By Kate Berube
When my then middle school daughter begged for a vintage record player three years ago, I’ll ruefully admit that my reaction was slightly patronizing and perplexed. Don’t we subscribe to Spotify? Didn’t she already have a massive JBL waterproof speaker? I dismissed it as a passing phase.
Except it kept popping up.
Not just in my home, but on display shelves, in headlines, and during casual conversations. From 93’ to 07’ vinyl records saw consistently stagnant yearly sales that were considered by the industry to be the exclusive domain of DJ’s, collectors, and audio snobs. Then inexplicably in 2008, several years after music streaming services became widely available, those same sales figures started to reflect a steady uptick in LP purchases, with 2021 marking the 15th consecutive year of consumer growth.
And again I wondered, if you have the power at your fingertips to call up vast catalogs of music in seconds, I’m talking millions of songs by thousands of artists instantly at your disposal… why on earth would you go back to a 100 year old form of technology filled with so many limitations?
In the back of my mind, the question gnawed at me.
I had already begun the ruminations of a rambling piece I had no intention of publishing, when I heard quiet whispers that a record shop was in the works less than a mile from my house. It persisted until I found myself standing at 56 South Main St., in front of the new downtown Sayville home of the enigmatic Better Nature Records, ready to knock on the freshly painted black door and ask a complete stranger “why vinyl?!”
Fortunately for me on the other side of that question was Michael Gippetti, a 37 year old lawyer by trade with a quick smile and infectiously good nature. Having grown up in neighboring Oakdale, he returned home in recent years to build something here. Opening the door in welcome, I stepped over the threshold to take in the result of his endeavors.
The shop is an eclectic mix of goods, from band shirts to exclusive AllSaints apparel. The specialty guitar pedals are crafted works of art, the collection of turntables vibrant. The fit is edgy and exciting. The vibe is cozy and comfortable. What ties the space together is the tiny touches that are not for sale, the bronze figurines scattered among the store, the well loved stack of books, the fuzzy throw over the couch, and causally misplaced guitar picks.
If you bother to look, shadows of personality begin to emerge, designed to invite you in and compel you to stay. To sit down, brush off the world outside, and reach for something more.
Hanging on the walls are framed silhouettes of concerts in monochrome colors. Most are the work of the store owner himself. There’s a restless energy in Michael's movement that tends to distract from the brilliantly contemplative mind behind his eyes. While the retail aspect is a clear expression of his love for music, and a showcase of a previously underutilized knack for design, the mission behind Better Nature Records is more subtle. With aspirations to evolve into an indie record label over time, Mike is carefully crafting a micro scene, a creative haven for artists, musicians, and those searching for better things to come.
Standing in front of the expansive grid of colorful album covers on the wall, I did my own searching.
Admittedly there’s something pretty about vinyl, if not practical than certainly aesthetically appealing. And sure, there’s something satisfying and slightly hypnotic in the way the disc spins as the needle navigates into the grooves pumping out indie rock. The album work was gorgeous. There’s a warmth to the sound, I had never noticed coming through my AirPods.
But doesn’t most convenience come at a cost, we mused as the record continued to rotate. When compact disks were invented, society marveled at how much music could fit within such a small space. A decade later, MP3’s would blow that concept out of the water. Somewhere along the way from CD’s to MP3’s to streaming services, we gave up certain things to gain others.
A vinyl record isn't just the sum of the music it carries, but a total of the experience it envokes. LP’s were meant to be consumed in their entirety. Each song, playing out in a carefully curated tracklist, the order a subtext unto itself. Together, the entire album spells out an intended story. The rise of singles left us with only a chapter in the tale.
Yet every piece of the puzzle is an invitation into the artist’s mindset; every thread followed, a love letter to their audience. A tangible connection between creator and consumer. One you can see, feel, as well as hear.
And suddenly, I understood the draw.
Covid brought an increasingly digital world into hyperdrive, forcing every avenue of life to be lived virtually. After 18 months, most of us are electronically burnt out. In that light, it’s hard not to see a correlation between this new world order and the desire to experience authenticity in the physical world. To be grounded in the weight of something concrete in your hands. I can’t say for sure. But I do know this, in 2020, 27.5 million vinyl records were sold in the United States, up 46% from the previous year. According to MRC Data’s year end report that accounts for 27% of all LPs sales. Vinyl is reemerging, and showing every sign that this time, it’s here to stay.
Though the statistics are facts, my musings are anecdotal at best. You’ll have to make of it what you will. In the meantime, the record has slowed to a stop and I’ll have to switch it over if I want to ever get to the B side tracks.
Check out Better Nature Records located at 56 South Main Street in Sayville.
Opening today at 12pm.