Today sees the opening of Dublin’s newest music shop Elastic Witch in the the Twisted Pepper building on Abbey Street in Dublin. The building run by Bodytonic, Dublin’s most ambitious club promoters has also housed a successful café called 3FE with some of the best coffee in Dublin city centre (3FE have expanded with a new branch on Grand Canal Street last month) and most recently, The Loft Bookshop.
Alongside a new barbershop called The Boxcutter downstairs, Elastic Witch will open in the main stage part of the venue during the day. Shop owner Gib Cassidy who formerly worked in Road Records tells us about his new venture..
Why did you decide to take on the shop?
“Because I loathe myself intensely! Seriously though, I was initially a bit sceptical when I heard about Bodytonic’s idea of running a shop out their venue when I first heard about it. For all the obvious reasons – plummeting sales of physical formats, recession and whatnot. But after meeting up with them to casually discuss what they had in mind on their side of things, I began to think that if done properly it could actually work. I had worked in Road Records up until it closed last year so I’m well aware that this is a trend not just in Ireland but globally. Trev from Bodytonic and I agreed on one notable common denominator though. That is, in order for this shop here to do any trade, the traditional model of this particular record shop would have to be changed somewhat. In fairness to Bodytonic too, my overheads here are very reasonable. They had the good sense to know that somebody can’t sell music and make enough to keep going if they’re burdened with the crippling rents that other businesses experience elsewhere. The venue has amongst other things, a new bookshop and a very busy cafe. My idea for the record shop would be that people could come down and hang out drinking coffee and meeting friends etc., not just to come in and browse CDs and records and walk straight back out the door. ”
“Above all though. I love selling physical formats and lots of people I know still love buying them. It’s a labour of love so I’m going to be sensible and realistic and take it each step at a time. ”
Dublin has lacked a musical daytime hangout space for a while, was that a big reason you wanted to do this?
“When I travel to other cities one of the first things I do and always have done is check out the local record shops. In places like Berlin and London you’ll find record stores that double as gallery and performance spaces, and generally little creative hubs where people can bounce ideas off each other. Forming bands, talking about about putting on shows, letting each other know about each others shows. That kind of stuff. It could be argued that this could go on in any cafe or bar around town but I think the idea of it going on in a record shop is pretty cool. In reality it’ll probably be just a bunch of underpaid, grumpy musicians hanging out here giving out and bumming smokes off each other. I can live with that too. ”
What are your opening hours?
“For the moment I’ll be open five days a week. Tuesday through Saturday from 11am-5pm. I’m hoping to extend to seven days eventually. I’ll also stay opened for some of the late shows in Twisted Pepper if it makes sense to do so. ”
What will the shop specialise in? Anything specific that is not available here yet or anymore?
“Independent and underground music from mostly Europe and the US. My big emphasis will be on independent Irish artists though. Bands, producers and solo performers. I’m dead intent on establishing a network with other like minded shops outside Ireland too. The plan then would be for them to suggest local artists on their side for me to stock and in turn me to suggest local Irish artists for them to stock. Maybe even trading stuff! I’ll send them a few albums or 7″s of Irish bands I think that they’d dig and vice versa. ”
” I think everything is more or less available to anybody online these days so doing something absolutely specific would be a challenge. I’ll have an ordering system on the go pretty soon so hopefully if I don’t have items in-store I will be able to track them down. I’ll also be selling stock online via my own website too. I guess keeping it slightly left of centre without being at the point of self indulgence.”
Where did the name come from?
“The name comes from an amalgamation of two songs by The Fall. ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ and ‘Live At The Witch Trials’. I was flicking through records and books frantically to come up with a name- sticking phrases together and messing around with plays on words. These two seemed snappy enough together. It doesn’t mean anything at all but coincidentally it ties in with the Twisted Pepper name pretty well. Plus I love the word ‘witch’.”
Will you be doing live performances?
“Yes indeed. In-store shows by Irish acts predominantly, but also signings by touring bands if I can convince my promoter mates that it’s a good idea and it’s of benefit to the bands involved. I’d really like to host film screenings too. Also using the venue as a possible place to conduct band interviews would be good too. We’ve also already booked an art exhibition in a month or so. More of this as well as some installations and book readings are areas I want to look at too. ”
What are your favourite record shops elsewhere in the world?
“Hmmm… I love the second hand record shops frequented by wonderfully eccentric characters that you’ll find in New York and Berlin. Monorail in Glasgow is an amazing record shop too. Closer to home I think Plug’d in Cork are doing things right. A great little shop! I think Rough Trade East in London pretty much writes the book as the model for a thriving record shop though. You can go in there on a Tuesday afternoon and see kids on their iPads just hanging out, spending a bit of time in a nice environment and occasionally spending a bit money on the odd new release every now and again. Really approachable and helpful staff working behind the counter. I’d like to have a similar buzz in my shop albeit on a much smaller level. Nobody has the money anymore to go into town on a Saturday and spend wedges of money on music. Here’s hoping that some folks will be able to spend a small bit every now and again as a little treat for themselves though. It’s important to treat ourselves every now and again.”