Record Store Inquiry: Permanent Records

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Inside are the records. | Photos by Nathan Solis

Every now and then I walk into Permanent Records while a band is playing and a wall of vibrations greets me at the door. It’s surreal, similar to a book reading. There’s the author! There’s the creator of this art! How personal! I’m breathing their air! That author has a sick drum set!

OK, not exactly like that. Permanent Records offers a wide selection with arena rock, Fugazi, Zappa, Tom Waits, a swath from the 70’s, plenty of soul and blues, and an island for CDs. There are the usual jazz, world, acid rock labels, but it’s always nice to browse the store recommendations.

In 2006 Lance Barresi and Liz Tooley opened the first Permanent Records in Chicago. They made a lot of friends, and out of their love for the band Warhammer 48K started their own label to release that band’s first vinyl LP. To this day they’re still releasing band’s on vinyl and the world is richer for it. In 2011 Lance and Liz decided they wanted to do the same song and dance in Los Angeles, in the Eagle Rock neighborhood. Everything is nice and pretty around Permanent Records west coast headquarters, so it’s appropriate that they get the kids in their tattered jeans or the clean cut whoevers into the neighborhood.

During my last visit I purchased Black Math’s ‘Phantom Power’ on the Permanent Records’ label, then I spoke with Lance about the usual stuff.

What does it mean to you to sell records for a living?

I guess it really means everything. It’s what I love and what I’m into personally. It’s great. I love doing it. I can’t think of anything else I’d be doing with my life. It’s pretty perfect.

Your last job?

I worked at a record store and then prior to that I bartended, served at this restaurant in college. Before that I had a few other jobs, but that’s taking me back to high school.

Some people say records went away and others say that they’ve always been popular no matter what’s happened. How do you see it?

They’ve definitely always been around. Like a niche thing among collectors, who enjoy the format. But there’s been an up tic and resurgence in it with people who maybe only bought CDs or bought CDs and stopped buying them to listen to digital versions. Maybe it wasn’t as fulfilling to them to listen to digital. People are coming back to vinyl, or coming to it for the first time. I wouldn’t say it will go mainstream in the near future, but percentage wise it’s way up.

What does your personal collection look like?

It’s lean and mean these days. When Liz and I started the first store we sold off all of our personal collection to start that store. Then we did a big chunk of it when we started the LA store. It’s gotten a little bigger since then, but it’s like 1,500 LPs and a few hundred singles. Pretty much bare essential stuff, because we live in a small place. At this point in my life I’m keeping the store stock as good as it possibly can be instead of looking out for myself. I only keep stuff I know that I’ll never see again. There are always great records that come through that I’d like to own.

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Most prized or rare record?

It’s funny I have loads of records that I love. The most prized stuff is the kind of stuff that I know I can never replace. Only five might exist in the world. The test pressing of the early releases we put out on our label, those are probably my most prized possessions, because I know that I can never let them go, because I will never see them again. It’s part of the history of the store and the label. I dealt with all those artists, and knew many of them closely. So it’s a very personal thing. Not the records that go for hundreds of dollars. My taste changes over time and sometimes you have to trade away something that you might have considered a holy grail for a new holy grail.

What albums would you recommend that have to be listened on vinyl?

I’m not an audiophile, I’m not a headphone masterpiece guy. There are certain records. Sgt. Peppers is one of those records you have to hear on vinyl, on headphones. You know I don’t really care about audiophile pressings of records, I’d much rather listen to music on vinyl that I’d want to listen to no matter how it was pressed. Sometimes some of the stuff that I love is recorded so poorly it sounds like shit no matter what format you listen to it on. But vinyl is my preferred format. I don’t really listen to records that way, but I don’t think it should make a difference in how you listen to some type of music. Unless of course you’re going to get a warmer sound, in that case I’d say every record.

Now some record labels include a free digital download with their LPs. Do you think this defeats the purpose of selling a physical copy?

Definitely doesn’t hurt. People who have record players and collect vinyl still are not at home with their collections all day. I think it’s great. It’s really nice that labels include that. That way you can play that record for a friend in a car on a road trip. You don’t have to wait to get home, download it illegally or pay for it twice. I think that was one of the major faults of the music industry and one of the reasons it’s hurting so much right now, because labels try to get people to buy something more than once. You should never really have to do that. A department store doesn’t put out the same pair of jeans over and over again, expecting you to re-buy them. I feel like the music industry should have focused on developing new artists and getting people to buy new records, instead of reissuing a bunch of old stuff. Digital media isn’t even that old and there are some people who are getting over it. Someone came into the store saying, “I just bought a car with a tape deck. I need tapes now.” Sure they can plug the media player into the tape deck, but some people just still want to have tapes.

Music is something that you want to hold onto and show people. Put on display. It’s like a book collection or a wardrobe. You can just wear one shirt and one pair of pants all day, everyday. But that doesn’t reflect a person’s personality. That’s kind of the best part of owning records, well one of the things, is that you get to put it on display. It’s all there for people to look through. For people to get an idea of what you’re into. Instead of you going ‘I LIKE THIS I LIKE THIS I LIKE THIS’.

Will cassette tapes ever see a rise in popularity?

They are in a certain way. Not in the way of vinyl. They’re not a viable format for a long term. They wear out pretty easily, portable to a certain sense, like CDs. There’s a certain air of “hipness” to them. Cassettes are great, but I don’t listen to them that often.

If I was stuck between buying a cassette or an album on iTunes I would buy the cassette. And besides some labels put download codes in the cassette.

Permanent Records on: Facebook, Twitter
1583 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 739-6141
Genres: Acid, psychedelic, punk, jazz, and some other bands that you forgot about from middle school

Eagle Rock Music Festival 2013

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I arrived way too early at this year’s Eagle Rock Music Festival. Which gave me ample time to wander Colorado Boulevard and happen upon Permanent Record’s own private fest. Saturday afternoon, around 2:45 p.m. a lot of bleary eyed vinyl enthusiasts crowded the aisles at the record shop, a full day’s lineup of garage rock bands crunching away.

By 4:00 p.m. the crowds had gathered, and a man in tails and a top hat was showing folks his theremin – don’t worry, it’s a wand-like instrument.

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Mobile theremin on Colorado Boulevard

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Dozens of community outreach groups were in attendance, handing out pamphlets, brochures, along with restaurants, banks, name brand beverages, and a few boutiques. There was a bevy of sponsors listed on the official map for the 2013 Eagle Rock Music Festival, but what was comforting was that no one was really trying to shove any one product into my hands. Attend any other summer music festival and you’ll be inundated with products, logos, women in skimpy outfits handing out sports drinks or sunglasses.

At the Women’s 20th Century Club I caught the tail end of Dilettante, a folk outfit that officially launched the day. Tiana Jimenez leads the band, spry on her feet, guitar close to her heart, she sang along with her players, a well-oiled machine firing off on all pistons. From outside I could have swore these were grizzled folk singers, but inside Jimenez and company showed what musicians in their late teens?, maybe early 20s? (I’m usually bad when it comes to ages) can do when they focus their talent.

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Dilettante at Women’s 20th Century Club
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Dilettante at Women’s 20th Century Club

Sunset hour – Boardwalk took to the Center Stage on Colorado Boulevard. The band bolstered its lineup, a recording duo in the studio, their final count stood at five players on stage (I interviewed Mike Edge and Amber Quintero on what went into their self-titled debut album and how puppies figured into that process.) Their set was marred by some audio issues, but after that it was all golden.

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Boardwalk

The LA Filipino-American United Church of Christ hosted the festival’s Experimental stage and it might have been the first time the church had a congregation under the influence of something else besides faith. A string instrument was built into the church and crossed over our heads, while the Arohi Ensemble played classical Indian/ raga jazz music.

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Evening swooped in, heat still rising from the ground, and the rush of families and people who found parking filled out Colorado Boulevard. I made my way back toward Permanent Records, the sounds of the festival over my shoulder, families walking in the dark along the sidewalk, a general wholesomeness wafting in the air. It was a flash, a one-day event, the schedule a bit off, but all of it going off without too much friction.

Round up:
* Lots of dogs and bicycles.
* Schedule was off.
* Everyone looked happy to be there.
* VIP section people are anti-social
* Rantz hosted their own taco truck, along with the Latin beats.
* Colombo’s was the official beer garden.
* The metal/punk/indie stage was claustrophobic to say the least
* Local restaurants offered specials, while others didn’t seem to notice that there was a festival.
* People taking hits from their pipes. We see you.
* Bike valet
* Pasadena Weekly and LA Weekly sponsored?!

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Free Comic Book Day – May 4, 2013

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Comics Vs. Toys in Eagle Rock

Put the word free next to anything and people go crazy. Free Comic Book Day is a great marketing tactic for publishers to get the word out on unknown books and new talent, and also introduces a good jumping on point for newcomers to get familiar with ongoing series. It’s also the day where grown men push children to get a free comic. Some people take their free comics way too seriously.

I attended three local shops in my area. One costumed person, plenty of sales and lots of adults were found.

THANK YOU > 5011 york blvd

THANK YOU in Highland Park
THANK YOU in Highland Park

They had themselves a sale on Marvel hardcovers. Some were as low as $3. That’s like a cup of coffee. THANK YOU’s sister store, Secret Headquarters in Silver Lake, happen to treat comic aficionados as people. There is a culture alive and well at both shops, but it seldom feels pandering, or indicative of any type of marketing ploy.  THANK YOU comes across as a great first shop for children or adults. It’s classy, while still being incredibly fun.

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Comics Vs. Toys > 1613 Colorado Blvd

They had Batman. That should make for an exciting day. Kind of weird to see the dark knight in broad daylight under a tent, but you know what, that’s cool, because you have to suspend disbelief when dealing with comic books. There’s no place for reality, physics or logic in the world of comic books. It wasn’t just a guy in a costume. Nope.

Comics Factory > 1298 E Colorado Blvd

The line at Comics factory pushed out the door. A man in a suit was referred to by the staff as ‘The Doctor’ and he lapped it up. A group of men pushed through the line and then stopped in front of the free comic books.

I picked a handful of free comics and also purchased some graphic novels, because I’m weak and I don’t like money.

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That’s where the anime lives

Also, Comics Factory has a dense manga library. We don’t go back there anymore.

The day also celebrated May The 4th Be With You, Star Wars Day, which is like a lunar eclipse over the Arctic Circle, creating the perfect Death Star joke, but I’m not going to do it.