Katherine had reached out to me through the site’s contact page to talk more about what I was working on with the blog and when I realized she had a ‘newish’ shop in Baltimore we made sure to stop in on a recent trip. Her shop Hare’s Breath Records is run by her and her husband, they sell used and new vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, as well as one of-a-kind tie-dye garments. She’s also a Mom to three kids (two of whom are girls with turntables and little record collections of their own).
Katherine and her husband also run a record label under the same name and work on several musical projects, including an experimental hauntology project called The Stone Tapes and a project called Wandering Eldar that re-envisions traditional folk stories and songs in a unique way.
Last year, I also released an EP as Spiralithic that explored the Gnossiennes of Erik Satie. I was classically trained as a pianist but have spent most of my adult life working as a writer and an editor. Along the way, I have had odd jobs such as designing and sewing period-correct Victorian clothing for female Civil War re-enactors and acting in a lot of stage plays.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
My father was an audiophile, so I grew up in a house that was all about turntables and other stereo components. He had crates and crates of records, mostly classical. I remember having a Fisher-Price turntable and playing my own Disney records every day. When I was a teenager, I inherited his really nice turntable and started collecting for myself. I was really into industrial back then, so I had crates of WaxTrax and Nettwerk albums and 12 inches. So I’ve always been interested in vinyl and had lots of it around!
Owning a store is something that Peachy (my husband) and I have talked about for a while. Personally, I enjoy working in retail and I’ve always wanted to get back to it. We’d set up as vendors at some markets and festivals, but it’s such a pain to set up and break down a booth. So we decided this summer to go for it and open a brick-and-mortar store!
What is a day in the life like?
We open the store in the morning, spark up the stereo, light some incense, and away we go! I love sitting in the shop and talking to all of the different people who come in. The one great thing about owning a music store is that the people who come in tend to be in good moods. They’re not dragging themselves there out of necessity. Everyone is excited about music and wants to talk about it (in addition to the local characters who just sort of drift in).
I tend to store “useless trivia,” so I spend a lot of time researching music that’s come in. In fact, my goal is to know at least one thing about every recording in here — no easy feat. The store is in Fells Point, which is Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood. I have a bit of a history with it too – in high school, I was one of many goth kids who hung out down here and got up to shenanigans. Back when I was at university, I worked on an archaeological dig right around the corner. Now I’m happy to be back down here.
Since I write as a freelancer, I can bring my laptop and work on other projects in my downtime. We also buy collections, so during the week people bring in records, cassettes, and CDs for us to take a look at.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
This whole store has been a labor of love, and I am so proud of it. Beyond collecting the music to sell, we also did a lot of work to get the space and its vibe just right. I think it’s worked; people are always telling us they love the whole feel of the store.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Without a doubt, not keeping certain records when they come in. I’ve had some in stock that I really, really wanted to keep for myself. But then, that would defeat the whole purpose of a store. I love being able to share wonderful music with people, and that includes the stuff I’d like to keep! I recently sold a copy of the Incredible String Band’s album “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter.” I really wanted to keep it, but I was excited to share it with a customer who wanted to explore some good psychedelic folk.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Having a shop requires a huge commitment of both money and time – a bit more than even I was prepared for. The logistics of opening a physical store are insane. Here in Baltimore, there’s a never-ending paper chase, plus we experienced unexpected zoning issues. It took several months to just be able to open the shop. I’m lucky in that I had Peachy with me through the whole process to help keep me sane.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Of course I am, or I wouldn’t be in this mess! I love the whole sensory experience of vinyl – the feel, look, and even smell. It’s better than just tapping an icon on your iPhone.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I am so excited to see women collectors of all ethnicities and ages come into the store! We try to have something for everyone, and I am never, ever judgmental about what people want to buy. I’ve been to so many stores or shows where I felt like the guy behind the counter was totally judging me – I’ve been asked if I was shopping for my boyfriend before. Several female shoppers have remarked that this feels like a very comfortable place for them, and that makes me so happy. Music is totally subjective – I don’t care if you’re into Fleetwood Mac or Miles Davis or Skinny Puppy or even Wayne Newton. You love music, and that’s awesome!
Can I say that I’m also psyched about cassette tapes making a comeback? They’re so much fun.
Tell me what you’re currently listening to?
My musical preferences fall all over the map. I really love 60s/70s folk from the U.K. and Ireland. My favorite bands are probably Steeleye Span and Planxty. But I also dig prog and psychedelic bands, along with Appalachian dulcimer music and new age-y Celtic stuff like Clannad. But sometimes nothing beats stomping along to Front 242 or even getting down with some disco.
Website: Hare’s Breath Records