Posted by: – Aug 17, 2009
If you’re a regular shopper at Plan 9, you’re probably well acquainted with the goodies that lurk in the basement. I’m talking about those racks and racks of wonderful, glorious used LPs (and oh-so budget friendly), and a good amount of used CDs, too. Being a used vinyl addict myself, I began to wonder what the bands I like would buy if we were to go record shopping together. Would we fight over The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, or would they buy reams of Chicago records and fawn over Neil Diamond? My inquiring mind had to know.
The first band I chose to shop with is War Tapes, a band on the rise straight outta L.A. I hardly ever think bands describe themselves accurately, but the War Tapes’ description of “heart-quaking doom pop” is pretty dead on. What that means is that they’ve incorporated shades of the misty gloom perfected by that handful of British bands (like the triumvirate of Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Psychedelic Furs), along with tons of the accessibility, poppiness, and sweeping soundscapes that are hallmarks of modern day moody melancholics Interpol and Editors. Having seen them live twice already this year, I can also vouch for War Tapes as one of the best live bands I’ve seen all year. The intensity of their live shows hinge solidly on frontman Neil Popkin, dark and smoldering as he stalks the stage and gives voice to vexation, frustration, and wistfulness. His’n’hers rhythm section of drummer William Mohler and bassist Becca Popkin are joined by fierce axeman Matt Bennett, and all together the three of them make one heck of a racket. Take them off the stage, and they’re four of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. We had a grand time pillaging the Plan 9 basement the night after their great show in DC at the 9:30 Club. Much merriment and mirth was had, the only downer being the band’s realization that they had to purchase carefully to allow for spacial configurations in the van (which meant going easy on the vinyl). After the shopping, the guys and gal answered some questions, which you can read below.
Please note: I’ve edited out the ridiculous amounts of giggling that went on.
Megan: Please explain why you chose your respective albums.
Neil: I got some Happy Mondays, because I've only heard one song by them but want to hear more, Pelican because I heard a song of theirs on the radio once and I wanted to hear what the rest was like, some Billy Idol because he’s awesome and is an underrated pop star, Pulp because I've always been a big fan of theirs and this single has a live version of “Common People”, and I got the Vanishing so I could hear more from them than just the one song I knew of theirs already.
Matt: Carebears Picture disc vinyl because I care, Mew’s new CD single (I cheated! It wasn’t from the used bins!) because I can't wait to hear what they’re up to now, they’re one of the best bands out there now, Terror because what this tour has been lacking is a little Boston hardcore, Dire Straits self-titled vinyl because I love Marc Knopfler and he’s one of my guitar heroes, and The Cars vinyl for the Saturday morning awesome dance parties I plan to start having at my apartment.
William: The U2 "Sweetest Thing" single because it has two previously unreleased live songs from Red Rocks in 1983, Billy Idol as well because I also believe that he’s incredibly underrated, Bram Stoker's Dracula soundtrack because I love the orchestral pieces in that movie, Impractical Cockpit [emphasis on cock] because it is the worst band name I have ever heard and I'll buy any band with the word cock in the title, and the last dollar bin find is International Noise Conspiracy because I've never actually heard their music and I'm interested in hearing it.
Becca: I got two Righteous Brothers records because Bill Medley is William's Godfather, so these are a gift for him, Best of the Everly Brothers double vinyl because I'm keeping in the brothers theme, and also because they’re amazing, Godspell Musical Soundtrack on vinyl because I was in this play in high school and it actually has one of the best musical soundtracks, Kent’s Isola CD because they are one of my all time most favorite bands! They don't get the love they deserve in the US but overseas in Sweden they sell out stadiums, Cast’s All Change, because this is an amazing Britpop band from the mid 90s that I just absolutely love. The song “Four Walls” is so sad it just kills me everytime I hear it, and REM’s Everybody Hurts CD single because it has some live tracks and demos of releases from future records that I'm excited to hear.
What was the first album you remember buying?
Neil: Best of the Smiths, Vol 1.
Matt: I bought two singles instead of one album because I didn't know any better. I got "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode and "Beds are Burning" by Midnight Oil.
William: Mine was Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? My mom owned it on vinyl and I wanted a tape version for the car.
Becca: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Southern Accent that I found in a used tape bin at a flea market when I was little.
Who's got the biggest record collection in the band?
This question raised a few eyebrows. After some discussion, it was decided that everyone has a fairly good sized collection, with Matt owning the most vinyl and Becca having the most CDs [thanks in part to her days working for a record label]. Neil was deemed the the owner of the newest music.
Approximately how much music do you own (CDs/vinyl)?
Neil: I guess about 300 total, most of my music is now in my iPod or computer. I had to sell most of my CDs to make rent one month.
Matt: Somewhere between 1000 and 1500.
William: I have around 500.
Becca: I have a lot, even after weeding through my collection it’s still upwards of 1500-2000 (and in many boxes).
Would you describe yourself as an avid, middling, or novice collector?
Neil: I would say…avid middler.
Matt: Yea, I would also say I’m a middler too.
William: I avidly in the middle as well.
Becca: I would say an avid middler.
What’s the one record you'd most likely save from a burning building?
Neil: Atari Teenage Riot boxset Live in Berlin in a limited edition tin.
Matt: The Clash, London Calling.
William: U2’s Joshua Tree.
Becca: My Velvet Underground box set because it's signed by Lou Reed.
Most embarrassing album in your collection?
Neil: "Barbie Girl" by Aqua. [Of course, Neil couldn’t resist breaking into song at this point]
Matt: Goldie's Timeless.
William: I don't buy embarrasing records! [I’m sure there’s a skeleton somewhere]
Becca: American Beauty by the Grateful Dead, but my parents were hippies!
What's the most cash you've ever dropped for an album, and what was it?
Neil: I bought “The Humpty Dance” on vinyl in its original packaging! I think it was $45?
Matt: 7 Seconds 7" called Clenched Fists Black Eyes that I spent $40 on.
William: $50 for a Miles Davis box set.
Becca: My Men at Work Business as Usual vinyl white covered version from Japan! It wasn't too much, though, maybe $35 dollars on Ebay?
What’s the best place to buy records in L.A.? And best place on the road?
The answer to the first part was unanimous, as I had expected. The winner in L.A. was resoundingly Amoeba. Road favorites included Plan 9, Sound Garden in Baltimore, and Newbury Comics in Boston, thanks in part to Neil and Becca’s childhood ties to the city and store.
What's the one album you covet more than any other that you have yet to procure?
Neil: Our next record. [Deadpan, but elicited peals of laughter]
Matt: A Pogues box set.
William: I would love to own the first rehearsal of any of my favorite bands, like a fly on the wall recording of the first time they ever got in a room and played together.
Becca: My mind’s a blank, my mind’s a blank! Ahhhhh!!!!! [Becca gave up and couldn’t decide]
Are you a picky, deliberate shopper? Or do you go to record stores and buy on a whim?
Neil: On a whim.
William: On a whim for sure.
Becca: I'm more of an on a whim type of shopper...I don't like deliberating.
What's your pick for best album of all time?
Neil: Ready to Die by Notorious BIG.
Matt: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits.
William: Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys.
Becca: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
More important: food or buying music?
Matt: Food, ain't gonna lie.
William: Food because we can make music! I don't grow my own food!
Becca: I think music is more important and way more lasting! Buying food bums me out because after it’s gone you have nothing left to show for the money spent!
The War Tapes’ debut full-length, The Continental Divide, is available in stores now.
Words/interview by Megan Petty, photos by Laura O’Neill