Vinyl records are the new big thing. The declaration that the arrival of technology would surely mean the demise of records is now obviously premature and it could not be anything from the truth. Having survived CDs, iTunes and now torrents, what is it about vinyl records that has given it its longevity and widespread appeal? One of the comprehensive vinyl record stores in Singapore is Vinylicious Records and we were lucky enough to have a little chat with its owner Eugene Ow Yong about vinyls across decades and what his shop offers. The only thing I knew about record stores and their owners comes exclusively from High Fidelity and John Cusack as the owner of Championship Records so I was dying to know what makes a someone decide to establish his own record store in this day.
Like many people his age, records were a big part of his life since young, his first experience with records came in “1984 when I [Eugene] was 12 years old. We only had cassette tapes and vinyl records then. The quality of music was very obvious comparing these two formats as cassette tapes were far less superior than records. Prices were very different too with tapes costing about $7.00 and records costing $20.00 so I had to save a lot more for my records.This in turn made me treasure records more as the artwork, music and larger print format was more appealing to me than ‘tiny’ cassettes.” But what makes him vastly different from everyone else was that he saw a problem, “When I look into the music scene in Singapore recently after the demise of HMV, Sembawang Music Store and other independent music stores, I discovered that there was a huge gap in terms of choices and genre available to us. You either get the latest titles in CD format or old jazz titles from record store owners of the previous generation,” and decided to do something to fix it with a sort of entrepreneurial spirit that is largely missing in this little red dot. Therefore, “Vinylicious Records was conceptualised with the idea of being a record shop that the young and old can relate to. We carry a wide range of Pop, Contemporary, Indie titles for the young ones and Evergreen, Jazz, Classical, Retro 80’s and 90’s, cassettes tape, posters and even VHS tapes and players for the matured crowd.” In short, “There will always be something for everyone here.”
Those who are not record owners and instead prefer the far more convenient route of illegal torrents or even legal iTunes cannot understand the preference and choice of listening to vinyl records. As a record owner and collector myself, the warmth and far superior sound of records make it an easy choice but who better to explain it than the owner of a record store himself. The conviction on the superiority of vinyl records is clear as he explains, ” Vinyl records and cassette tapes are on the analogue format, something which digital cannot replicate. Digital cannot ‘hit’ the true highs and lows of a tune thus resulting in ‘flat’ music. Digital music is also ‘altered’ or remastered to a cleaner and sharper sound which sounds manufactured and fake. There is simply no warmth and depth in digital music.” His response was succinctly beautiful and the exact reason why everyone should try out vinyl records, there is perfection in the crackle of imperfection, feeling as though your favourite singer is singing to you live – that is the way music should be enjoyed. Beyond the tangible differences of music, there is also an intangible appreciation of vinyl records that is akin to the unexplainable joy of flipping a physical book and holding it in your hands as opposed to the dull kindle. One of his favourite experiences comes from the mundane experience of “The whole experience of removing the vinyl from the sleeve, placing it on the turntable, then the needle on the record. Hearing the music streaming from the speakers while appreciating the design and artwork of the album. It is an experience that you would not get from downloading a tune on a computer.”
Beyond simply the joys experienced as both a lover of music as well as record owner, I was also curious on what he loves about his job as a record store owner. The older you get and the more the world has changed, it appears the more frequent the pangs of nostalgia will strike. It is not uncommon to see people pining for the excitement and freedom of one’s youth but often there are hardly any pictures or items that can bring back these memories. Yet, it seems that music and more sepcifically vinyl records have that power. Finding and listening to these albums and songs are akin to listening to the soundtrack of their youth, and the floodgate of memories has been unleashed. “As owner, seeing the joy of a customer finding a treasured piece of music they listened to in their youth is such a great experience. It is also heartening to seeing customers embracing other genres of music that they never thought that they would listen to.” As expected from a record store owner, his own personal collection has to be huge, I imagine shelves upon shelves of neatly stacked records, conveniently organized by either name, genre or year. But where does a record store owner buy his own records? “I source my records from all over the world. From US, Europe and Asia. I have over a thousand records that I treasure mostly 80’s Rock, Depeche Mode singles, albums and rare presses, soundtracks, white labels. Music that reminds me of a specific time of my life.”
Something that makes Vinylicious Records different from other record stores in Singapore is their recent expansion to the Internet – Oogie Music. “Oogie Music is a distributor of vinyl records, music news and event news to Singapore and the whole of South East Asia. With the raising cost of records worldwide, many major labels are jumping on the vinyl bandwagon with their CD sales falling. Oogie Music is not only an online store but a music portal for the latest music news, vinyl news, event news. We have tied up with the major labels and suppliers from all over the whole and music news will be posted online within 24 hours. My goal is for people to be able to afford music on the vinyl format and I aim to keep prices compatible by offering wholesale prices. I hope people will use Oogie Music to keep themselves informed through our news segments and keep their love for music alive.”
All in all, records are not just a medium for music but rather a storage of memories, soundtracks for specific parts of one’s life. While this is perfect for those who are older, with vinyls playing a big part of their youths, and the music of old can no longer be found in any other format, I believe that it is also perfect for the younger generation. Firstly, it is a great opportunity for us to listen to music – real music, I have since fallen in love with Jazz and the greats that made it so damn beautiful, including Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole. My playlist now includes rock & roll hits from the one and only Elvis and even from the one genre I thought I will never enjoy – classical. But my collection also includes modern hits from Imagine Dragons, Sam Smith, Of Monsters and Men, Arctic Monkeys and Coldplay. As I grow older, and I look back at my youth and the songs that defined it, I want to be able to remember music that sounds great, not edited and seemingly perfect tracks but music with warmth and emotion, that made me feel. I implore everyone to check Vinylicious Records out, their brick and mortar store can be found at 35 Selegie Road, #01-22 Parklane Shopping Mall, and they are open everyday from 1.00pm to 7.00pm.
All Images Courtesy of Vinylicious Records!