Horses Records takes culture by the reins

By Yasmine Shemesh

Thumbing through the albums in a modest little record shop on East Hastings, one suddenly gets the feeling they are surrounded by horses, horses, horses. There are horse figurines on the shelves. There are horse pictures on the wall. There are horses coming in all directions. Wait a minute—this is Horses Records. The Patti Smith reference is no coincidence; as a musician, poet and writer, Smith is quite literally the human embodiment of what the shop is about.

“She’s our matriarch, for sure,” admits Katayoon Yousefbigloo, bassist for garage-punk trio Other Jesus and Red Gate Arts Society director. Yousefbigloo co-owns Horses Records with Daniel Geddes, frontman for indie-rock outfit Peace. “We kind of wanted to be the store version of a Patti Smith record,” Geddes says, adding that naming it after the album Horses was always the idea. “I mean, Radio Ethiopia wouldn’t have quite worked for us,” he laughs.

Indeed, this isn’t your typical record store. Horses Records instead looks to be a purveyor of culture, presenting the natural relationship between music and language in a way that is both intellectual and unpretentious. The humble, bright space houses a carefully curated selection of vinyl and literature within open bookcases that are cocooned around rows of records. At the back, there is a small exhibition room for art or live music, a cassette vending machine (dispensing local talent) and a worn-in couch, where visitors are welcome to sit with a collection of Walt Whitman poems while listening to some Bob Dylan, if they feel so inclined. Yousefbigloo and Geddes are available for pairing recommendations.

Practicing artists and once literary scholars themselves, Yousefbigloo and Geddes possess a unique understanding of art’s parallels. “In a way,” Geddes says, “I see the store as a celebration of the history of sound.” It’s true; music and literature share roots in expression. Lyrics are, essentially, poetic verses. This age-old harmony is built into the very brick and mortar of Horses Records.

Perhaps what sets Horses Records apart most of all is its encouragement of community participation. There is a circulating zine stack. Artists are urged to curate their own shows in the art space. Glue and scissors are handy if a poster is in need of patching. In this vein, Horses Records is not just a place for artists to sell their music—it’s a place where they can create, read, think or listen. “We want people to hang out here,” Yousefbigloo explains. “It benefits me to have artists around. I’m inspired by their creativity and it definitely gets me excited to keep coming up with new things for the store. It’s a symbiotic relationship that needs to happen.”

In addition to being a creative hub, Horses Records’ comfortable atmosphere makes it a safe environment for kids to discover music and literature in a way that’s not typically available to their generation. This attainability is something both founders take much pride in. “I want to provide entertainment that’s accessible to all ages,” Yousefbigloo says, “I think that’s really important.”

In an age so immersed in technology, it’s important to look beyond the fleeting gratification of a click. The sound and texture of vinyl is incomparably beautiful. There is something to be said about holding a book in your hands and folding down the corners of its pages to keep place. These experiences are special, real and mustn’t be lost. More than just a vendor of tangible objects, Horses Records exists as an active outlet, striving to keep art alive in the community. After all, “It’s not just these forgotten artifacts,” Geddes says. “It’s living culture.”

Horses Records is located at 2447 East Hastings St. in Vancouver.

Published in print and online at www.beatroute.ca, September 2014

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