There’s a scene in the now-20-year-old movie, High Fidelity, in which record shop owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) sashays over to his fellow employee and whispers in his ear that he’s going to sell five records by bizarro UK trip-hop outfit the Beta Band, simply by playing one of the band’s tunes on the shop’s sound system. Co-owner of Troy’s new Sound House Records, Matthew Klein, does want to move product, but doesn’t want to be that guy (more on that in a minute).
Klein, who lives in Albany, along with friend and business partner George Weinisch, have secured retail space at 52 King Street in Troy, a two-minute walk from Wolff’s Biergarten, to open their vinyl-record-collector-focused venture, which has a target open date of mid-to-late March or early April. (If you’re wondering where in the annals of vinyl-collecting nerdom cometh the name “Sound House,” it’s actually a pretty cool story. Says Klein: “The 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon wrote in 1627 about the idea of something called a ‘sound house,’ or a museum of imaginary musical instruments. It’s a space where you would listen to different instruments and different sounds, and things would be echoed back to you. It’s an extension of that idea of a place where sound has a function.”)
The idea for the shop was hatched when Klein, Weinisch and Saratoga Living contributing writer Daniel Nester—he of tribute bands and Star Trek tour fame—were sitting around talking about collecting records. Klein had just been laid off by Russell Sage College, and the three friends had been zooming all over the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and Vermont, ducking into record shops and collector shows and chewing the fat about music, new and old. It was actually Nester that suggested to his friends that they should open up a record shop. “A light went off, and I said, ‘That is totally something that we could do,'” says Klein. That was September 2019. (Nester is not an investor in the business venture, but tells Saratoga Living that he is hoping to work there.)
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Now, Klein is well aware that there’s a bit of stiff competition in the Capital Region—even in the Collar City itself. For one, Albany has its OG vinyl shop Last Vestige, which once had an outpost on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, and Troy has the venerable River Street Beat Shop, a longtime favorite of the used-record crowd. “We were both customers of those shops, but we felt like there was a need for something different,” says Klein. “We felt there was a need for a more curated selection of vinyl—new vinyl as well as used—and we wanted to try to build a community of collectors, people who really love the music and love to collect vinyl and are looking for not only the pieces in their collection that they miss, but also a way to discover new music.” So, in a sense, not just the record-heads that might be tempted to buy into an obscure English act like the Beta Band, but also the vinyl-loving newbies, who might’ve been born in the digital era and want to take the analog plunge. Plus, there are all those folks who grew up during the vinyl heyday that might be having a nostalgic hankering for dropping needle to wax. “I feel with the digital explosion, and all the independent and small labels and [album] reissues, there’s more music than ever before for people to discover and listen to and collect,” says Klein. He’s got a point; according to Billboard magazine, vinyl sales in the US had their best week in history last December, and vinyl has even outpaced CD sales.
Why Troy? Klein says he and his business partner were drawn to the city’s walkable downtown area and its strong community vibe. “We wanted to be part of a community,” says Klein. “We wanted to be a store that could work with other small businesses and really push the local angle.” Pre-COVID, Klein and Weinisch even had designs on making Sound House into not only a record collector’s paradise, but also an event space, which hosted small musical performances, listening parties, poetry readings and the like. And though that’s not feasible right now with COVID capacity restrictions and the need for socially distanced everything, it’s not out of the question for the future. “I’m really into the idea of a ‘First Press Friday,’ where we’ll take something from one of our [personal] collections or something from the store that’s rare or a first press, and we’ll invite people over, maybe do a collaboration with a coffee shop or a brewery, have a little social time and then have people sit and listen to the album,” says Klein.
But back to that High Fidelity thing for a second. No, Klein says, he and Weinisch won’t be the Rob Gordons of the Capital Region; you’ll be able to walk into Sound House, whether you’re an avid collector or new radical, and not feel like you’re being put down or forced to buy the coolest new record or rarest, most expensive item. “We want to introduce people to what we like, but we don’t think that we’re arbiters of all taste,” says Klein. “We want to share what we think is cool.”