Griffin Kay on Novelty Records and the Pay-What-You Want Model
Often times the biggest music collectors are musicians themselves. This is certainly true for So Many Dynamos guitarist and long-time record collector Griffin Kay. We recently met with Kay outside his Soulard apartment as he was carrying a new record player upstairs. His fiancé Nicki's cat had used their previous turntable as a cozy, rotating bed, leaving its turn-belt inoperable. After setting up the new record player and listening to side A of Jets To Brazil's Four Cornered Night, we discussed So Many Dynamos history of releasing vinyl and a rare record sold in a specialized pizza box.
Last Collector Standing - So Many Dynamos signed with Vagrant Records in 2008. Did you feel like it was an odd time to sign to a record label?
Kay - 2008 was definitely an odd time to be signing to a record label. At that time, CD sales were just plummeting. Even more so now, labels are becoming less relevant. In talking with Vagrant, we asked them, "What are you doing to adapt to the shift in the music business as digital becomes the new norm?" The labels that are remaining relevant are adapting to the new business paradigm, but we were really excited because it was a step up for us.
The last record you released with Vagrant was the "New Bones" single on colored vinyl in 2009.
Yeah. I've got one copy left. We did a promotional single with "New Bones" on a yellowish-orange vinyl, limited run of 300.
As a collector of vinyl, how does it feel to release music on wax?
Our last two records came out on vinyl and I can't foresee us doing a release that doesn't come out on vinyl. I remember when we got Flashlights LPs at out house. So Many Dynamos used to share a house together in Edwardsville, Illinois. I remember walking out on our porch and the records of Flashlights came in. I was really excited and I ripped them open. I had a Pinocchio-like moment, "We're a real band! We're on vinyl." It was really, really satisfying. It was definitely a life highlight. We're on vinyl. This isn't something you can delete.
How did you start collecting music?
As a kid there was always music played in my house. My dad is an avid music fan. A lot of the records I have used to be his. At one point, he got tired of having them in the basement and let me have them. I was a kid of the '90s. I started off with cassette singles and CDs. The first CD I ever got was Pearl Jam's Ten, around that huge wave of early 90s alternative rock.
I got really into music, not just as a hobby but as a passion; I was a music kid. There were kids that were into sports, kids that were into church. I was into rock music. I dug out my parents old record player and dug out some of their old records. Now that I think about it, it was kind of a turning point. My neighbor across the street was having a garage sale. He was selling all his old records. I got Jethro Tull's Aqualung, a bunch of Beatles records. I got Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies, the live record. The real sad part about me getting [Jimi Hendrix] for ten cents is that the neighbor I was purchasing it from was present at that concert. Now he was a suburban dad and had no use for his records and was selling them off. To think he'd come to that point. Note to self, "Don't suck when you're old."
I basically acquired a bunch of classic rock records and a year or so later as I became an angst-y little suburbanite I got into punk. Vinyl never went out of style for punk. Getting into bands like Black Flag or the Misfits. Their records are still available at independent record stores.
Do you remember the first punk record you bought?
It was Out of Step by Minor Threat. I had the complete discography on CD, but I saw it for eight bucks at the record store and thought it be cool to have the vinyl. I believe that they ended up rerecording that and the version that is on the vinyl and the version that is on the Complete Discography are slightly different.
Do you have a favorite record in your whole collection?
It depends. As far as packaging goes, I would have to say Radiohead In Rainbows. It's one of the greatest packaged records.
It's really interesting that you say that album because In Rainbows was the album that Radiohead gave away for free. Why did you choose to buy it on vinyl when the band gave the album away as downloads for whatever you wanted to pay for it?
When reading about the deluxe record set it just sounded too cool not to own. At the time I was pretty broke, but my fiancé bought it for me as a gift. If I can have the super amazing version of this, why not?
As far as favorite record musically... If you put a gun to my head and say, "What's your favorite record of all time?!" I might say Kid A by Radiohead. How do you follow up one of the greatest guitar records of the '90s? You put out a record with no guitars at all.
Do you have a guilty pleasure record?
I collect a lot of things for novelty. I once bought a record because it was a bloopers in comedy record. It was described as quote, "Totally Hilarious Boners." [Laughs] It says boners. Sold for three dollars.