This weekend marks the 1st birthday of Elastic Witch, which has fast become our (and most of Dublin’s) favourite record shop. Nestled in the bowels of the Twisted Pepper, Gib Cassidy has managed to create a homely, friendly atmosphere as well as a tasty and tasteful selection of records, CDs and tapes. Combining a focus on the best of international, independent stock with sterling support for Irish artists, Cassidy has given Dublin a useful and often enlightening musical meeting point. He stocks what you want and what you didn’t know you wanted before you walked in but couldn’t possibly leave without.
We sat down one evening last week – after the stock had been packed away – for a look back at year one of Elastic Witch and some thoughts about how year two might pan out.
All the details of the Elastic Witch Birthday Party (featuring live performances from The Jimmy Cake, Ginnels and Catscars plus DJ sets from David Kitt and Nialler9, amongst many others) are available on Facebook.
Have you enjoyed your year so far?
The year so far has been a blast so it has. I’m still here after a year so that’s one mission accomplished anyway. I opened in September obviously so Christmas was three months away, I said ‘I’ll see how I get on until then’ and then it was like, ‘Ok, I’ll go for another three months or six months, see how I’m doing’. So yeah, a year later and I’m still here. I’m literally still getting around to things that I planned on doing a year ago, even just how I set up stuff and how I can store stuff away with out getting in everyone’s way. Being here for a year is a pretty good accomplishment in itself I think so happy days.
Do you think that the time of year you opened was a good time to open?
I think it was definitely a good time to open. There’s not many new releases in August, which is pretty much what I trade off. There’s always this kind of lull going on. September then is the opposite, everything just whips back again. The last two weeks alone, there have been more new releases out, relevant to what I sell, than in the whole of July and August. I think it was a really good time to open. I’ve said this before but I opened the day the Jape album came out so that was good timing. I could have actually waited another week or two so I wasn’t selling CDs out of fucking shoe boxes. I was at the time, I’m not now! But the Jape album, that was real good help because that album was going to do well in Ireland and within Dublin, so people were like ‘Let’s go down there and have a look at it, I’m going to buy the Jape album anyway so I’ll go down there to pick it up’. So that was also good timing. Good timing but in the greater scheme of things, maybe not a good time to open at all! It worked out well though, especially with the Jape album and a few other things at that time that got the wheels in motion.
How was Record Store Day?
That was great, it was really good. This was my first Record Store Day in my own place. The fundamental difference with the last one I worked in Road was the price of the stock was more or less normal to what it was any other time of year. Fast forward two years and a lot of the stock went up like three or four quid, even more in some instances. That’s where I have a bit of a problem to be honest with you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nicknamed Indie Christmas because it kind of is but still, I don’t want to be selling stuff that is way more expensive than what it’s worth, even if it is Record Store Day. Now there’s other sides to that where these things are collectors items and very limited runs and all but I saw shops doing seven inches for €10 or €12. I don’t agree with that at all. It’s kind of going against the idea of what it should be. Who is to blame for that? I don’t know. It’s got to be the record labels, especially the bigger ones. I had to kind of bite my tongue on that one but the other side of the coin was, because it was such a busy day and I had a pretty good, pretty diverse line-up, it injected some finance into the business so that I could actually prepare for the summer ahead. That was in April so coming into May and June, I had some money to put back into the shop itself. In that regard it was great. I met a lot of people that day, a lot of new customers that day who subsequently returned to me. It was a really busy day for me as well. I had people in to help me out and they were much needed! Also, because I’m pretty much a one-man operation, having to invest as much time integrating people and giving them as much face time as possible was kind of difficult when I was getting swamped! But I enjoyed it at the end of it all, I enjoyed.
Next year – touch wood I’m still here next year – I’m going to do it a little differently. I really hope they don’t start increasing prices again. And a lot of it was junk, you know? I mean, a copy of ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ by David Bowie on seven inch for €12? Mate, go on any second hand shop and you’ll pick up an original for three quid! There’s stuff I really like about it and there’s stuff I’m a bit iffy about as well. I don’t ever think it’s going to save the record shop in the traditional sense either but let’s see for next year, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.
A lot of the record industry seems to have gone back to doing compilations or re-issues or stuff like that but you seem focused on just keeping it going as it is, working with new stock.
It was always going to be like that. I have some back catalogue stuff but it’s stuff people might have missed out on first time around. I’m never going to have more than 200 records in the shop, that was always the intention. It’s new releases, that’s where my bread and butter is. Again, I can’t be self-indulgent with it so I’m not going to have just mad avant-garde stuff that me and no one else likes! I’d be gone in a second. I try to cater to as many people as I can but I’m not going to be selling commercial stuff or anything like that. Even with back-catalogue stuff, I’ll get a Silver Apples record in or a Neu! record in but that’s relevant to the stuff I do. I don’t want people to come in and have to flick through loads of stuff that they’re overly familiar with and they could get anywhere else. It’s keeping the wheels in motion, keeping the cogs turning, stock-wise that’s what I like to do.
Obviously there’s the Irish thing as well. If anyone comes in to me with a CD or LP or cassette, if it’s something that they’ve brought out themselves – regardless of whether I like it or not, that’s totally not the point – I’ll try and sell it for them and I’ll try to sell it to people who will like it. I think that’s important as well. There’s a lot of people doing stuff here at the moment, there’s a lot of people bringing out their own stuff. I think about a month ago I got about eight new Irish vinyl releases in and I went, fucking hell, would there be that many vinyl releases in Sheffield or Glasgow or wherever this week? That’s pretty cool. As I say, if someone comes in to me and it’s independently released, I’ll try and flog it.
Having a record shop as a place to go, to hang out, a place that is connected to what’s going on around it, is really important. Especially for younger people maybe.
There’s a lot of younger people who are buying stuff. Everyone knows the statistics and we could go on about that forever but there’s no point. The demographic is changing for me because of the internet and because of the fact that music is so instant. Music kind of comes too fast sometimes and for me, great stuff is stuff that remains in your psyche or stuff you’ve had time to absorb or sponge up, stuff you’ll keep coming back to. That’s great music.
A lot of my customers are people who are in bands and people who are involved in local stuff on different scales. I don’t want to use the word scene but you know what I mean! I’ve had people who promote shows come in and bump into someone they’ve promoted… At the end of it all, I think the fact that record shops exist is a good thing and that’s the main point I’m trying to make. I guess mine is different because it’s like a permanent pop-up thing. Pop-up implies something that’ll only be there for three weeks or whatever but it’s mobile, everything is on wheels and can be packed away at the end of the day. I think the reason I’ve been here for a year and still am here is because I share space with other businesses like the cafe and the fact that it’s inside a venue itself. These things are the reason I’m here. If I tried to do what I’m doing in a premises up in Dublin 2 somewhere, I wouldn’t last five minutes. I’d be gone straight away.
There’s some really good examples of similar operations across the country at the minute.
It’s interesting, I know there’s Plugd in Cork as well. Ray from Wingnut is opening stuff in provincial towns. Now, they might be even smaller operations than mine but they’re still there and he just does Irish stuff. You can go into a shop that is in a bookshop in Athlone and buy a Jogging record, for instance. That’s a good thing, even just the presence of it. If Jogging go to do a show in Athlone, people will know them even from seeing their records there. Record shops in their essence are good things. How long will they be around for? Nobody knows. I’m going to keep going at it for as long as it makes sense. And it does make sense at the moment.
Do you have any specific plans for the next year?
Well at the moment we’re trying to do up the place a little bit. A bit of a facelift. It won’t be massive. Like, I was in a shop in Berlin a while ago and I literally walked in and thought, ‘What is this?’. Is it a record shop, a pub, a gallery? What’s going on? It happened that it was all of those things. It was small and everything had its own little area but there were records out in the pub part of it and stuff like that is pretty cool. My idea for Elastic Witch is to make it more like a shop by daytime and make it easy to dismantle and put everything away. Giving the place a little facelift is the immediate plan. It’s never going to be a whole lot bigger than what it is on the music side of things but I wanted to sell t-shirts, going to start doing that soon, possibly going to be doing magazines soon too. I put on gigs the odd time in here as well, I have the venue to do that. It took 11 months but we had our first kind of proper in-store a few weeks ago, which was great. I’d like to run more gig things in tandem with the shop. I guess working on the mail order side of things as well. I’m probably going to have a bit more of a presence on the Bodytonic website and obviously selling things online is pretty important to me as well. Just keeping it ticking over. Hopefully we’ll be having this conversation again in a year’s time. I’ll be saying, ‘Yeah, I’m a butcher now…’
Read on for the some of the records that have been central to the Elastic Witch story so far…
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