Shawn Braley
The tangible is dwindling. Tangible objects are losing precedence to digital. The analog culture is dying. Yet, there is a subculture uprising. Vinyl is quickly becoming a hot item amongst the young and old alike. Many say it offers a better sensory experience than CDs or MP3s, and it makes listening to a record become an experience rather than just background noise. There is a romantic quality to being able to actually take the needle and place it onto the disc to make the musical arrangements emanate from your speakers and into your ears. While it seems like a commodity, those who feel serious about it, have a fervent belief that they wouldn’t be the same without it. One such person is Brent Lakes, owner of Broken Circles Records, based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I started in June of 2008. I’ve been into vinyl for a long time now, and there’s a bunch of albums I really liked that had never made it to vinyl so I decided to just start a label and put them out myself.” Lakes, sitting across the table from me, is awkward, admitting, this is his first interview. He isn’t sure what to do with his hands, constantly switching their position. He isn’t the kind of guy you’d expect to be running a business, but to me, he represents something about the business of vinyl. As he said, he started a label just to release records by bands he loved who hadn’t had their album released on vinyl. This guy loves music. Walking into his house, you see crates of vinyl stashed around, not the records he sells, but the ones he listens to. The table we sit at has another stack of records on it.

This isn’t the job of your typical twenty something. Lakes parlays that at this time, he hasn’t any particular interest in signing a band, though he wouldn’t be opposed to the idea, his only motive is to get the chance to release music from bands he loves who haven’t had their album pressed in vinyl. “I just had to send a bunch of emails and make a lot of calls and finally found out who I needed to talk to and stuff” Brent explains. Broken Circles’ first release was Further Seems Forever’s album “How To Start A Fire”, which consequently gave Mr. Lakes the most trouble releasing, as it was his first time dealing with licensing. “Tooth and Nail originally put it out, so I contacted them, and I was in the process of getting it manufactured when I got a call from one of the guys in the band saying ‘you don’t have permission to put this out, you don’t know what you’re doing’. So we had this long discussion, and apparently, Tooth and Nail didn’t own the rights, the band did themselves, so it was just a huge mix up. Licensing is just a confusing mess…It took a few days, but we finally got everything ironed out.”

Being based in Cincinnati, Lakes has a strong interest in building up the city’s great scene. He recently released Pomegranates first album “Everything Is Alive” and is looking into releasing a few other Cincy band’s albums. “Obviously, a lot of the records I put out are from bands that aren’t releasing records anymore, so it’s a lot of fun to work with a band that’s still releasing records” said Lakes, with an excited look in his eyes. It’s not everyday, especially in a smaller city like Cincinnati, that you run into someone with such genuine passion for what they’re doing, and not only that, but they are superbly talented at performing their passion as well. Brent Lakes is incredibly professional while still maintaining his own sensibilities and keeping from becoming cynical about the music business or the music he loves.

As we finished our conversation, Lakes pontificated on how he would try to convert someone to vinyl if he needed to. He said; “In this day and age in music, it’s the digital age. Everyone says ‘I’ve got to download it’. So it’s just cool to have a tangible product in your hand that you can relate to, instead of just saying, it’s on my computer or on my I-Pod, I can just press play and listen to it. (Vinyl) is an experience. You have to get it out. Take care of it. Put it on. Flip it half way through. Then there’s the cool collectable aspect to it, where there may be special editions or something. I just feel like it’s a more tangible product and it’s cool to have something big, that you have to take care of in your hand, instead of just an MP3.”

As Lakes echoes the sentiment that I said above (well I echoed it as he said it first), I couldn’t help but see how detached we are. Not to get preachy, but as technology takes over more and more of our art, we lose the relationship we once had with it. We are in the age of the digital because we are in the age of A.D.D. We have shorter attention spans and less time. The idea of taking time out of our day to focus on listening kills most people. We must be doing, always doing. Henry David Thoreau once wrote; “I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.” As long as we allow ourselves to be engulfed in work and school and don’t take the time out to allow for art to affect us and help mold us, then we aren’t being molded by anything but what we do, and as soon as what we do ceases, we are empty. Vinyl isn’t just representative of something old becoming hip because it’s old. Though, I will admit, I think that has something to do with it’s recent resurgence. Vinyl’s real beauty comes in its ability to be touched, held, scratched, loved, broken, cleaned, and many other things we do with all of our senses. Can’t we keep the tangible from becoming a commodity?