We here at The Deli KC would like to welcome a new member to the Kansas City music community: Mills Record Company, who celebrates its soft opening today! I spoke with Chris DeLine (formerly head of the music blog Culture Bully in Minneapolis) a bit about the shop and what you can expect to find there.
The Deli: Most important question: When does MRC open?
Chris DeLine: We’re open right now. Soft opening (not to be confused with a flaccid opening, which is something far less comfortable) notwithstanding, we have something planned a few weeks from now once we get our sea legs and are a little more settled with the whole “I give you records, you give me money” thing. We’re thinking an in-store, and I wanted to call it a “Holy Shit, I Can’t Believe We’re Still in Business” party, but that title seems a little long for posters. Plus, anyways, we have to make it that far first… horse before the cart, here.
The Deli: Some might say that record stores are dying out. Sadly, there are really only a select few left in the area (Vinyl Renaissance, Zebedee’s, Love Garden, Kief’s Music). Why did you all decide to open one?
DeLine: Some might also say that record stores are experiencing “a quiet ‘revolution’.” At least that’s what Fox 4 News’s John Holt said when he ran a profile on Zebedee’s this week. The Village Voice just published off a post-Record Store Day round-up of national headlines declaring record stores on the up and up (my favorite is “Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back”).
Maybe one more link, for the hell of it… this from Billboard: “A total of 244,000 vinyl LPs were sold in the week ending April 21, according to Nielsen SoundScan—the largest one-week sum for vinyl albums since SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991.” Still a niche market? Absolutely. But to call it a “dying” market seems dramatic and uninformed.
The Deli: How long has this been in the making?
DeLine: Somewhere between a few days and a few decades. You’d have to ask Judy Mills, the lady with her name on the sign (once we get the sign). After the company she was working for died on the vine, she really wanted to do her own thing for work rather than dive back into some corporate schlock. We’ve been friends for a couple years now, and when we were talking about the idea I agreed: shlock don’t rock. I can’t speak for Judy, but I can speak about what I know, and what I know is that she is a fan of music. We’re all fans of music… right, pretty generic statement. But she’s the sort of fan who is opening a goddamn record store in a time when some are saying that “record stores are dying out.” Pretty ballsy, if you ask me.
The Deli: Who else is involved with MRC? What’s your background with music?
DeLine: I’m just a dude who needed a job, and happened to have a friend who needed someone to run the cash register. Beyond that though, for the better part of a decade I ran a little music blog. For a few years there it was even a full-time thing for me—paid the bills and everything. That’s how I met Judy, actually. No doubt this will piss somebody off to no end—or at least someone local who is thinking “damn, I should be the one working at a record store”—but I just moved to Kansas City. So not only have I never worked in a record store before, but my ties to local music are limited to the crash course I’ve been giving myself the past couple months. Think I’m doing okay in terms of sorting out the who’s who, and what’s what though… 45s are the little ones, right?
The Deli: You plan on carrying local music in the shop. What other sort of connection do you hope to have to local artists?
DeLine: This is the fun part: My whole aim is to bring some local flavor into the equation (Emphasis on flavor). “But you just said you’re not from Kansas City, ya jackass,” you might be saying. And you are right, I’m not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any interest in doing what I can to support the community that I now call home. In March I started the MRC Blog, which really only focuses on what’s going on around town. Every morning I’m posting a listing of the night’s local live shows in KC and Lawrence, in addition to a rundown of new local music, media coverage, and concert announcements. It’s not much—I’ll give you that—but it’s a start. We’re also slowly opening the blog up so more people can contribute, covering local shows, and new music on a daily basis. Baby steps…
Tying that in, we have space in the shop for in-stores and are starting to plan how we want to attack that to help give local musicians a place to do their thing if they want (And part of the shop is actually a boutique—I call it “Etsy stuff”—focusing on local artists of another type.) The crew at Demencha magazine subscribes to the motto: “Locals Before Legends.” I don’t know that I agree with that completely (sorry Spirit is the Spirit, but Wu-Tang comes before you), but damned if we’re not going out of our way to help give love to the home team.
One more example: We’re only stocking vinyl… Except for local artists. It’s not exactly in the budget for most local creative types to get a rad vinyl pressing done of their latest and greatest. And we get that. We were on the fence about it, but as we get going we’re going to start taking on new CDs from local musicians. First CDs in the store are going to be from Troglodyte, as a matter of fact. If that doesn’t say something about how dedicated we are to repping local, nothing will.
The Deli: Do you have any favorite local albums? And anything (local or not) you’re particularly looking forward to carrying in the store?
DeLine: Bloodbirds’ Psychic Surgery (see The Deli KC’s review here) and Gee Watts’ Watts Up mixtape are two that have stood out recently. By the time this hits the web we’ll have Psychic Surgery on vinyl (priced to move!), and if Watts Up makes it to CD, it has a home in the shop as well.
Far as (inter)national releases go… I’ve been trying to nail down a confirmation on getting this new Quasimoto album that’s coming out. Forgetting the memorable nature of the music and why the release is important to hiphop heads, the bonkers packaging alone still makes it completely worth the money.
Seriously: it’s bonkers.
Check out the new store, located at 314 Westport Road. The hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Also, check out the MRC Blog as another great resource to find out what’s going on in the world of Kansas City music. There’s even an interview with yours truly, if you care to read it.
Interview originally published May 3, 2013 by The Deli.