High fidelity rockers

Pub date November 5, 2013
WriterEmily SavageWriterMarke B.

MUSIC Everyone knows the best way to music idolatry is a solid education in the school of rock (or pop, or hip-hop, or goth, Madchester, shoegaze, techno, et. al). And what better way to soak up the sexy, jagged history of music than to work at one of the few brick-and-mortar stores left that sells it exclusively.

Yes, we’re talking about the classic record shop clerk/artist dichotomy. It’s alive and well in San Francisco and the Bay Area beyond. We see it in Andee Connors of Aquarius Records and his bands like A Minor Forest [see full story]. And also bubbling over elsewhere in sound city thanks to still-vibrant music purveyors and lovers of all things sonic:

Perhaps the most well-documented record shop employee is SF’s darling garage rocker Kelley Stoltz, who works at Grooves on Market Street (he has done so for 12 years), and who released his latest full-length, Double Exposure, last month on Third Man Records.

There’s also Amoeba’s Upper Haight location, which is a hotbed of worker-musicians, including Fresh & Onlys bassist Shayde Sartin, whose formerly fuzzy band a few months back released latest EP Soothsaver on Mexican Summer, a shiny vintage pop gem. In that Golden Gate-adjacent mega-shop (which also has locations in Berkeley and LA) there’s also Andrew Kerwin of Trainwreck Riders, Luciano Talpini of Ceiling Eyes, Rory Smith of Death Pajamas, Steve Peacock of Pale Challis, and David James, who plays in many a band (Afrofunk Experience, Beth Custer Ensemble, Curtis Bumpy, David James’s GPS).

Brand-spanking-new record store RS94109 in the Tenderloin is brimming with vinyl dance music — and dance music talent. Twin owners Askander and Sohrab Harooni both make tracks upstairs, while close associate Oliver Vereker is rising through the dark techno ranks with eardrum-challenging DJ sets and hyped new L.I.E.S. label releases “Rosite” and “Fear Eats the Soul.”

The main man behind Explorist International, Chris Dixon, is currently in a few bands, including duo tujurikkuja, and a synthy electronic drone-psych project called Earth Jerks. He’s also finally remixed some Death Sentence: Panda! (remember them?) recordings from 2011 that will probably be released on cassette.

Punk-friendly Thrillhouse Records on the border of the Mission and Bernal hosts staffers who are also members of Apogee Sound Club, Dead Seeds, C’est Dommage, Dead Seeds, Pig DNA, Robocop 3, New Flesh, and Fantasy World.

Oakland’s newest record shop, Stranded, has Sam Lefebvre, a music writer himself who also plays in Pure Bliss and Cold Circuits.

And Rob Fletcher at 1-2-3-4 Go! is in Beasts of Bourbon-influenced rock band MUSK.

Some shops are breeding grounds for bands. Streetlight Records’ San Jose and Santa Cruz locations, for instance, harbor members of nearly a dozen different bands including death metal acts Abnutivum and Infernal Slave (both Matt DeLeon), Churches (Caleb Nichols), Cat & Shout (Cat Johnson), Folivore (Kyle Kessler), and Doctor Nurse (Jeff Brummett). There’s also Stiff Love, which includes four Street Light Santa Cruz co-workers: Raul Medrano, Rey Apodaca, Chelsea Cooper, Cherene Araujo.

Of course, there are plenty more budding musicians behind those shop counters. Do yourself a favor and talk to your local record store clerk. Get the dirt on his or her own musical project then dig deeper through the vinyl crates for the inspirations. And feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

Finally, lest we forget the archetypal, faintly satirical pop culture reference: there’s High Fidelity‘s band of jaded collectors who are also sort-of musicians and DJs on the side. “We’re no longer called Sonic Death Monkey. We’re on the verge of becoming Kathleen Turner Overdrive, but just for tonight, we are Barry Jive and his Uptown Five.”