How a Sydney record store keeps defying the odds!
Whether it’s from behind the store counter, in his rave days, or advocating for change in the industry, Stephan Gyory has watched Sydney’s music history from the sidelines. And he’s got a lot to tell us about it.
In our latest episode of the Stoney Roads Podcast, we speak to Stephan Gyory, a Sydney record store owner and long-time music lover. He’s been slinging vinyl since the ’90s at BPM Records, and since 2003, he’s been running his own at Record Store in Surry Hills. It’s one of a handful of inner-city record stores that lived to see the second vinyl boom of the 2010s. It’s run day-to-day by a rotating crew of local artists, DJs, and music lovers and remains one of Sydney’s best destinations for a crate dig.
We’ve collected a few highlights from our conversation, but for the full picture, be sure to check out the full podcast episode on Spotify or Apple Music. It’s there where Stephan tells us the ins and outs of Sydney’s 90’s rave scene, how he kept a record store alive during the streaming boom, and his theories on why vinyl never dies.
What keeps people coming back to the record player?
Stephan has seen vinyl through its peak, fall, and revival. During the pandemic, Australian record stores saw a noticeable uptick in sales. And according to ARIA 2020 stats, over a million Aussies paid to experience the comfort of a record while stuck at home, an 30% increase from the year before.
So, what does Steph think caused the rebirth of the vinyl record in the 2010s?
“The first boom was about the cool factor. The second boom is about the real factor, because this generation of kids has grown up on the Internet, and they are only now discovering reality. They’re discovering books and records. It’s completely the opposite of how we grew up. I had a 17-year-old friend, the daughter of a friend of mine, and she’s like, “Records are back. All my friends are buying them.” And I’m like, “Oh, why? Because it’s cool?” And she’s like, “No, because it’s real,” says Steph.
Now that so much of our music consumption is done digitally, we desire the opposite. And with live music out of the question during the pandemic, we looked for another way to experience music in a more physical way.
“Music transcends language and it brings people together all around the world. And vinyl is the last format. Streaming is not a format, streaming is a stream. People are material creatures. They surround themselves with the things that reflect their personalities and make them happy, and vinyl is the delivery system for music. ” says Steph.
Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter used to host weekly 10K+ person dance parties
Just to the Sydney CBD’s south, is Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter, a slightly sterile, family-friendly collection of music, sport, and hospo venues, including Hordern Pavillion, the former Max Watts, and the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Seeing what it is today, it’s hard to believe it used to be home to the city’s largest weekly dance parties.
In the late 80s, The Royal Hall of Industries and Hordern Pavillion were major party destinations. Started by independent crews like Recreational Arts Team and supported by the Mardi Gras, these parties would pull crowds of up to fifteen thousand people each weekend. The authorities eventually cracked down on them, but not before leaving their mark on a generation of punters, including Stephan, who experienced his first rave there in 1991.
“I got permission to go to this concert at the Hordern from my parents because my parents were very strict and I wasn’t supposed to do anything until my HSC was finished and I turned 18. But I got permission to go and “stay at a friend’s house”.
After running into some mates, Stephan said he was going home, but his friends said that there was a rave at “The Dome”. If you’re familiar with the area, The Dome is the little old Commonwealth Bank building next to the Hordern Pavillion.
“I got taken across there, and it was surreal, because other than the music and the lights inside, the best fucking thing about raves was hanging outside with a couple of hundred people. It was like a carnival vibe. I just remember being outside. I got given something, and it was starting to work. It was like, these were all people who just loved the music, this brand new music that no one had heard before. I didn’t know what a rave was. I didn’t know who the DJs were. I just went inside, and it was like being inside this beautiful giant throbbing machine, and all of a sudden it was like being inside the swells of Doctor Who, the credits. And yeah, mind was blown,” says Stephan.
How Sydney’s kindest landlord helped keep The Record Store alive
Even though The Record Store faced plenty of difficult times throughout the years, a big reason it’s still here today is thanks to Stephan’s legend of a landlord, Harry.
Despite Sydney’s ever-skyrocketing property prices, Stephan tells us that Harry didn’t raise the rent once in the almost 20 years they rented the space.
“The reason he didn’t raise the rent is that he didn’t need the money. He never expected to rent that space. When we took over that lease, Harry would drive every month in his beautiful big old car with his wife Fontana and pick up the rent check and tell me stories about the building in the past.”
“He’d been given opportunities as a young man, a young migrant, although he came barefooted at eight to live with his cousin. And he got given opportunities by people. And when he saw two young guys just trying to make a go of it and he didn’t need the money, he was like, “Why the fuck would I put the rent up?” And it’s a pity not more landlords operate that way,” says Stephan.
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