Please give us a brief history of Head Records.
We do have a few sister stores in England (Blackburn, Bristol, Bromley, Leamington Spa, Warrington), though our store has been in Belfast since late 2010. We have moved about since then, but our punters have always followed us. We’re currently located in the Castlecourt Shopping Centre in the centre of Belfast. As an independent record store, we are constantly growing and changing to meet the demands of our customers and keep up-to-date with releases. We are lucky to be able to deal with a huge range of different suppliers, majors and indies, which gives us great opportunity to expand our stock and offer a wide range of artists across different genres and formats at competitive prices. We’ve been a big stockist of vinyl, and have been since we opened, and come Record Store Day we are the largest stockist of vinyl records in Ireland. We have gained a huge number of loyal customers who regularly shop and place orders with us, and this is a testament to all the staff we currently have and have previously worked with us over the years.
As our slogan says, we’re independent and proud!
What makes Belfast an interesting place to have a record shop?
Belfast is a music city. We're passionate about music. We're the loudest crowds at gigs; we don't sit back & expect to be entertained. We get involved!
Our customer-base is equally passionate. They know what they're after but they're also open to new music.
There's no one genre that is more popular than any other, which makes ordering stock a lot of fun.
There's been some great record stores down the years in Belfast; Caroline Music, Makin' Tracks, Heroes & Villains, Gramophone Shop, Harrison's, Dr Robert, Hector's House & more have come and gone.
Good Vibrations is probably our most loved and famous record store, mostly down to Terri Hooley’s passion and tenacity. The film, Good Vibrations, has definitely helped to rekindle the passion among the people of Belfast for vinyl as well as buying the hard product in a record shop rather than online. Punters always fondly remember where they bought a particular album and we want to be a part of all that.
What kind of music do you specialise in?
We’re blessed with a team who have a broad taste in music & it’s reflected in the range we stock.
Soul, Psych, Punk, Country,Americana, Metal, Blues, Jazz, Reggae, Dance/Electronica, Classical, Folk, World, Rockabilly, Pop. 'Stadium Rock'. The Cheesy 80s stuff. We sell it all.
Whilst we all have our passions in particular genres, we're not snobby about the stock we sell. We cater to what our customers are after. If a kid picks up the new Ed Sheeran album, they're buying 'the hard product', bucking the trend and going into a record store to pick up a CD or Vinyl to add to their collection. That should only be encouraged.
We sell CDs, Vinyl (brand new & second-hand), DVDs & Blu-Rays as well as turntables.
Who are your customers? Any famous regulars you can tell us about?
Our customer-base was always predominantly 30+ year-old males, but lately there's been an increase in the amount of kids coming in after school on the Monday to check out the new releases. Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come. We get punters who come into the store every day, without fail - Part of their daily routine. It's great that a record store can be a social hub for groups of people who just want to browse records & listen to tunes.
We've had a few 'faces' through our door! Bobby Gillespie, Martin L. Gore, Ludovico Einaudi. Oh! & Bez. Regulars? Duke Special, Cormac from The Answer, the Snow Patrol boys, and in particular, Nathan Connolly. An absolute gent & couldn't do enough for the local music scene.
Head Records with Bobby Gillespie and Ludovico Einaudi
People talk about the 'resurgence of vinyl' - have you seen an influx in the number of younger vinyl collectors?
Belfasthas definitely re-kindled its love affair with vinyl the past few years, with people of all ages crate-digging in our store for a gem to take home. We also sell record players. The demand in the run-up to Christmas was unbelievable; due to the amount of young folk putting turntables at the top of the 'wishlist' before raiding their parents' record collection in the attic. It’s encouraging in that a so-called ‘dying industry’, vinyl has helped give music a new lease of life, whether it be for nostalgic purposes for some or by introducing the format to a whole new generation. Either way, we try to look after our punters. We have a ‘Vinyl Loyalty Scheme’ to help reward our ‘regulars’.
As an independent record shop, do you feel like you need to offer supplementary activities for Head Records to work – events and live music for instance?
We try to have as many in-store performances by touring bands as possible, as well as local bands. In the past, we’ve had Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Josh T. Pearson, Bombay Bicycle Club, Alkaline Trio all play in store; as well as Tim Wheeler more recently. As a store, we have held our own ‘club nights’ at local bars – Something we intend on pushing this coming year! We've taken part in Record Store Day since it's beginnings in the UK & in the local music scene, we encourage unsigned bands to come in and plug their new EP or record to get their music out there and make a few quid, which we don't take a penny of.
What is your favourite song of all time?
Couldn't even pick a favourite band or album never mind a favourite song! It probably changes depending on what we're listening to in store!
What album or song do you play most frequently in your shop?
That all depends who gets in the earliest to pick the playlist! If you're in our store regularly, you're likely to hear everything from the Byrds to the Black Angels, Nick Drake to Steve Reich, Eric Dolphy to Doris Duke. Last year, probably most played were The War On Drugs – Lost In A Dream and the Northern Soul soundtrack to the film.
What are your current favourite Ace releases?
We received a load of Kent 7” singles before Christmas which were a joy to spin, including Darondo’s ‘Didn’t I’ (which a lot of Breaking Bad fans may recognise). The Prisoners, the Sonics & Alex Chilton or Big Star always go down a storm. I'm a big fan of Otis Redding & his band, the Bar-Kays.
Lee Hazlewood’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” is a great comp.
Of course the “Good Vibrations” soundtrack has been a great seller for us and even better for the playlist. We are very proud of the film and what it stands for, hope it will get a vinyl release eventually!
Which record do you play to clear people out at the end of the day?
Anything by ‘A Place To Bury Strangers’ usually does the job! Though, in truth, we usually stay open until the last punter is ready to leave.