As this is the week that over 700 independent record stores gear up for Record Store Day 2012, it’s more than appropriate — and almost sacrilegious not to — to spout off about the evils of corporate record store chains. But once in a great while they can help serve a higher purpose — like inspiring countless teenage music-nerd employees on how they would do things very differently when/if ever they open up their own music shops. For Miami’s own indie music scene builder (and former Virgin Megastore employee) Lauren Reskin, this would translate into creating a space that is far beyond brick-and-mortar retail shop and is instead more of a nerve center to a thriving independent music enclave.
More resident community center than retail operation, Sweat has been the place for everything from all-ages hip-hop shows and origami parties to board-game nights, vegan waffle brunches, and open-mike comedy in its seven-year existence. Lauren (a.k.a. Lolo) spoke with Salty Eggs about Sweat’s future plans (including resurrecting the shop’s own record label), the joys of vinyl, and the best parts about being your own boss.
Salty Eggs: What was your first musical memory? Mine was playing my parents’ worn copy of Kenny Roger’s The Gambler on my own Fisher Price record player.
Lauren Reskin: My dad is a professional trumpet player so my earliest musical memories are of him practicing and doing scales in the house. To this day when I go see him play shows and concerts, and I can immediately pick him out when the orchestra is tuning and warming up.
You were raised in South Florida. What was your first inkling that Miami had a little scene of music that you could get into? What was your first local show?
It wasn’t a show per se but the first event I went to that blew my mind was Blow-Up at the Hungry Sailor (now Sandbar in the Grove). Before I even went I bugged out at the flier that had a list of band names on it (“Supergrass?? Elastica?? The Jam?? They’re going to play all of this IN PUBLIC???”). I was 15, and it changed me profoundly to see that other people in the city also liked good music. I had previously been the lone “Britpop crusader” in my massive high school.
Let’s talk mix-tapes. Who made you your first mix-tape or who did you make your first mix for?
My first real mix-tape efforts were in ninth and 10th grades for my friends, and were mostly Britpop and Fantasy Pop (Kahimi Karie, Stereolab, Louis Philippe, Momus, etc). I had a college radio show for a while in 11th grade that I still have some of the tapes from, and I was also obsessed with staying up to watch 120 Minutes and Amp and would make video compilations from them.
What have been the best and worst parts to owning an independent record store?
After seven years we’ve definitely gotten into the rhythm of what it means to be an indie record store in the 21st century – we’re stocked with a huge variety of music, we do events, we’re wired, etc. What’s harder is the general running of a small business: paperwork, accounting, dealing with the city/county, the fluctuating economy, and the other impediments and random costs that always seem to pop up. We’ve just endured over eleven months of heinous street construction without a cent of support from anyone but our customers. You have to be tenacious as hell to stay afloat as a small business, no matter what industry you’re in.
Miami Art Museum has done this whole retrospective on the vinyl record, everyone is gearing up for Record Store Day on Saturday. What do you think it is about vinyl that makes it a medium that survives through generations?
Aside from seeing it live, it can be argued that listening to vinyl is the best way to enjoy music. Music falls in line with other essential enjoyments like food, sex, and sleep so why not go as authentic as possible? It’s awesome that more and more people are having the experience of owning a turntable and starting a vinyl collection of their favorite albums, and I think it’s a “trend” that will continue for a very, very long time.
What’s your most prized piece of musical memorabilia?
I have a set list from when I saw Blur on their Think Tank tour, and one of the uber-limited Japanese 12-inch Daft Punk action figures. Probably those and the header card for his section at Sweat that Iggy Pop decorated himself.
You DJ, you book shows, you run shop at Sweat, you blog. What is a typical week like for you?
These days I have incredible staff members at the store so I’m free to be there a bit less. We’re closed on Mondays so every Tuesday is “get-shit-done-day” and we take care of scheduling and the priority items for the week. The other days I usually go to meetings and work from home where I can be the most productive.
When you get a day off, where’s your favorite local place to spend it?
I like to go on adventures and check out new restaurants with my boyfriend Jason. The Broken Shaker pop-up bar on Miami Beach is one of the best places we’ve been to lately. They are master bartenders and make these insane, artisan cocktails with wacky ingredients that somehow work.
People always credit you among a handful of others with helping to keep the South Florida indie music scene thriving. What do you think are the essentials to keeping a community of music and arts going strong?
Motivation, positivity, and organization. Haters and complainers are inevitable, but it’s not that hard to ignore them when you’re actually doing things and making progress. I’m also a huge tech/productivity nerd with color-coded calendars, tiered to-do lists and so on. If I didn’t utilize all of these methods and tools I wouldn’t get nearly as much done as I manage to.
You’re getting ready for Sweatstock. Can you tell us a little about it this year?
We’re doing the big outdoor stage again this year, and Beached Miami are going to be running the stage over at Churchill’s. It will be another awesome day of local music, food, vinyl, and good times, and once again it will be completely free to the public.
We’re going to be resurrecting our in-house record label and putting out some 7-inches and LPs by local artists that we’ve watched grow and believe in. I can reveal that the first one is going to be with Deaf Poets! They’ve got a tight sound and are great guys, and we’re stoked to be putting them on vinyl for the first time.
Sweat Records will open at 9 a.m. Saturday for Record Store Day exclusives followed by a Sweatstock Block Party with food trucks, bands, DJs, giveaways, and special guest of honor 2012 Record Store Day Ambassador Iggy Pop. Bands include Afrobeta, Deaf Poets, Krisp, Psychic Mirrors, Ketchy Shuby, Plains, Arboles Libres, the State Of, Jesse Jackson, Axe and the Oak, Shroud Eater, Weird Wives, Haochi Waves, Pool Party, Severe Disappointments, Jellyfish Brothers, Kazoots, and more. Admission is free. Sweat Records is located at 5505 N.E. 2nd Ave., Miami.