Situated in a tiny yard off Goodramgate next to the Snickleway Inn, lies Earworm Records; a small independent music shop selling a vast collection of vinyl. Inside, the store is quite simply a hub of good vibes. I eluded from my interview duties for a brief moment as I hypnotically flicked through a stunning array of hip hop, gawping at the old-school likes of Nas, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre. I eventually had a chat with one of Earworm’s curators, Paul Jackson, and asked him a few questions about the store, vinyl and more.
Downloads are on the decline for the first time in years. Vinyl is on the rise. It seems like a perfect time to be opening a record store. Earworm opened last October with an aim to supply York with a specialist collection of house, techno, disco, indie, soul, reggae, pop, rock and hip hop. So far the response seems promising. ‘We get people lying on the floor looking at 7”s. They just want something that’s not to throw away anymore’ says Paul, as he picks up a Rolling Stones 12” and unfolds it. ‘When you buy a vinyl you get everything – it’s something you can physically hold. You get the artwork and you acknowledge every single person that had something to do with it. When you download an MP3, you get none of that’.
Vinyl is certainly a beautiful format, it’s just got something that a CD or iPod will never achieve. When you pick one up you truly appreciate everything about it. The creased corners, the fading artwork, and the delicate process of taking it out of the sleeve, placing it on the turntable and having to get back up to turn it over. These beautiful traits are all giving records that irresistible element of nostalgia and craftsmanship.
Of course, the rise of the phonographic record is also very much to do with the recent resurgence of vintage fashion. The format is commonly associated with this popular trend, and is often viewed as an accessory item. This is especially noticed in places like Urban Outfitters, who sell small selections of relevant vinyl alongside their large collections of clothing. However, at Earworm it’s a different story. ‘What we’re finding here is that it’s not the “fashion” that’s selling, it’s the back catalogue stuff’, Paul humbles. ‘I wouldn’t say we’re a “boutique” though – I don’t really like that label. I’d say we have a slightly more European vibe than that’, he adds.
Nonetheless, the independent music shop experience is so different when compared to any of the larger stores. There is less of the hustle, less of the waiting, and more of just being immersed with music you love. It’s off the high street. It’s intimate. Earworm’s wooden flooring, the warm spot lighting, the handmade racks and shelves all compliment and reflect the style and quality of the craft that they are selling.
It has to be said that the backbone of this appeal is the sound. It’s undeniable that the odd crackle, scratch and pop are anything but annoyances. They add to the authenticity and bring out the true character of the no-frills format. The store has two turntables that are available for customers to listen to records before they buy them – or even if they just want to mix for a bit. Recently, the DJ scene has seen a boom in the popularity of midi-controllers, although this isn’t considered an issue by Paul. Rather, as a DJ, he sees it as a kind of innovation – a way of bringing people closer to wanting to try and experiment further with the ‘original sound’. ‘What you are starting to find is that people are moving on to vinyl after gaining experience and confidence through the more affordable controllers’, he notes. Alongside the selling of records, Earworm communicates their passion for creative innovation through the form of artist exhibitions, local collaborations and a general push for a stronger music scene in York.
Just before I left, I witnessed a moment that could have been taken straight from a cult film. A teenage boy unloaded his pocket-money shrapnel on top of the till in order to pay for a £3 record. He had spent over an hour in the store listening to dozens whilst chatting to Paul’s associate, Rich. ‘That’s what I used to be like – spending my entire Saturdays and Sundays in record shops’, Paul laughs. For me, that moment really summed up everything I like about independent stores. Not to mention, it pretty much summed up everything I now like about Earworm Records. It’s one of the rare places in York where you can really lose yourself.By Jack Turner