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| 14 April 2016 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Ella Hooper 01

Record Store Day Australia – affiliated for the first time ever with the U.S. Record Store Day – comes around this Saturday 16th April. SHANE PINNEGAR discusses vinyl with Record Store Day Ambassador Ella Hooper.

A celebration of small, independent record stores – the sort that used to be in just about every suburb, but are few and far between nowadays – RSDA actively encourages music lovers to get into your favourite store on Saturday. There are multitudes of special RSD releases, and some stores feature competitions and live music through the day.

“I’m excited, I’m pumped to be playing some in stores, which I think is something I haven’t done in years, and I love a good in store,” states singer Ella Hooper, about her first tenure as an Ambassador for Record Store Day. “I’m also excited to actually sell some of my own vinyl that I had made last year!

“I’m also just really happy to spruik the record store experience, because I think it’s a lovely part of being a music fan, and it’s not getting as much air time as it once did with all of this digital downloading going on.”

Hooper and older brother Jesse both cite their parents’ love of music as inspiration for them forming Killing Heidi in 1996, when Ella was just 13. The band went on to release three albums, including the four-times-Platinum selling Reflector, but it all started around the family stereo.

“There was plenty of vinyl, there definitely was, but mainly, I must admit it was mainly the five-stacker CD player,” Hooper reminisces. “Well, when we were growing up, we would just stack it full of our favourite CDs, but the vinyl was there for special occasions, like night times when Mum and Dad had friends over.

“They had a huge cabinet of vinyl records, all of which, I’m happy to say, I intend to inherit,” she laughs. “I think even as a child I noticed the difference between the sound of vinyl, and the sound of CDs. It was completely noticeable to me, I would be like, ‘oh, the vinyl is on.’ It would travel further, the sound would travel around corners and upstairs to my little bedroom, and I would just relish it, it was always a bit more of a special sound.

“The warmth [of it], yeah, it comes through the wall, it goes around corners. I’m no sonic scientist, but I know that soundwaves really affect you in different ways, and [on vinyl] it’s far more rich, and it’s covering a much, much bigger sonic span.”

The singer and media personality – you’ll have seen her on TV on Spicks & Specks, or caught her 2DayFM radio show – has a special message for kids who may have only ever heard music on iPods, tablets, or another device.

“Definitely try something non-digital if you’re a music fan! I’m sure they would anyway, it’s about a love of great tunes. Go try out some vinyl, or get a kick arse set of headphones at the very least, and don’t ever listen to music through your laptop speakers…

“I’m guilty of that too, I definitely listen on laptop speakers sometimes. Then you pop those headphones in – the good ones, so you get full range again, almost the full range,” she sighs with mock relief.

Record Store Day 2016

Are we seeing more local artists and labels getting behind the Record Store Day concept?

“Definitely, it’s actually growing huge,” she says. “I think I’ve seen massive growths in the last few years, and now I feel like it’s going across to the mainstream record companies, they want to do special editions, and one-off releases. I think that’s good, I think all parts of the music industry can enjoy Record Store Day.

“The [big labels] are jumping on board, and sometimes for some of us indie musicians, it is a bit of a double-edged sword, because they clog up the vinyl factories for months with all of their Record Store Day releases for their bigger artists. As with everything, when it becomes bigger, and more successful, other issues arise.”

Hooper herself will be doing two in-store sessions on Saturday, playing tracks from her new double EP release.

“Yes, it’s a double EP – two separate CDs in the one packaging,” she explains. “I’m really excited, I actually just dropped it off at the plant today. It’s getting pressed today, and it’s called Venom/New Magic.

“Venom was actually already released as a single, and it had a standalone EP, and so people would definitely know that it’s pretty heart racing. It’s very stripped back, very raw, very sort of confessional music, but New Magic is the one that I’m adding to it, and releasing it as a double. That’s a much happier, much brighter, mid-tempo, somewhat ‘90s-inspired sounds, coming from a much better place. The two work together as a bit of a journey, a la Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks…”

Ella Hooper 02

That’s setting the bar pretty high!

“Yes, I’m not comparing myself,” she laughs self-deprecatingly, “just conceptually speaking. I’m certainly not comparing myself to Van the Man! I just love that concept of two different tones in the one recording.”

There are so many reasons for kids to go back to physical product – especially vinyl. Some bands are even releasing cassettes again. Hooper agrees there is much more to a record collection than a handful of tinny MP3s on a hard drive.

“I’m not sure what is going to motivate them other than: it is better quality, of course. With digital you are getting a lot of information cut out to make it so tiny, so you’re actually not getting all of what you paid for. You’re getting a very compressed version of it, which has a lot of digital information cut out for it to be so quick, and so tiny, so downloadable.

“When you buy vinyl, or you buy a tape, you are buying physical things,” she continues with passion, “that is as good as it can be, as good as that format allows, so there’s a quality issue. And also a memorability, a sort of feeling of occasion, a feeling of supporting a band with that physical product. I think it has more gravity, and I think that shows that if you buy a CD, or you buy a tape, or you buy a record, you’re putting money in [the artist’s] pockets, for sure. For downloads, it’s more of a show of support, rather than anything practical, because we get almost no money from that. If you really love a band, definitely buy a physical copy. Why not?”

That feeling of occasion is an important point that is often overlooked when discussing the pros and cons of physical product. I can remember where I got every one of my four-thousand-plus records and CDs. I can remember the gigs, the record stores, and usually the feeling when I first heard them, or saw them played live. Digital files carry no such gravitas. They don’t give you the liner notes, who played on which song, who wrote the tracks, and all the other information and artwork involved. It’s about an emotional connection, I think.

“Yeah – you don’t get to know about where the music came from,” Hooper declares. “I’m a huge liner notes reader. I can’t imagine people not knowing the stuff about Venom and New Magic, that I want them to know. It’s not there online… it’s a great way for them to discover [music] online, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tool for discovery, and for sharing, but then once you love it, hey get the info on it, and that’s in a physical copy.

Ella Hooper - The Verses

“And great point [about the emotional connection a physical copy gives you], it really marks the moment. Me too: I remember where most of my first CDs came from, where I bought some, who recommended them to me. I remember when Neko Case was recommended to me at Polyester, in Melbourne. I was just like, ‘yeah that sounds interesting,’ and they nailed it: she became one of my favourite artists, so it’s just a bit more human.”

Talk turns to favourite vinyl albums, and as befitting from an indie muso, Hooper’s choice is someone most of us wouldn’t have heard of.

“My favourite in recent times is the Lost Animal record Ex Tropical,” she says. “It’s beautiful on vinyl, definitely a vinyl record. I had it on the other night, and someone came over and said, ‘I’ve never heard this on vinyl, it’s so much better.’ It really made a difference, that’s a killer Melbourne musician who is about to release their follow up to that.”

An edited version of this story was first published in X-Press Magazine’s 13th April, 2016 issue.

Category: Interviews

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