By Axel Matfin
VANCOUVER — The brand new Red Cat Records at 2447 Hastings is open and ready to make some noise. Having run the original Red Cat at 4332 Main for over ten years, co-owners Dave Gowans and Lasse Lutick are venturing farther east, prepared to capture the ears of the Eastside.
“I don’t think we would have opened another one without being pretty optimistic about the future,” says Lutick.
“It felt like a bit of a gamble,” chimes in Gowans. “But now that it’s open, the way the neighbourhood has reacted, everyone’s really happy because everyone was coming from here [Hastings Sunrise] over to Main Street, whether it’s to buy records or buy [concert] tickets.”
The storefront has seen a fresh paint job and is lined with a perimeter of wooden drawers filled with neatly arranged double sleeved discs. The room feels therapeutic, an escape from the busy autumn street. A library of the artfully curated and popular collections of sound, Red Cat provides new releases and special orders as well as buying and selling used vinyl. There’s no discrimination of styles here; as long as the discs are clean, they’ll probably take them off your hands.
“We have rock and jazz and blues and funk and soul, we want something for everyone. We don’t turn away a lot,” states Lutick. “There are tons [of albums] where millions were made and we sell them every day, like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Who would think that would be worth something ’cause there were so many made? But a clean copy of that?”
I ask how the world of a Vancouver music retailer has changed in the past ten years. They pause before agreeing that since vinyl is returning to popularity, it seems to be the preferred format for bands to distribute on and, as such, Red Cat doesn’t have to organize a glut of indie CDs. Despite the decline in overall consignment, both men also agreed that the amount of local bands producing vinyl has increased.
“It seems like the bands that are committing to putting out an album are doing it on vinyl,” Gowans says. “I would like to say that it seems like more of them are sticking together for a couple of records. You see them bring in their second album on vinyl, some even their third. I think it’s a big financial commitment for an indie band and I think it’s great that people get the financial resources to spend $3000 on 500 records, you know it’s a lot of money. So it’s pretty brave.”
When pressed for recommendations of recent releases from local artists, both men suggest Adrian Teacher and the Subs’ album Terminal City.
What’s clear from talking with the owners of Red Cat is that collecting records is no longer an arcane hobby for the fevered purists and collectors — it is access to intimacy with the art we love.
“There is a huge desire to be more attached to the thing you like. For people that really like music, sometimes MP3 isn’t enough. You want to have it and engage with that piece of music,” states Gowans.
A surge of expansion and success from a cultural purveyor like Red Cat represents the re-emergence of the people’s participation in the community and commerce of music. The era of sterile big box music retailers continues its deserved death knell; but rather than capitulate to digital retail trends, we should take this opportunity to re-engage with the crucial and brave cultural services provided by the good people at Red Cat Records.
Red Cat Records is located at 2447 Hastings St. and 4332 Main St.BC, British Columbia, record store, Red Cat Records