Vinyl paradise

Seattle record store is worth a summer vacation drop-in

Singles Going Steady record store in Seattle.
Summer is about to pop off, and so is the vacation season.

Vinyl records have made quite the comeback in recent years, especially during COVID-19. In the Quad-Cities, we have places like Revolver in Moscow, Dreg’s in Pullman, Skalicky’s in Lewiston and Greenfield Glass & Goods in Clarkston to do some digging for sweet records, but flipping through records in a big city is very exciting.

When I lived in Seattle I would, at least once a week, stop by a small, independent punk record store called Singles Going Steady. It’s located in the Belltown neighborhood and carries records, cassettes, CDs, books, patches, pins, etc. The gentleman working the place when I would go in, Byron Wilson, was a fun guy to chat with. Wilson has been in or around the punk scene for many years and is alive with tales and music knowledge.

With the possibility of some of you record connoisseurs making your way to the Seattle area this summer, I thought I’d have a chat with Wilson about the store so you would have the lowdown on the place. You may want to stock up on some sweet wax in the big city.

Marvin Lee: What year did Singles Going Steady open its punky doors?

Byron Wilson: Back in 1996. I joined in ’97.

ML: Is the owner the same person who founded the shop, or has that changed?

BW: No, it was started by XpeteX (the straight edge thing was a sort of honorary joking nickname). Pete had a store in Portland, and when that one closed, he opened this store. For a while, we had a store in Vancouver, Canada, but the weekly driving back and forth with stock and going through customs was a bit of a bummer, so we closed that one after a couple of years. Pete wanted to open a store in his homeland of Canada, so he moved to Toronto and opened a different record store there. Meanwhile, an old New York punk rock dude, Chris, was living in Seattle, and the timing was right, so he bought the store. I, of course, was grandfathered in. Hahaha.

ML: How many subgenres of punk do you carry, and what are they?

BW: One nutty thing about punk rock is the hyperspecificity of our (punks) labeling of genres. We have it divided into oi!, crust, hardcore and good ol’ punk and indie. But the list of subgenres under punk is incredibly long and often silly like grindcore, power violence, mincecore, peace punk, anarcho punk, etc.

ML: What other kinds of music does the shop have for sale, other than punk rock?

BW: We have a little of everything, but we do have pretty great ska, reggae and dub sections. We also have a section for garage rock (which has psych and Krautrock within) and an ever-growing jazz section. Figuring out where something should go is often confusing because I order bands and artists that I like such as Bob Dylan and Louise Attaque that aren’t really punk, and so to file them is a constant debate in my mind.

ML: I imagine you have had touring band members come into the shop from time to time. Mind running through some of the bigger names who have come in looking for records?

BW: Well, because of our location and I guess the nature of the store, we’ve had an incredible amount of touring bands that have come by. Many actors and comedians have stopped by as well. Conan O’Brien, Matthew Lillard, Dylan Moran and members of bands like Circle Jerks, 7 seconds, Black Flag, Stiff Little Fingers, Alkaline Trio, Touché Amore, Rancid, Swingin’ Utters, Gaslight Anthem, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Bjork, Cat Power, Specials, Dinosaur Jr., Guided by Voices, Sonic Youth, Youth Brigade, Misfits/Danzig, Zounds and Dropkick Murphys. Honestly, most touring punk bands stop by. Oh, Peter Buck from R.E.M. used to live down the street and would come in just about every other week. Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedy’s fame did an in-store here for about eight hours and bought a mountain of records.

ML: Who was your favorite of the above-mentioned band members to chat with?

BW: I got a great story out of Glenn Danzig which comes to mind. I’ve had a lot of fun conversations with most of the bands/artists, especially Steve Turner from Mudhoney. It seems that musicians like talking about records that aren’t their own, but Henry Rollins has been in so often that I have a kind of rapport with him. I guess I’ll go Rollins on this.

ML: How did your getting a job at Singles Going Steady come about? You’re the store manager, correct?

BW: I’d like to say my nerd knowledge of punk, but it was a combo of a friend of a friend and that I was wearing a Pogues tour shirt that Pete liked. Pete and I both have similar tastes in music, which helped, too.

ML: Are you the only employee, or do other people work shifts?

BW: It’s pretty much just me. In fact, the other day I ran into someone who saw me and said, “Ah, I guess the store is closed today.”

ML: I hear you have a band. What is the name of it, and what style of music do you play? Who are the band’s influences?

BW: I do. The Unemployables. I took the name from “The Simpsons” (“Mr. Plow” episode). A while back, we played a show, and Ean (from the band Sicko) reviewed us. He said, “I just saw a band that sounds like a band playing Gilman (a famous punk club in Berkeley, Calif.) in 1990.” A more perfect description of our band couldn’t exist. I’m from the Bay Area and indeed spent an inordinate amount of time at 924 Gilman.

Even though The Clash is my favorite band, our influences are more of those bands I used to see like Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine and, really, all the bands on Lookout Records. Just kind of short poppy punk. Our epic song is over two minutes, and we all complain about the length. Hahaha.

ML: Are there any exciting events coming up for the shop?

BW: We have a Christmas show in the works that is turning out pretty amazing.

ML: Do you have any new band recommendations for us to check out?

BW: Too many. I never want to be one of those “music was better in my day” kind of people. Music is too special to give up on for me. I hope tomorrow I’ll hear my next favorite band, but The Subjunctives are a great local pop-punk band that’s original sounding, as are The Drowns and Dead Bars.

There’s an old-school punk band called Bloodstains from California that is pretty great. Home Front is deservingly getting popular. They are Canadian. Imagine ’80s moody new wave mixed into punk. If you know the Blitz LP “Second Empire Justice,” you’ll get the idea. Of course, everyone in the world should pick up the reissued Exploding Hearts “Guitar Romantic” record. Such a tragic tale, but a flawless LP.

ML: Does the shop have a social media presence, and if so where can we find you?

BW: Yeah, but I’m not great at it. On Instagram,
@singlesgoingsteadyrecords is probably the best to use. I’m on Facebook too under “Byron Wilson.” I’m friendly; I’ll friend ya.

ML: One last enthralling question. Which do you prefer: coffee or beer?

BW: Hahaha. What kind of horrible “Sophie’s Choice” question is this? Hahaha. Only an absolute monster could choose.

Lee is a self-professed music nerd and part-time artist. He can be reached at marvin.lee@live.com.

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