Franks Wild Years recently opened their nostalgia-filled doors on Raymond Road in Thirroul. We sat down for a chat with owner Imogen Ramsay to talk all things record, cassette and VHS.
Black Gold: So you’ve opened a record store. Why would you do such a thing when most forms of physical media are dying?
Imogen Ramsay: I think that a lot of contemporary artists are releasing albums on vinyl and many people never really stopped collecting records. Definitely when CD’s came in people started shedding their collections though. People are going to download music online, but I think people still want something physical, not all people, but there’s definitely a market out there for people who are still into the idea of getting a record out of its sleeve and putting it on a record player and flipping it. There’s something really sort of romantic about it.
For sure, but there’s no doubt it's a risky move to do what you’re doing. Why go to the effort? Are you passionate about music? Is it a thing to do?
I had the initial idea because I inherited my dad's collection. I started doing the markets, but then I started thinking about how sweet it would be if I could have a space where people could come and listen to records and hang out, as opposed to trying to get rid of the records as quickly as possible just to make money off it.
I never saw this as a thing that I could make money off. It was more like, "How can I use these records to create something really cool?" To work from that and build something from that. I don’t know where it’s going to go from here.
Do you have thoughts on where you’d like it to go or are you open to seeing how it all pans out?
Yeah, I’m definitely open to whatever. I'd just like to have a hub where people want to go and hang out for whatever reason. Not because they feel like they have to go and buy something. Just that they can be in a cool space and hang out with other people who are like-minded. I realise that I can’t make enough money just selling records so I think having a bar would be a cool thing to do because that would make it a more sustainable idea.
So until such a day as a bar might happen, what is on offer for people who do come down here?
At this stage there's a lot of second-hand records, mainly pre-90s, that have been in storage for 20 years so everything is in really good knick... Lot’s of 80s Australian rock, 70s rock, disco - a lot of disco - a lot of Glen Campbell if you’re into that, a lot of Elton John also, and they’re all real cheap. There’s a bunch of different things in there, you just have to have a dig!
Cool, and what’s this about bottomless cups of coffee? That’s my personal favourite.
Well, yeah, bottomless cups and for now they’re free of charge until a later date when it will become a thing. I’m big on the American diner vibe and having bottomless cups of coffee. Maybe donuts?Could there be anything better?
Who needs this coffee machine business?
Percolators for life! So how about you? What music do you listen to? What are you not going to sell?
Well... I’m keeping Nina Simone! I guess what I’ve found myself listening to lately is like 70s soul and disco, funk... I found this amazing George McRae album! Apparently getting into soul in your late 20s is a thing.
I just flick through and I find an album cover or something that piques my interest and then I’m like, “I’m going to check this out” and then a lot of the time I’m like, “Ohh I know this song!” or “I know this artist” but then sometimes you’ve never heard of it before and it’s amazing!
This George McRae album I’ve been playing at least twice a day, Rock Your Baby. You definitely know the song as well! I picked up another George McRae album at a garage sale the other day too. So good! But I pretty much listen to everything...
You’ve recently moved down this way, what brought you here?
When I returned from travelling overseas I moved back to Sydney because that’s where I grew up, but I have a very love/hate relationship with Sydney, so as soon as I got back I immediately wanted to get out of there.
I was on the hunt for somewhere near Sydney but felt like you were nowhere near it. This guy I met told me about Coledale so I applied for uni down here and moved this year. I started doing an arts degree at Wollongong Uni while I was still living in Sydney, but then I deferred so I could open this record store! Also because uni’s for suckers! (laughing) I feel like I’ve learned heaps more than I did doing a year of an arts degree.
How’s it been coming fresh into Thirroul and opening up a store? What the reception been like from people around the place?
I’ve heard that people are pretty protective of their local area, but everyone has been so welcoming and supportive; all the other business owners, everyone who’s walked through the door... From the landlord to the real estate agent, just everyone every step of the way has been so helpful and amazing.
I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without all of those things falling into place. Everyone’s been really great. I feel like a bit of a fraud because I’m not from down here, but I already feel like I'm kind of a local - not that I’m claiming to be a local, I’m definitely not!
You grew up not too far from here though right?
Well, in Bowral, but it’s not coastal...
Yeah, it’s not coastal, but I mean, we’re neighbours, right?
Yeah, but someone was telling me about how local you have to be around here. When you ask people if they’re local, they’re like, “Oh no, I grew up in Wombarra!” It’s two suburbs away, you can definitely say that you’re local, but it’s so localised being local here!
So there’s more than just records here...
Yeah, I also have a bunch of new cassette tapes...
...and you celebrated Cassette Store Day?
I did. I plugged a walkman into my stereo.
I can’t believe that cassettes are coming back around again, but I love it all the same.
It’s pretty fun. Dust off your old tape deck in the car and chuck a tape in there. It’s so good! We also have some CD’s, some music books and assorted other things.
Can you tell me about Spice Power?
Oh, sorry, how have I not mentioned that earlier? There’s one Spice Girls - The Movie legit on VHS, but there’s also Spice Power, which is unauthorised. They’re both for sale but I’ll probably be upset if someone actually buys them. Maybe one night we could just have a VHS viewing of Spice Girls - The Movie?
You should definitely do that.
I really want to get a projector, but I'm not sure where I'd screen it. Maybe we could all lie on the floor and put it on the ceiling. Would that just put everyone to sleep though?
Probably. Movie screenings would be really great though. Are you thinking of doing that?
Oh yeah, for sure. We’re listening to George McRae right now by the way. It’s just so good!
Brilliant. I do know this song.
You could just listen to it all day...and I do! The other movie I have is The Goonies, there’s currently only three VHS’s for sale.
Could you ask for a better range though?
I know. What more do you need? The Goonies wasn’t my generation but my siblings and I used to always watch a VHS copy of The Goonies we had taped off the TV, with all the ads. Plus, like when you forgot to stop recording during the ads, and then also when you forgot to start recording again when the ads finished...
I had Back to the Future Part II recorded from the TV and used to watch it seriously like every day. That was my childhood. So many viewings of Back to the Future Part II recorded from TV. With everything you have here all the records, the books, the cassettes, the VHS’s, it’s definitely an entire era that is practically disappearing. There’s a lot of nostalgia in this place, from the furniture, to the decor, to the wallpaper, are you hoping to give people a sense of the past here, to keep things alive? Do you just love it all personally?
I absolutely do! I think it has a lot to do with my parents’ influence on my life. If you go into their house it looks like a museum, to the point where it’s overboard though. I think that’s ingrained in me. I guess I wanted to make it feel like you’re just hanging out in someone’s lounge room. Listening to records and having a cup of coffee and sitting in a sweet chair... I realise that I could have done something like computer programming, which would have been much more relevant to 2015.
It would probably make you more money, but it would be nowhere near as awesome as this place.
Yeah, the response I’ve had so far from people has been like, “It’s so nice being in here!” and that’s definitely what I’m going for. I just want it to be a nice place to be.
I’d have to agree with that. It feels like you’re in someone’s lounge room. You can just hang out, relax, you’re not under any pressure to buy anything, if you want to there’s really great things you can buy, but otherwise it’s genuinely just a really sweet place to hang out. So your dad had a record store in Bowral, was that when you were growing up?
When I was in primary school I used to walk to the shop after school and I would hang out there all afternoon there until the shop closed and then we’d go home. It was mad, I loved it! He sold predominantly CD’s. It was the 90’s, so it was like, “CD’S!!! CD’s are so much greater than LP’s!” There were CD’s, VHS's and an ABC Centre there as well and then out the back was a vinyl lounge.
I feel like Dad did all the hard work for me, collecting all the records, but now I’ve taken that on - going to garage sales and doing the hard yards. But yeah, that was the environment I grew up in.
My first job was cleaning shelves for Dad. I got paid $5 an hour to dust the shelves and all the CD racks, but I was heaps lazy and I used to hide for a few hours and then I’d be like, “Finished!” All I would save up to buy was music from his shop anyway, so it was like, yeah I haven’t done any work, but all that money you’ve given me I’m putting back into your business anyway, so it’s fine.
That's classic! A lot of people have old record collections that they’re looking to get rid of. Are you buying records as well?
Yes, absolutely. I’m definitely open to that. Any time, I would be incredibly grateful in fact if people brought their records in. People have already started doing that and if people continue doing it we can help each other out.
So you’re having a big launch Friday, October 30. What can people expect from that?
It should be interesting, I’d imagine. Joseph Liddy and the Skeleton Horse are playing. I'm pretty excited. Those guys are fab.
And they're not just any band. How big is the band and how big is this space?
So it’s a ten-piece band.
How many drummers?
Two drummers, yes. Look if the full band were able to attend the evening there would be no room for anybody else in the building. It’s going to be a scaled back Liddy. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less amazing though. It’s going to be a little bit different. There’s going to be a few surprises. I don’t want to give too much away though…
Franks Wild Years is located at 3/2a Raymond Rd, Thirroul. The big opening party is Friday, October 30 from 7pm.