Last Collector Standing: Kevin Buckley on His Record Label, Being "Done" with Grace Basement and Why Vinyl Persists
Kevin Buckley is best known about town for playing in his rock outfit Grace Basement and playing as a solo artist performing traditional Irish folk music. For a time, he worked behind the scenes at Euclid Records, managing their online store, and now he runs his own label, Eastern-Watts Records. We met up with Buckley in his basement recording studio in his Rock Hill home and discussed his love of Beach Boys records and the lustful cover of Ween's Chocolate and Cheese.
Last Collector Standing: When you were an employee at Euclid Records, your main job was to oversee the online store. Do you think an independent record store could survive nowadays without an internet presence?
Kevin Buckley: No. The fact that CD sales are so piss poor... It was on the Onion recently that the [new] Cake record was number one on the Billboard charts and it sold [less than] fifty thousand copies. That's number one? Platinum doesn't exist anymore. Those distinctions are gone. People don't buy CDs anymore.
I think Euclid survives because they have a very strong and renowned vinyl store. It's funny, I was just sending out vinyl records - I just put out a 45. I looked up a bunch of stores online because we were going to send off copies to indie record stores. Almost every single site we went to, the first page that you see you can go two ways. You can either go to the online store or their physical store. Everybody is doing it.
As a musician, what have been the advantages for you personally with the new online music culture?
I think there are potentially more opportunities for promotion, but it's also made it a lot more difficult because there is so much 'noise' now. Before it was a little more exclusive. You had to work a little harder and be a little better to get up there. With that said, I think there are also a lot of opportunities now with [sites] like YouTube. Everything is so accessible. It's easier to find your audience. I think if somebody puts enough time and effort into that, they will be rewarded.
You can make a record so easily now, too. That just gets into the whole recording studio side. A lot of recording studios are going out of business now because people just do it all at home, but just because you spent a couple grand on recording gear doesn't mean you're going to make anything worth a crap. [Laughs]
When did you first start collecting music?
When I first started obtaining disposable income in my high school years, and I had a car. I bought a lot of CDs at CD Reunion up in North County in Village Square. I just ripped through there. I bought a lot of used CDs. I still buy those on occasion. I'm pretty sure Doolittle by the Pixies, and They Might Be Giants CDs [were my first]. I bought Son Volt and Wilco, all that good '90s music. Going back even further I remember one of the first recordings that my parents bought us was the Ghostbusters Soundtrack on vinyl. Awesome, by the way!
I always had vinyl around, but the music I was listening to at that point wasn't really on vinyl. It just wasn't presented that way. I'm sure they released it, but it was probably too expensive for a teenager. I was listening to music in the car so it just didn't make any sense. It wasn't practical.
Once I started getting into older music that wasn't available or [was] maybe harder to get on CD, that's when my collection started to build up. Beach Boys records were some of the first ones that I got into on vinyl, like Surf's Up. I was in college, and that's when I started appreciating what records sounded like. The aesthetic and artwork, I started to get it around then, [like] those Beach Boys records - some of their worst records really, but I bought them anyway. Those post-Pet Sounds records, I loved them, like Smiley Smile. Those were vinyl records. All the Beatles stuff I needed to hear on vinyl before I really got it. John Hartford Aereo-Plain, that's another record that got me into listening to vinyl. My vinyl collection is basically folk music, bluegrass, Irish music, classic rock records and jazz.