Record stores—like bookstores—often exude complexity, which is no surprise as these places often house some of the most compelling, hard-hitting stories in various text formats like books and tunes. We catch up with Matt Sekiya of The Analog Vault, a locally-owned curatorial record store comfortably nestled in the iconic Esplanade—home to renowned and new musical, visual and literary performance—in Singapore.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m currently listening to Phony Ppl’s Yesterday’s Tomorrow and Isaiah Rashad’s The Sun’s Tirade, the former’s an electro-neo soul/R&B album while the latter is a great jazzy boom bap hip hop album. Sadly neither is on vinyl right now but hopefully it does get released on it eventually!
What’s the best thing about having local, jazz, hip hop and other eclectic range of music in one space?
Each genre has really different fans so it’s always interesting being able to see and meet very different kinds of people. Plus the great thing about having an eclectic variety of genres is being able to have people discover other genres and albums that they wouldn’t normally pick up. Usually that happens when they catch an album cover with far out artwork or if it happens to be playing at the store.
What are some important reminders you set for yourselves as you guys run The Analog Vault?
It’s somewhat a cliché but it’s important to put the music first and be passionate about it. We are always looking out for new music or rediscovering old music, there’s so much music out there and new material is still being put out into the world every day. Being passionate about music definitely helps drive us to keep exploring and digging for great music which we believe in and hope that we can recommend to others in the end.
Analog Fever or Analog Culture, and why?
I think Analog Culture for sure. ‘Cause fevers burn out eventually but culture is forever man!
What does the sustainability of a record store mean to you?
Being able to offer fair prices to customers while building a community of like-minded people who enjoy visiting our store and view it as a retreat from regular life. That was what record stores were to me when I started buying records in polytechnic through army till now. A place for me to get away from all the craziness of life. Hopefully that’s what our store can do for everyone who comes in too because eventually we wouldn’t continue to exist if not for the people who stop by.
Are there major differences in the way vinyl records are perceived or consumed here as compared to the rest of the world?
There’s a stronger digital culture here than overseas whereby people tend to shop online a bit more or they would like to browse a store’s catalogue online first before visiting the physical store. Which makes having an online presence even more vital than it already is. Although one of the major difference stores overseas tend to have more of are in-store tie-in events such as artist signings or mini performances which definitely are incentives for people to visit the brick-and-mortar stores. That’s something we hope we can do more of here.
What fuels the record store and the people in it?
Most definitely a mixture of love for music, OCD and a good amount of hoarding tendencies. That’s something other record collectors I know and myself have in common. With interests that involve collecting stuff whether it’s stamps or comic books, there’s a compulsive need to complete a set or crave for the ones you’re missing. Likewise for records, diehard fans will have the need to complete their favourite artist’s discography or to search for that one release with a certain live version of their favourite song. It’s an obsession really but a happy one.
The tables are now turned. How can consumers come together to ensure the growth of music appreciation and boost the support for record stores and even musicians?
Attend more local music gigs, buy their music or merchandise and stop by your favourite stores for sure. It’s great that there’s been a bit of a music renaissance here with so many new local artists coming up in different genres. The only way to keep it up is to show your support and make it a sustainable trade. Also make sure the government knows that music and the arts are important here—there’s so much more that can be done here like having a wider variety of affordable music venues and such.
Having been in the scene for some time now, how would you describe The Analog Vault experience, past and present?
It has been a very positive experience overall. Before our store opened, there hasn’t really been any record stores that were focused on jazz, hip hop and electronic music specifically. Most stores were selling classic rock and pop mostly so there definitely were some concerns that perhaps people here wouldn’t be as into jazz or hip hop music. It’s been over a year and it’s incredibly encouraging to see people buying records in our store. There are even new jazz fans coming in to ask for recommendations on getting started, which we are always happy to give.
Can you recommend us five books and records from The Analog Vault?
For books, we have Dust & Grooves: Adventures In Record Collecting which is a fantastic coffee table book featuring record collectors with their collections from all over the world. It even features some of our favourite record collecting artists like Questlove from The Roots and DJ Gilles Peterson. The book really captures what makes record collecting special.
Next, I would recommend The Rap Year Book by Shea Serrano. It’s got great illustrations, is easy to pick up and stop whenever. The book presents the most important rap song from every year since hip hop’s beginnings from 1979 till 2014. Although rather subjective, it does give an insightful overview of hip hop from its roots through the different evolutions in style and image through the years. Definitely one for fans who are starting to go deeper into the history of hip hop.
On to records, I personally recommend Intriguant’s Recluse. He’s a local electronic artist from the music collective known as Syndicate. It’s a very chilled out downtempo album, great for listening in the night. If you’re a fan of artists like Ta-ku or Mndsgn then for sure you’ll love this album.
Next is Sofie’s SOS Tape, a compilation of underground hip hop and soul music curated by Sofie Fatouretchi, who was one of the original Boiler Room DJs. It’s released by one of our favourite music labels Stones Throw Records and I think it’s a pretty good representation of the vibes we strive for our store to have.
Finally we have Yussef Kamaal’s Black Focus. Modern jazz music with electronic music influences, the album was recorded unplanned so a lot of improvisation went into it which really captures the spirit of jazz music. Good to see jazz music breaking out of its tendency to look backward and one can only hope for more good music to come!