Please settle into your couch seat, your office chair or your bus stop bench. Lean on something comfortable or take a moment to pause. I am overwhelmingly excited to share with you Retrosmith's first interview, and to introduce you to the three piece crew from Bunker Records, Toowoomba's hot spot for vinyl and coffee lovers alike!
Alison Gillmore 0421250840
Kirsty Lee 0404 902 286
Who are the hearts and souls of Bunker Records? Tell us about yourselves!
Carl Larson - "I'm the resident music nerd at Bunker."
Alison Gillmore - "...but everyone calls me Arti. I'm a registered nurse by trade but also dancer and dj enthusiast."
Kirsty Lee takes a more philosophical approach.
"People and conversations. I love establishing a relationship with the general public. Not in the pursuit of obtaining anything more than them wanting to return to the space again. Its about establishing a genuine connection with people, sharing in the excitement of our towns cultural and community growth and our love of music."
In a nutshell, what is Bunker Records?
Alison and Carl both agree - "Bunker Records is a record store, an espresso bar, a DIY project and a bit of family."
Kirsty - "We are hoping for it to be a nexus point to build a culture of music and conversation."
What do you offer?
Kirsty - "Coffee, vinyl, players, accessories, conversation and soon to be in store music gigs and appreciation nights."
Alison - "...But also a place for like minded people to chat and listen to great music."
Who do you expect to walk in to Bunker Records?
Carl - "Anyone with a taste for music and/or coffee is welcome."
Alison - "Our customer base seems to vary greatly. We get everyone from 13 year olds to the retired farmers looking to expand their collections."
Kirsty - "The beauty of music is that it is not bound. Our audience is varied, as is their taste is music….but we still share that common love of the wax.
Personally, I get a kick out of peoples faces when they walk in and reconnect with an album they may have listened to with their parents or grandparents."
How old is Bunker Records? The concept, its life at The Grid and the new Margaret Street store.
Kirsty - "Est. Nov 2013. As co-director of theGRID: hybrid arts collective inc. we had an available space and were keen to get a tenant. It is always about generating new interest and projects. There were very few bites on the space, and at the time we had a blackboard project running in our foyer. We were asking people to write what they wanted to see in our town. And with each clean slate of the blackboard, the ‘people’ would write a Record Store. Arti (Alison Gillmore) and I began thinking on it and were later linked to Carl through a mutual friend. And now we are street frontage on Margaret Street. With the city moving the way it is; redevelopments, our monthly Margaret Street markets, and the Empire Theatre’s Cultural Precinct …well it’s a great time to be amongst it."
Alison - "It basically started as a 'what if' idea. Kirsty was throwing around ideas one day of what could fill an empty space at the Grid and we somehow came around to 'Record Store', and we thought 'well ok, why not?'."
What was the reason for the new space? What prompted the move from The Grid?
Carl - "As much as we all love The Grid, I think we were outgrowing it in terms of our ambitions for the shop; we were very obscure tucked away upstairs and at the mercy of the comings and goings of everyone else sharing the space."
Alison - "Not enough foot traffic. Even now people are walking in and amazed to learn we have been around for a year. They just had no idea we existed, and even the people who did would have trouble finding us."
The Margaret store fit out – tell us about it!
Who was involved?
Carl - "We kept sub-contracting to a bare minimum (because we're all broke), so it was mostly an effort between the three of us, Stephen Payton and his family, and local artist Jesse Wright - we have a lot of love for that man."
Kirsty - "We had a quick turnaround time, and in addition to all working one or two more additional jobs or studies…well I look around the space today and I am still amazed at the amount of work we achieved. My son also helped out where he could. He’s rad like that."
Alison - "It was basically a hell of a lot of manual labor. There were many nights that Kirsty and I were there till well past 12am, scraping, painting, cleaning. Carl and Stephen hand made the installations and Jesse did all of our lighting and the beautiful gates. He is AMAZING."
Was there a plan?
Kirsty explains succinctly, "Strip / Paint / Clean / Stock / Open."
Carl - "Yes, but it was pretty fluid; the time between the signing of the lease and our planned opening was quite short, so we had to just crack on and improvise a little at times."
Alison - "There wasn't so much a plan as an idea of what we possibly wanted the space to look like and then adapting as we went depending on what we found under the layers and layers of existing walls/ceiling etc."
Where were the items/fittings sourced?
Carl - "The great majority of them we made ourselves, almost everything besides the couch was made by either myself, Stephen or Jesse. Anything not custom made was sourced second hand or from local retailers."
On the topic of buying second hand versus new, Kirsty says "...without a thought. There was no inclination for us to hit commercial shops for stock."
Is there a story to the installation?
Kirsty - "It all started with a throw rug, curry and wine."
Carl - "I'm not sure, there's probably a moral in there somewhere. Speaking only for myself, I've tried to make attractive pieces that serve their respective purposes well out of recycled or industrial materials like concrete, ply, hessian and recovered wood. We've aimed to keep things as unique and in-house as possible."
When I was in the Bunker taking photos for this article, Kirsty explained to me that the beautiful dark walls weren't always the plan. So I asked the team how they felt about their snap decision wall colour, changing from white to black.
Carl - "I love it, it makes it feel very cozy. White is a very clinical colour, plus black does a great job of disguising spots where the plastering gets a little patchy."
Alison - "Love it. It has turned out perfectly."
Kirsty - "Perfect. It’s a great vibe in there. Warm and cocoon like."
As a first timer to Bunker Records I felt I could crawl into a corner quite easily, sipping my cappuccino, scanning the backs of records and chilling to the music. It seemed too good to be true that anyone got to work in there! So I had to ask these lucky three, how does it feel to work in your new space? What’s the vibe?
Carl - "It feels amazing for me, sitting in a shop that I helped build from scratch and seeing people really enjoying being in there is pretty satisfying."
Alison - "Alive. Apart from the fact the set up feels great to just be in, there is now a nice flow of people. Whether just walking past on the street or popping in to have a look."
Kirsty - "I have seen 3 pieces of new theatre over the past 2 weekends, either side of our Bunker opening. These shows all had a connection to the human spirit. And love. And people… and connecting with people. I found myself in each show overwhelmed with emotion, transparently so. And I realized this is the happiest I have felt in some time. It’s a great vibe. Toowoomba and our locals are excited, generous and supportive….and I think that’s kinda cool."
There are so many cozy corners at Bunker. What is your favourite part of the store?
Carl - "So far I've really enjoyed people watching through the window from the bench seat at the front, coming from our little upstairs room I doubt the novelty of having a window is going to wear off anytime soon."
Alison - "Am loving the couch....."
Kirsty - "Probably the walls, I love seeing the imperfections of the wall….that seem so perfect to my eye."
Bunker Espresso is something that didn't exist in The Grid space. Did it evolve as a customer draw card or is it a (not so) secret vinyl lovers’ vice?
Kirsty - "More than anything I think it was about encouraging people to sit in have a conversation and listen to music. It definitely allows for people to hang around for a lot longer."
Then we got down to the big question. Why vinyl? What makes you listen to a record versus a CD or iTunes tracks?
Carl - "I'm a sucker for analogue, having a physical copy of something is just so nice, and it doesn't get more physical and analogue (as far as music is concerned) than vinyl. CDs wear out and you can easily download a digital copy of equivalent CD quality. You can't digitally replicate vinyl."
Alison - "I am fascinated by turtablism so for me I guess the vibe and being able to physically manipulate and play with the music."
Kirsty - "I often have this conversation with people. For me, when I put on a vinyl I sit and listen. Its about the chair, the coffee, the view and stillness. I have not listened to a CD in years, and with digital I am more inclined to put it on and then walk away."
What is your favourite track/artist/record on rotation in the store right now?
Carl - "I love AA Bondy's album Believers, his songwriting is so vivid and emotive and the album is just hauntingly beautiful."
Alison - "New Orleans Funk Vol1. Currently playing this one to death."
Kirsty - I am loving Courtney Barnett’s A Sea of Split Peas, Bonobo Black Sands and Quantic’s 5th Exotic"
Which record would you recommend to a first time customer, old or new?
Carl - "It depends on what they like to listen to. Grownass Man by The Shouting Matches is great, it's another project involving Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), very catchy amplified blues with Justin Vernon's voice over the top, you can't go wrong!"
Alison - "Depends what they like I guess........New Orleans Funk Vol1" (laughs)
Kirsty - "Definitely would be different for each customer."
It is clear that Carl, Alison and Kirsty are all helping lead the way for fresh, artistic, community-based endeavours to flourish here in Toowoomba. Their example is one that inspires. Their passion is infectious, and their success is being keenly watched by many. Are there any words of wisdom you would offer to a person or small business looking to help #changethistown?
Carl - "Be nice. Making friends and having friends that are willing to help you is crucial but also pleasant."
Alison - "Think of what isn't currently on offer in the area and build from there."
Kirsty - "It really is about taking the risk. What is the worst you can lose? Money.
At the end of the day we can’t take that to the other side."
Lastly, if there is anything you would like to share about Bunker's future, let us know!
Carl - "We have a very exciting instore performance coming up in early November, stay tuned!"
Alison - "Everything is still evolving for us but there will definitely be some great gigs being hosted at Bunker in the near future."
Kirsty - "Keen to hear the new Aphex Twin album...a 13 year gap between their previous release…keen!"
Thank you so much to Carl, Alison and Kirsty! If you're in Toowoomba and have yet to step into this remarkable space, please do not hesitate. It's a magical musical world of caffeinated bliss! I hope you enjoyed the first interview here on Retrosmith I'm extremely keen to meet more amazingly creative, entrepreneurial artisans. Watch this space!
|Courtesy of Bunker Records.|
229 Margaret Street
Carl Larson 0412 054 852
Bunker Records open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am until 5:00pm
Bunker Espresso open Monday-Saturday, 7:00am until 5:00pm