Origami Vinyl Celebrates Its Two-Year Anniversary and Announces Record Store Day Plans
Two years ago today, LAist ran a feature about a little record shop opening in Echo Park. Many people wondered if it would weather the rough economy, but since then it's not just survived—it's thrived.
In addition to its choice selection of new and used vinyl and weekly events such as Record Club, Origami Vinyl has become one of the smallest LA venues to host some of the biggest names. Although the main room can only fit 45 people, bands such as Florence + The Machine have played the Origami loft in recent months.
LAist caught up with store owner Neil Schield yesterday to learn about Origami's new video channel, their growing record label and Origami's big plans for Record Store Day on April 16.
LAist: It seems like more and more bands have chosen to go the vinyl route in the last year. Is that actually the case?
Neil Schield: It sure seems that way. I think that's just a culmination of the last six years as vinyl has become more and more popular again. What band wouldn't want their music featured with huge art and amazing sound quality?
In this neighborhood, I think it's become a part of many bands' plans. They see how well we've done—as well as shops like Vacation—and it's gotten to the point where many bands have told us, "It doesn't feel real until we put it on vinyl."
I think a lot of people were so enamored with digital that everyone jumped into the pool, then only later realized that many people still have an affinity for these analog things. Many big retailers that were selling this stuff stopped doing so, and smaller boutiques like us have gotten to fill that niche.
Last year you announced that Origami would also start selling a limited selection of used records. How has that worked out?
Used is doing great. A year ago we bought Territory Records' collection, and we've gone through most of that. We've been curating a finite list of records that we want in the store. Since our used selection is smaller, we want to make sure everything in there is a gem. We've been focusing on punk, post-punk, New Wave, industrial, Krautrock, and all sorts of stuff. We've developed an interesting collection of used records and it's done really well for us.
Florence + The Machine Live at Origami Vinyl
You've had some big names play the Origami stage in recent months. What have been some of the most memorable concerts?
Florence + The Machine and Jónsi from Sigur Rós are two that come to mind. Florence had come in when she was just starting out, so that's how she got acquainted with the store. She'd put out her first EP on a local label called IAMSOUND. They brought her by and she hand-drew on five copies of that record for us because she loved the store so much. It was really sweet.
She told us, "The next time I'm in Los Angeles, I want to play the shop." As it turned out, the next time she was in LA, she was a major artist and her album was huge. So when she did the VMAs, VEVO thought it'd be great to have her play an intimate show in a weird spot. They asked her where she wanted to do it, and she said Origami. That was so amazing. Then months later, a couple days after she played the Oscars, she stopped by the store just to say "hi."
That Jónsi performance you mentioned definitely got a lot of press
Jónsi's in-store was just spectacular. It was crazy in the amount of press it got—from the massive lead-up to the Pitchfork article a couple days later. In that article, he said it was the most uncomfortable experience in his 10-year career. He had decided to play on the floor rather than in the loft, so he was face-to-face with the fans, and I guess the situation kind of freaked him out. He ended up canceling his other planned in-stores across the country.
It was a total surprise to us when the Pitchfork piece ran, because everyone in attendance loved the performance. It was the most gorgeous thing, but I guess he just wasn't used to performing in that kind of environment.
I saw the videos and it really was a beautiful set.
The videos helped with that situation. Luckily, starting in October, we'd been filming a majority of our in-stores with three-camera shoots in HD. I asked my video guys to edit it, and they had it back to me in 24 hours.
I sent the videos to Jónsi's management and they told me, "This is probably the best live video we've ever seen of him." It was surreal. We asked if we could send it to Pitchfork, because we needed to do some damage control. They approved and Pitchfork thought it was amazing too!
What's one band that's really rocked the loft?
One of my favorites has been Holy Fuck. They're just a two-piece, but they filled the loft with so much gear. It was like a dance party in here. We had a blast.
How can people get tickets for your bigger shows?
Most of our shows are free and entry is based on when people arrive, but for the bigger names, we change our process to ensure that the fans can attend. In those cases, we require that people purchase a copy of the vinyl album in order to attend the concert. We did that with Florence, Jónsi, Superchunk, and a couple others, because that allows us to limit it to 45 copies of the record.
It's a win for the artist. It's a win for the fan, because they have something for the artist to sign after the show. And it's a win for the label and for us because we get to sell some records. So it helps everybody out and that's how we've managed to do crowd control.
Getting back to the video component you mentioned a couple minutes ago, how has the live video side of Origami (called "On the Record") helped you grow?
I come from the digital side, and I've always wanted to film the in-stores. The loft is such a unique live experience, and we had filmed some early ones as webcasts. Then I found these amazingly talented video guys, Jack Schlinkert, Zach Rockwood and Max Sweeney.
Even though we can only fit 45 fans into the room, people all over the world can now experience our in-stores. It's grown our name among people who aren't local and it's enabled them to see what we do.
In addition to the vinyl and concerts, you're also a box office. I remember seeing one crazy long line stretched around the street—I believe it was in February—hours before you even opened. Do you remember what that was for?
That was for Arcade Fire tickets. Right before the Grammys, they played a secret show down the street. They called and asked if we would be a ticket location. They said they wouldn't let anyone know where they could purchase tickets until 9 a.m. the day of the sale. That way, when Origami opened at noon, people would've already had three hours to get in line.
As it turns out, someone in management tweeted the news at 9:30 p.m. the previous night. So as I was closing the store, I saw that someone had set up a lawn chair next to our door. Sure enough, I went on Twitter and saw that they had tweeted a picture of an origami crane with our zip code on it. So naturally, everyone figured it out. Ticket-wise, it was just us, Fingerprints Music in Long Beach and the El Rey. I was stoked that the band thought so highly of us that we got to be one of the main locations in LA.
How has Record Club grown over the last year?
Record Club is steady and new people are always signing up. It's incredible that it's been able to maintain itself this long. I love that it takes us away from the commerce and enables us to interact with people on a strictly musical level.
A few weeks ago we debuted the Heidecker and Wood record, featuring 70s-style folk music by Tim Heidecker and Davin Wood from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Pierre de Reeder from Rilo Kiley mixed the record and told us they wanted to premiere it in an interesting way. We threw out the idea of Record Club and it worked so well. There was a long line to get in and the guys hung out all night. We've had quite a few artists and labels come down and debut new records.
What's currently the bestselling record in the store?
It's probably Radiohead or the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
Every Monday night we DJ on the back patio of the Echo, where we premiere a new record in its entirety. We work with a bunch of different labels, and every album we've premiered has done really well.
Speaking of labels, have you signed any new bands to the Origami label?
We've signed a new band called Future Ghost and they're going into the studio this month with Pete Lyman to record their debut record. If everything goes right with mixing and mastering, it'll be out by fall. That will be Origami Records' LP release for the year.
Last year's LP release was by local band Summer Darling [LAist interview]. What's new with them?
They're great. We did the tour with OK Go at the end of 2010 that concluded with Club Nokia in December. Right after that show, the band's drummer moved back East with his girlfriend, so we had to find a new drummer at the beginning of this year. We found this amazing guy named Mike Horick who had just moved here from Chicago.
The band was really starting to get into a groove around the time Liz Garo at Spaceland Productions called to say that Sebadoh was doing a show at the Echoplex and their main support had just dropped out. She wondered if Summer Darling could open as their only support. So we threw Mike in the fire and it rocked. They've played a couple shows now and they're writing together. Hopefully they'll have some songs done by the end of this year and release something early next year.
Getting back to the anniversary, do you have anything planned for Sunday, April 3?
The only thing we're doing is 10 percent off everything, just as a way to say thanks. I'm just excited that we've been here for two years and survived this long. And I'm super-grateful for everyone who's supported us.
Two years isn't as huge as your first anniversary. Maybe at five years we'll do another big event. Last year we threw a big party. This year we're not going to toot our horn too much. In two weeks we have Record Store Day, which is the hugest day of the year for us.
What are your plans for Record Store Day on April 16?
We're going to have four bands play, one of which is a very special guest that I can't announce up until the time they play at 2 p.m. on April 16. It's another group that shouldn't be playing a store this small. (laughs) It's just really exciting that they are. All I can say is that it's an LA band, and we've been hoping to make this happen for a while.
At 4 p.m. we'll have Nick Diamonds from Islands doing an acoustic set, which should be really cool. We haven't nailed down the set times for the other two bands, but we'll also have Hanni El Khatib, who graced the cover of L.A. Record last month. They're a real up-and-coming garage duo I love.
And then we'll have the Growlers, one of my favorite bands. We had them play here a while back and they packed the place. They've just sold out the Glass House and the Echo, so it's going to be crazy.
How can people get in for those shows?
It'll just be based on who shows up earliest. We'll have a new band play every two hours, so it'll be more staggered.
We'll be opening two hours early at 10 a.m. and the first band won't start until 2 p.m. That will give all the shoppers—those who want to buy the cool, exclusive Record Store Day releases—time to shop for four hours before the live music starts.
We'll let people in five at a time because last year it became a bit of a wrestling match to get all the exclusive stuff. We're limiting each item to one per person. It's a special day and there will be a lot of special stuff out. We just want to make sure that the people who wait in line get what they want.
Then after that, you'll be involved with the Silver Lake Jubilee?
This will be our second year, and the event will take place May 21-22. Once again, Liz Garo and Mitchell Frank from Spaceland Productions and I are co-curating the headliners. We're still locking down that lineup and should have it announced in a week or two.
Will you have an Origami pop-up store at the event?
Yes, this year we'll have a pop-up, and we'll also handle all the bands' merch. The store on Sunset will be closed that weekend, but we'll have the store at the event. It's such a great community experience and the fact that all the proceeds go back into LA charities is wonderful.
Do you have any big plans for the coming year?
Right now, we're doing pretty well with what we've got. We've got the Silver Lake Jubilee and the FYF Fest this year. We're also working on launching an online store. It's not our goal to compete with sites like Amazon, so our focus will be on LA bands and artists, and we'll sell their vinyl, t-shirts and posters. It's still in the development phase but we hope to launch it this summer.
Thanks for speaking with LAist, Neil!
Stop by Origami Vinyl today to receive 10 percent off all your vinyl. And keep an eye on the Origami website to get all the latest Record Store Day news.