A chat with Poison City’s Andrew Hayden before the 2013 Record Store Day.
It was through Poison City Records that I was first introduced and, in a sense, welcomed into the Melbourne music community when I first arrived from Canada. I was initially attracted to the shop’s selection of punk rock records (many of them on coloured vinyl, of which I am unabashedly a sucker for) but it was through conversations with shop owner Andrew Hayden that I learned about an entire community of musicians playing punk rock with the kind of outright emotion that can’t be faked.
So once a year, when music lovers around the world celebrate Record Store Day Andrew Hayden hopes that people don’t just visit the store to pick up a limited edition release. He hopes the day turns into a celebration of the shop and the community it represents.
“[Record Store Day] does draw attention to independent shops, but we like to think of it as more of a celebration of our music community that’s based around the shop, as opposed to how many limited edition releases you can stock in the shop for one day,” says the affable Hayden, who used to play in local act A Death In The Family.
The Brunswick St. location, besides stocking an array of punk rock, hardcore, indie rock as well as skateboarding merchandise, is a vehicle for Poison City Records, the label. Having released albums from both local and international artists since 2003, Hayden believes the end goal of Record Store Day should be increased attention to the bands on the Poison City label.
“A big positive is that [Record Store Day] draws attention to more than just our store. I’m hoping it draws attention to our label and more importantly, the bands we have on our label. That’s certainly a positive, and we hope that this day continues to do that instead of it becoming about how many collectable pieces of vinyl you can pick up and how many reissues the major labels can put out.”
While Record Store Day can help bring attention (and sales) to independent shops that in 2013 so desperately need it, Hayden fears that the spirit of the day has been somewhat abandoned. What was originally an event meant to get people back into independent record stores, Hayden believes has gone in a slightly different direction.
“We have noticed that it’s becoming quite watered down with the major labels jumping on board, putting out these special edition releases and you’ve got the chain stores taking hold of the whole concept. That worries me a little bit,” admits Hayden, voicing a growing concern among many record store fans. It’s that kind of honesty and devotion to the music first and foremost which has become Poison City’s trademark.
When asked if he believes certain major labels and chain stores are taking advantage of the good nature of those who celebrate Record Store Day, Hayden agrees and believes the day should be meant to proliferate the very communities these stores represent.
“We definitely feel that a little bit. I find myself referring to this as Independent Record Store Day as opposed to celebrating major labels and chain stores. I think this day has way more relevance when it’s meant to keep independent stores open. It’s important to keep these stores open so they can put on shows, host events and give back to the community.”
What Hayden gives back to the community can’t be easily measured. Hayden created The Weekender, an annual weekend-long festival in Melbourne that highlights some of the country’s most innovative and invigorating punk rock acts. With an emphasis on music that uses benevolence to garner attention instead of flash-in-the-pan tricks, The Weekender epitomizes what Poison City is: a means to welcome people into a community of bands and artists that are quickly making waves both locally and internationally. Home to The Smith Street Band and White Walls amongst others, Poison City is the kind of shop where one can learn about new music without any pretence whatsoever.
There will be a few special releases from Poison City, including a new release celebrating one of Melbourne’s up and coming acts as well as a reissue of one of the label’s most famous albums.
“We’ve got a split 7” coming out with White Walls and Deep Heat. We’ve also got a special edition of The Smith Street Band’s first album. That’s what we’ve got planned, but we’ll also feature a bunch of overseas import stuff, special edition releases and what not,” says Hayden.
Ultimately though, these releases will not be the focal point of the day for Hayden and Poison City. It will be the opportunity to celebrate the community which these bands are part of.
“We tend to think of [Record Store Day more as a celebration,” says Hayden, “of what we do here in the shop and with the label, every day.”