Vinyl Virus: The Independent Record Store Guide

Interview: Bridie Riley 

Founded by Joe Howard and Benjamin Harvey, we got a chance to speak to
co-founder Joe about how and why the project was conceived

© Bridie Riley

Give us a little background on Vinyl Virus and what you are hoping to achieve?

Vinyl Virus is an independent record store guide that will focus on specific areas of London, starting in Soho then moving East, North, South and West across the city. We’ll be printing 1000 copies of each bi-monthly issue and distributing them for free in shops across that featured area. From there, we want to bring together all the content and stories into one complete release, ‘The Independent Record Store Guide of London’, a model that we believe can be taken to other cities across the world. That’s the dream anyway!

© Joe Howard

What made you want to start Vinyl Virus, and who are you hoping to reach out to?

We started this project to make London more accessible for visitors and locals alike. I personally know the anguish of spending hours in a foreign city struggling to locate the best records shops, trawling through blogs to find out where the locals go and recommend. Creating a guide was such an obvious solution. We have them for coffee shops, restaurants and clothing shops, why not record shops? This guide isn’t there to introduce people to record collecting, it’s a companion, a resource for collectors who wish to explore the great independent record shops our capital has to offer.

Like analogue photography, there is a real resurgence in the value of physical objects, where do you think this stems from and do you think it’s sustainable in today’s digital society?

Interestingly the resurgence of vinyl and analogue cameras happened around the same time, and have a similar cult following. There are people that enjoy the aesthetic qualities, how it looks carrying a vintage camera or buying records to frame and hang on their wall. Then you have people who buy, use and enjoy them because they offer quality. I find it makes you take the time; whether it be making sure you get the framing perfect before taking a photo, or playing an album from start to finish, the way it was supposed to be heard.
I don’t think it will last forever, it’s come full circle and at some point something else will arrive and take the reins. I mean at the time I’m sure we all thought that we’d never see a physical format again, the MP3 download seemed set to be the standard forever, but people get bored. From the 78 to the 45, the LP to the cassette, the CD to the MP3. Now people are back at the beginning, digging through their parents cassettes and records. Our children won’t be going through the attic looking for our old Arcade Fire MP3’s, will they?

© Charlie Sarsfield

What are your top five recommendations for record shops in London for a new record collector?

The best thing about independent record shops is that they are all very different and those personalities are something you won’t find with Fopp, HMV or Urban Outfitters. Having an idea of what it is you are looking for really helps, I know that if I’m looking for an American band, Rough Trade East off Brick Lane is a great place to start, and if I’m looking for second hand records I will go to Reckless Records in Soho. I’d also advise exploring, there are great record shops all over the city in areas you may not even think to look in. My top five would have to be, in no specific order. Sister Ray, Reckless Records, Flashback Records, Rough Trade East and Camden Arch Records, but as I said it depends what I’m looking for.

Where can we pick up a copy Vinyl Virus?

The first issue can be found in record shops, coffee shops and clothing shops throughout Soho as of the 16th April, Record Store Day. The next four issues will be distributed in a similar manner across the featured areas of London. We’ll also have copies online for anyone coming to UK wanting to buy records and learn a little more about our independent record shops.

Visit Vinyl Virus to find out how you can support this project.