The tone arm releases, the stylus touches the spinning record, and a sound so raw and authentic teleports the listener back in time.
Music can mean many things to different people. It keeps individuals connected and can be a driving force to help them through uncertain periods of time in their life.
Darin Tomlin, owner of Vertigo Records says there is always nostalgia involved in music.
“It’s one of those things that takes you to certain places and times in your life, whether they are good or bad, and brings out the emotions and memories you had from that time,” he says. “That connection is what is most important to myself, and a lot of people who listen to records, and music in general.”
The timeless vinyl sold at Vertigo Records have transitioned to a new location.
Vertigo Records originally opened in 2003 on Rideau St., taking over from another long-running record store called Spinables. After nearly 20 years, Vertigo closed its Rideau store on September 16, 2020, and relocated to 1208 Bank St. on October 1.
Tomlin says the idea of moving has been in mind for the past few years. There were many reasons that made the final decision easier.
After five years of high rent, limited parking, constant construction and hoping the LRT would come through, Tomlin says it was a complete disaster. These factors encouraged the company’s decision to shorten their stay in that area.
“The market and downtown core has consistently gotten worse and worse as far as crime, addiction issues, and homelessness,” he says. “It feels like the city has completely forgotten about that part of town, as they’ve done very little to help the vulnerable people in that neighbourhood. It’s really sad.”
Vertigo Records purchases new records and used vinyl from major labels and one-stop distributors. They also accept records from the public but ask to be contacted in advance if there are more than 50 items. The store does house calls to purchase larger collections and offers a quote based on the genre of music, condition, and the current supply-and-demand.
The store has taken extra precautions during the pandemic. All shopping customers are required to wear a mask and supplied gloves. Vertigo Records practices physical distancing by allowing a limited amount of people in the store at once.
Vertigo Records has a Facebook and Instagram page to post “flip videos” of employees flipping through a crate of records for sale to display in-store product. If people are interested in purchasing an item they comment on the post and stop by the store to pick it up. Business has been slower, but online sales have made up for it, according to Tomlin.
From punk to classical, and from Abba to Zappa—and everything in between—the store sells it all. “There is something for everyone,” says Tomlin.
Tomlin says customers have been incredibly supportive during this time and are the reason they’re still hanging in there.
“Our customers were a huge support during our initial three-month shutdown due to COVID, and our flip videos helped us make it through the rough part,” he says.
Tomlin decided to create an in-house record label called Uncle D Records in 2013 as a way to help friends and bands he liked to get their music on vinyl.
“Getting vinyl pressed is quite expensive, and a lot of bands just don’t have that kind of money to get it pressed themselves,” says Tomlin. “If I can help them get a product in their hands, that they can make money from, and help promote their band without having to worry about paying bills, then I’m happy.”
“If I break even, awesome. If I don’t, so what?” he says.
The label’s most recent release was last year working with the band Cross Dog. During a live performance at the House of TARG, an arcade and pierogi restaurant and the band’s home-away-from-home in Ottawa, Tomlin says he was completely blown away by the bassist, drummer, and lead vocalist. Tracy Ashenden is the vocalist, Mark Rand is on bass, and Mikey Reid plays drums.
After the set, he approached the Peterborough band to ask if they had any new material coming out. They told him they had just finished recording a seven-song album called Vigilante with their friend Dave Baksh from SUM-41.
“I knew I wanted to put that power out on wax if they’d let me, and it turns out they were all wonderful people and were totally into it,” Tomlin says. “They are a heavy, angry and powerful socially-conscious force to be reckoned with.”
Ashenden says the experience of working with Tomlin was surreal. “He’s not getting anything from it other than knowing that he’s helping us and that to me is just so amazing when people kind of do that for you because of the music you create,” she says.
The message in the music is the most important thing to Ashenden. As a writer it is imperative for her to include the lyric page with the record and says she is prone to get the message out.
Ashenden says it’s a weird time to tap into creativity with everything going on in our world.
“The struggles that we’re all going through personally and collectively, this is the kind of stuff that art is created from going through,” she says.
When Ashenden experiences writers block or feels like she can’t use her voice, she plays her favourite vinyl, The Shape of Punk to Come by Refused or reads the lyrics and says she gets inspired every time.
She says that if you can’t find the words right now, just hang onto the feeling and let that drive you to find the words later—but whatever you do, use it. The creations produced during this time in history will make a lot of beautiful and important art.
Ashenden says that knowing any time someone who’s purchased their vinyl is flipping through their records and sees theirs, it is the most significant feeling for her. “Who knows, they might think back to that show that they went to that one time or links them back to a period in their life.”
Tomlin wants to support independent artists trying to make it work. She says he has never asked for anything in return, he has just been so generous and kind.
“He got what we were doing, he just wanted to help an independent band,” she says. The vinyl’s pressed by Tomlin that are sold at their shows help Cross Dog continue to travel and perform.
The label is on hiatus because of the store’s move and COVID-19 but Tomlin says they will be back to business once things settle down a bit.
To learn more about Vertigo Records, visit their website here.