Diggin’ The Telegraph & Vinyl Reborn

Photos and profile by L.E. Agnelli

IMG_1410It really looks and sounds  like a modern vintage record store.  Walking into The Telegraph (Music : Books : Media), you’re either A. transported back to a time when 12-inch records ruled, or B. you’re experiencing the hip record store reborn.  These days, the appeal of vinyl records and its resurgence is undeniable.

April 21st, 2012 was National Record Store Day.  In New London, The Telegraph hosted live bands like The Field Recordings and the Graverobbers, with deejays like Dave Freeburg, “Sir Round Sound,” spinning.  There were limited edition releases by numerous artists from the Flaming Lips to Bruce Springsteen.  They also gave away free “swag” in bags from record companies.

That day at The Telegraph was the best yet for co-owners Rich and Daphne Lee Martin who met eight years ago through a mutual friend. The couple was married on April 4, 2010.  In July 2010 the New London retail renaissance enjoyed a hip new addition when they opened The Telegraph (Music : Books : Media).  It was a busy year! The Telegraph is also a performance space, office space, and a recording company.  Opening  their store was  just a logical extension for the two musician/entrepreneurs.

“We actually needed office space. We do a bunch of work with nonprofits, like Hygienic Art and New London music festival.  The landlord really wanted a retail element for whomever was going to be renting it;  so, we decided that, well, we’d been running a small label already, we’d had some product along those lines, and we are music lovers as well as musicians. “

“And we had a wild music collection at home we needed to weed out ,“  Daphne adds.

“We needed to weed out some records, and we decided that we could have that office space and fill out the front of it with a record store for good measure, and that’s how we got started.” Rich continues:

The Telegraph is both record store and recording company.  Rich explains, “It’s all the same business.  I started a small press about twenty years ago, doing books of poetry.  From that  we got into doing musical releases of people in our community as well. and that kept going on and off.  We did a bunch of compilations that sort of brought in all the bands in the area.  The focus for a long while was just to sort of get bands in this area to release stuff.”

Since opening the store, all the music business got consolidated into an offshoot, the Telegraph Recording Company.  “We’ve released a few things, Daphne’s record for one.”

Daphne Lee Martin’s band, Raise the Rent, & her release, Dig & Be Dug, has a musical style best described as “Modern vintage  incorporating country swing, jazz, and a little indie R&R.”  It’s a beautiful, blue vinyl, 12-inch 33 1/3 RPM record with a color inner sleeve full of lyrics and illustrations.

“We were previously called ‘Cosmodemonic Telegraph,’ a reference to a Henry Miller book.  Not everyone got that.”  They changed the name.

Since 1999, the (Cosmodemonic) Telegraph Recording Company has done some 124 releases on cassette, CD, digital download; and lately, in vinyl formats.   

”Whenever possible, we’re going to try to do vinyl, the format of choice.  I think the CD is gonna linger for awhile because everybody’s got their collections there, but I think that most of our releases are going to be coming out on vinyl.  You also get download codes and this beautiful piece of artwork on this beautiful sounding format that lasts through the ages, so we’d like to see the majority of our releases come out that way from here on.”

According to one source, in 2011, the vinyl recording format had risen by 37%.  Another source estimates that number at 40%.  Whatever the stats, it’s undeniable: vinyl’s made an impressive comeback for audiophiles.

But, in defense of compact discs, the marketing manager of CD-making giant Disc Makers commented  “For the independent musician, CDs remain an essential part of their music marketing mix. In 2011, Disc Makers manufactured about 7% more CD projects than in 2010 and this trend shows no sign in changing. . . We have no plans to go back into vinyl production.”

The first new 12-inch vinyl 33 1/3 RPM release I picked up was Joe Bouchard’s 2009 solo effort, Jukebox in My Head.  Inside it came an MP3 download card.  Joe Bouchard, formerly bassist with the Blue Oyster Cult,  started out recording in the 1970s. In 2009 he wanted to release new material.  Format of choice?  Vinyl.

Bouchard explains, “When I decided to do a solo album, I started reading up on how vinyl was making a comeback, and it got me really excited about doing an album like the old days. Vinyl is sometimes a tough sell to the older crowd.  I think that younger listeners love the warm and fuzzy blending of the notes that only comes with analog vinyl. But I find many older baby boomers don’t have turntables. If they do, their stylus is shot. Many fans need to have the vinyl to complete their collection. My vinyl LPs are modern and retro at the same time because they come with a free download card (with three extra songs) so you can add the songs directly to your MP3 player easily.”

“Younger folks also dig good ol’ vinyl LPs .  Eric Lichter, recording artist, Dirt Floor Studio owner and record producer, describes his four-year-old daughter, Inara’s, fascination: “She’ll take out the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album, look at the artwork,  lie down on the floor on her tummy with feet kicked up in the air, looking at the album cover, listening to the songs.  She’s doing the same things we did as kids, but for her it’s not a nostalgia thing.”

Rich Martin says, “When I grew up, I bought Styx Paradise Theater and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles at Caldor’s in Groton.  (laughs)  A weird little mix.  I remember the first 45 I bought was “I Love Rock & Roll” by Joan Jett.  I had a bad phase just after that where I bought “Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits” (laughs) and I’ve never looked back on that one. “

Daphne laughs, “My mom had a great collection of stuff. Paul Simon and CSN&Y were the ones that got played the most.  Probably S&G’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and CSN&Y’s So Far — that was a big one.  Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits was always a big one in my house, and Bread.  Rich would hate that one.“

Rich laughs, saying,  “I know every word on that album.  My parents listened to a lot of Paul Simon solo stuff around my house.  That, and Dave Brubek…my dad’s a jazz drummer.”  Rich is an electric bass player; Daphne plays guitar, banjo, and sings/writes songs.

In the background, The Shinns’ Port of Morrow album is playing a lush pop sound.  The Shinns are one of Rich’s favorite bands.

Says Daphne, “We try to play all of the new vinyl.  You know, people are curious; they’ve only heard maybe one thing online or on the radio, but they don’t get to hear the whole record, so we try to spin them here.

The Telegraph sells vintage vinyl as well.  They have a pretty “deep” collection of Jazz and Reggae, especially.  And though they do also have used Rock, Folk, and Country, the Martins just want people to come in and find stuff  they’ve been hunting for.

There’s also a wall of novels, poetry, plays.  One bookshelf is playfully dedicated to “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Ultimately, running a cool record store is also work.  It’s retail: ordering, paperwork, long hours, paying bills.  But Rich says, “It’s a labor of love.  We’re not, like, makin’ lots of money or anything.  But, so far, so good.  We’ve had lots of world experience, but not really retail, so we’re learning that as we go. I mean, every week we get better at figuring out something that makes it easier for people to find what they want.”

Rich sums up:  “It all adds up to what we’re trying to do with the record label, too: create a viable scene that can survive here.  We have an amazing music scene that I’ve been a part of for 20+ years.  We need a record store in our downtown.  I had one when growing up — Mystic Disc — and you know we would all go and hang out there and talk about the new music, talk about the old music, and everything else. We really needed that in New London.”

The Telegraph, 19 Golden Street, New London, CT   06320  * 

860-701-0506  http://telegraphnl.com

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