A trip to Frank’s Wild Years is like a trip to your Grandma’s house – if your Grandma has a boss ass record collection and hasn’t changed the wallpaper since before your mum was born. Nestled in the sleepy town of Thirroul, about an hour south of Sydney, Frank’s is the newest nearby haven for pre-loved vinyl enthusiasts.
The aesthetic of Frank’s is on par with the hospitality and familial warmth of its’ owner, Imogen Ramsay – who always has a fresh pot of coffee or cheeky glass of red on offer for those who visit her. We recently headed down on a misty Thursday afternoon to have a cuppa and a chat.
What made you want to open a record store?
I was given a collection of 10,000 records by my Dad, who owned a music store in the 90s - they had just been sitting around in my Grandma's garage for the last 15-20 years. His intention was for me to earn some cash whilst studying. But I had a better idea ... drop out of uni and open a record store. Well at least I think it's a better idea.
I moved down the coast at the beginning of the year because I'd had a gutful of Sydney and just fell in love with the place. It's so stunning and the people are just nicer. I can't imagine ever wanting to move back to Sydney. There are lots of cool things happening around Thirroul so I thought I would try and get in on it.
Given how easily music is shared online nowadays, and a huge proliferation of free tunes - both the legal and naughty kinds of downloads - it seems that a lot of record stores have closed down. Was this a concern in the viability of opening Franks Wild Years?
It's definitely not the most foolproof business concept, it seems shops of all sorts are having to close their doors with the shift to online shopping, due to the insane increase in rent. I want to take things to the next level and am intending to get a liquor license and have a bar in the store. Listen to Donna Summer on vinyl and sip on a margarita? Why not?
I think most of the successful/surviving record stores have a strong online store to accompany their shop front so I'll also be looking into setting that up in the future.
What is it about physical forms of music that is so attractive?
Sometimes you need a bit of guidance. When you have the choice from all the music in the world it's hard to know where to start. I think when you go into a record store and have a dig you find albums or artists you love but have forgotten about or you find something you've never heard of before and get it because it looks cool and ends up being the best album you've heard in ages.
Nostalgia is a big one. A lot of people have thrown out or given away their record collections and are now buying the same records again. People also see album covers and are taken back to the time when they were younger with some beautiful memory attached to it, the first album they saved up to buy or how they travelled all the way into the city to buy it when it was released.. I think for a lot of people it's reliving happy times in their lives.
An album cover is an artwork in itself and a 12" cover really displays it how it was intended. Then you have the inserts and all the information on the sleeve, sometimes a cheeky poster. And there is something about having a physical object that you put on the record player – it's so much more engaging.
They become a part of your identity like anything you buy – books, clothing, furniture – it's because you love it and you want to surround yourself with things and people you love. How depressing would it be if you just owned a computer with a cloud somewhere in a sparse house? I would say that though - I'm a hoarder.
Having said that, there are many people that collect records purely for their monetary value. And they sadly get stored away in the thousands.
Why do you think it is that vinyl that has endured as a physical medium of music more than, say, CDs or cassettes?
For most of the albums I have in stock they were released on vinyl first, and nothing is quite as good as the original right? Sure, CDs and cassettes were more compact, but the authenticity somehow seems lost on those mediums. People often say the sound quality is a lot better on vinyl too. It definitely has a different feel to it, that's true, but it also depends on how much of a music nerd you are.
Cassettes are making a bit of a comeback, but more as a novelty I think because we all know how quickly they start sounding warped from sitting in a hot car.
I notice a number of high-level cringe factor vinyl covers around the place. Do you have any stand out favourites?
I get hours of entertainment from sifting through fabulous album covers. There are also some pretty great Aussie compilations that have cool album covers and titles. I feel like people take themselves too seriously these days, or maybe they were taking themselves seriously back then? Maybe they aren't supposed to be funny...? Surely...
Do you have any items in the store that are too sentimental to sell?
It's hard to not get attached to things. I have had to part with a few things already that I didn't want to - a sweet Bob Marley cassette, a Brian Eno record, my housemate nabbed my Led Zeppelin IV, but I can't be such a hoarder! And I need to pay rent! But if I really can't part with something I'll just price it at $100...
Do you plan to get new stock in or just keep selling second-hand records?
I have been sourcing more second-hand records and people have been bringing crates into the shop for me to buy which has been so helpful. But I am going to start stocking new vinyl as well; I'll have new stock from Spunk Records very soon!
When you do get these fresh records on your shelves - who are going to be your first to order?
I 'd be keen to get some local music on the shelves – maybe some Shining Bird, some Mac Demarco would be cool too. Also keen for some sweet reissues.