time when I wasn’t even around.”
Vanderleest stops into Revival Records to check out new arrivals and browse for older records. Having gotten into regularly listening to records about a year ago, the timeline worked out that Vanderleest discovered Revival in its early stages by biking past on his way to friend’s house.
“Now, I’m going there every week,” Vanderleest said.
Revival Records primarily sells records (it stocks over 6,000), but also sells record players and music in other formats such as CDs.
Senior Maggie Armstrong has been an employee of Revival since the store opened, almost by pure coincidence. Armstrong said that at the time, she had been living in the apartment above the shop downtown and when the storeowner, Billy Siegel, was moving things in, she had been looking into the store and Siegel motioned her to come in.
Armstrong told Siegel that her dad was big into record collecting, so she had grown up around records. After this, she started working there and has been employed at Revival ever since. Armstrong joked that she was sort of grandfathered in without actually knowing anyone who worked there.
Records have been a big part of her life, from growing up cleaning her dad’s records for her allowance to currently working part-time at Revival Records.
“I like being able to hold what I’m listening to,” Armstrong said. “There’s something cool about the event of sitting down and listening to a record, just taking that time out of your day to physically lift the needle and put it down; there’s something special about that.”
Armstrong is helping organize the one-year anniversary event all day Saturday, which includes special deals, birthday treats, giveaways and in-store live music — something the shop is trying to implement — courtesy of local groups Kalispell and Wisconsin Built.
Shane Leonard of Kalispell said he likes to buy records at Revival every so often and when he was asked to play, he was glad to agree.
Leonard, a UW-Eau Claire alumnus, said he, too, grew up with records.
“When I was a little kid, we had vinyl on all the time — my parents’ records. I totally wore out the Blues Brothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,” Leonard said with a smile.
Later, some of Leonard’s friends starting buying record players and vinyl and when he bought a record player himself, he said it was much more enjoyable than tapes or CDs.
“You get the record and it’s this bigger thing. It’s like a piece of art that you’re holding; it’s heavy, it’s got weight to it, the album art is so big and then it’s got a big insert. It’s such a tactile experience,” Leonard said. “There are much more physical steps that are involved in listening, it forces you to be more conscious of the experience, which forces you to listen more closely.”
Leonard said he doesn’t shop at Revival everyday or even weekly, but he said that when he does, it feels good to walk into the store. He said Revival definitely sets themselves apart in that it’s a clean and welcoming storefront instead of the dingy, dirty record shop stereotype.
“The storefront looks amazing; the interior is pretty well organized, really clean,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem like they skimped on anything and I think that that really rubs off on the buyer.”
Over the course of the year, Armstrong said not much has changed apart from re-organizing space to be able to shelve more product and the community’s interest in new vinyl. She said that at the start, Revival had sold mostly used and older records, but now they also sell new records — big names and local alike.
But Revival hasn’t shied away from doing promotions either. The store regularly participates in First Fridays, where several downtown businesses stay open later on the first Friday of every month and offer special deals and discounts.
In July, Revival celebrated the release of the recent self-titled Bon Iver record with a late-night listening party for people who wanted to buy the record at midnight. The event, though in the middle of week, still found people browsing through records late at night.
For a place so new to the downtown community, it’s certainly actively seeking ways to make sure people are listening.
Leonard said that more and more people seem to be realizing that vinyl is a completely normal, kitsch-free means of listening to quality music and Revival is a great way to access it.
“It’s such a unique place,” he said. “There isn’t anything like it around here so I like to support it.”
Editor’s Note: Eric Christenson and Editor-In-Chief Thom Fountain are part of Wisconsin Built.