Record shops are only the constant vessel for creativity, but also provide the heartbeat to our community.
Aside from streaming services and the accessibility they provide, COVID-19 was yet another immediate threat that even the most optimistic souls among us forecasted as a death knell to the establishments that have created golden pathways throughout some point in our lives.
Record stores are made of stern stuff, though. They are a place where all of us develop our own story in time. Mine is an amble through Sefton Park, and upon turning left onto Smithdown Road from Greenbank Drive, there is a yellow strip that stands out from every other shop in vicinity. Illuminating and ever present, it’s the sign of Defend Vinyl.
Opened in 2016 by Graham Jones, Defend Vinyl has been a home away from home for many music aficionados around Merseyside. A place to seek refuge and absorb releases both past and present.
Thankfully Defend – along with most other independent records shops in Liverpool – survived the COVID-19 pandemic, and in a world where people are slowly starting to reconnect with a real world that was severed almost three years ago, the likes of Defend Vinyl are a perfect example of community strength. An essential vehicle of joy, reaffirming that the people of Liverpool will move heaven and earth for independent businesses like Defend Vinyl to not only continue, but prosper.
And speaking of the latter, Jones, alongside Chris McIntosh, have also started the record label, Defend Vinyl Records, which earlier this year released Puzzle’s excellent debut LP, Halfway Home.
Earlier this month, Graham agreed to answer some of our questions along with providing (quite fittingly) his favourite 13 albums of the year.
Sun 13: How has the year treated you and the team at Defend?
Graham Jones: “It’s been a really good thankfully. 2022 started off with Elvis Costello doing his Pirate Radio Show/webcast from the shop which set a pretty high bar for the rest of the year. The shop turned six in October which I still can’t get my head around.”
S13: It’s been a year where, steadily, things have started becoming ‘normal’ again (politics and world events aside, of course). Have you seen an increase in hunger for vinyl?
GJ: “I think a lot of people rediscovered their record collections over the first lockdown. Everyone was looking for something to keep themselves entertained and a lot of people started collecting records or became more serious about it.”
S13: You’ve started a record label, too. What was the inspiration behind that?
GJ: “Since opening the shop, that was always in the back of my head as something to do down the road. What prompted us actually going ahead with it was Chris (my best mate and label co-runner) getting the rights back to the second Silent Sleep album which became the first release on the label. That was recorded back in 2015 and was supposed to have a vinyl release at the time but didn’t for one reason or another. So not long after Chris discovered he owned the songs again we sent messages to each other on WhatsApp simultaneously suggesting reissuing it ourselves on a Defend Vinyl label so it seemed a bit like fate.
“We were so happy with how that first release came out and then to have Puzzle, one of our favourite bands as our second release from the label was unreal.”
S13: What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to in 2023 the most?
GJ: “Right now, I’m particularly looking forward to what we have lined up on the label. We’ve got some really exciting announcements coming up in the New Year about some incredible music that will be coming out on the label throughout 2023 including release dates so watch this space.”
S13: The all important question. What are your favourite albums of 2022?
GJ: “In no order…:”
Big Scary Monsters, Counter Intuitive, Inpartmaint Inc., Montgrí
MICHELLE: After Dinner We Talk Dreams
Anxious: Little Green House
Run For Cover
Death Cab For Cutie: Asphalt Meadows
Atlantic Recording Corporation
The Afghan Whigs: How Do You Burn?
Looming: Anybody’s Baby
No Sleep Records
Steph Green: Thanks For That
Mashed Potato Records
Puzzle: Halfway Home
Swami John Reis: Ride The Wild Night
The Beths: Expert In A Dying Field
Carpark Records/Ivy League Records
Future Teens: Self Help
Triple Crown Records
Archers of Loaf: Reason In Decline
Visit the Defend Vinyl website.