I love being able to start a new year introducing you to someone like Annelise Kopp. As marketing manager at Harvest Records by day, and an independent DJ for the past five years known as Lil Meow Meow by night, she is bringing vinyl to the masses in more ways than one. She’s talented, has a broad sense of music and is all about community support.
When it comes to her DJ sets she’s got an affinity for hip hop, r&b and house, “…but also dabbling in disco, electronic, pop-punk, soul, new wave and other sounds that make people dance“. She curates customized playlists for restaurants and events under the same name. If you haven’t been to Harvest Records in Asheville, NC I recommend it when things are safe again. We stopped by a few years ago and it was a great experience. They are an independent record store owned and operated by Mark Capon and Matt Schnable since 2004. It is the largest record store in town, and aside from new and used vinyl also carries cassettes, CDs and stereo equipment. During Covid, they’ve had to focus on curbside pickup and appointment-based shopping but check out their instagram as well where I’ve been able to support even in current times.
When she’s not working, she loves being outdoors. “I’m so fortunate to live in Asheville, NC, where I am just a few blocks from downtown and still 15 minutes from one of my favorite riverside rocks to sit on and read a book. I love going on hikes, riding my bike, and even just chilling on my front porch. This year, I’ve gotten to lean into being a homebody (something I was *not* before) and spend more time cooking and listening to records often while enjoying coffee or wine. I’d mention caring for my plants, but the truth is that I mostly keep cacti and they prefer when I ignore them. It works out for everyone!”
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I had been in the nonprofit world doing social work for 3 years and DJing on the side. One day after work I went into Harvest Records, where I had been shopping since I was a teenager, to pick out some new albums to incorporate into my next DJ set. Whether he remembers it or not, Matt Schnable (co-owner) helped turn me on to some of the heavier electronic artists, like Clark, that I weaved into my sets, and I went in on a regular basis to see what new recommendations I might get from the staff. Mark Capon, the other co-owner, asked what I did for a living and casually mentioned that they were “looking for someone”.
I envisioned myself staying in the nonprofit sector so at first I didn’t give it much thought, but when I went home I couldn’t help but look up the job posting. Reading their marketing and events manager job description, it started to seem like it was made for me. Quickly the prospect of working around music full-time seemed less like a leap of faith and more like an inevitability. Not to mention, it was becoming increasingly challenging to reconcile DJing with my day job as I got more gigs and I was ready for a life that fit together more seamlessly. I loved my social work job, but considered that there might be other ways to show up for the community and to take what I had learned into a new workplace.
I applied, which included a cover letter that may have read more like a love letter to one of my favorite record stores, and not long thereafter they brought me on full time. The parts of my life that had felt so disparate and like such a delicate balance finally clicked together, and it was clear that the folks at Harvest were all about community in a way that spoke to me. I felt like I stopped swimming against the current and I was so much happier for it.
What is a day in the life like?
Before March 2020, my day-to-day duties entailed managing our social media, booking and coordinating monthly art shows, facilitating giveaways with local venues, crafting our bi-weekly newsletter, and planning and promoting all in-store events to include record signings, listening parties, Record Store Day, sales, lectures, and live performances. I’ve also gotten to take on projects with a larger scope, including launching and co-hosting a podcast with co-owner Mark Capon, and co-producing a 3-day event with national touring artists like Danny Brown, Waxahatchee, Bonnie Prince Billy, ESG, Kevin Morby and more Transfigurations III. My job as been an dynamic mix of projects all along, and I love that. On top my day job, I had 3 weekly DJ residencies in town plus other gigs on a regular basis. I was a busy woman doing all the things I loved; but let’s be real, I got tired sometimes.
As you might imagine, Covid really changed things for me. I’ve been back at Harvest Records after some time off and have been establishing my role in a post-event (for now) world. Recently, I’ve been working on launching our very first record subscription program called “Easy Listening Vinyl Club”; think Vinyl Me Please but everything is hand-picked by record store clerks and comes with a note just for you. It’s been really exciting to work on this new project and get to learn about so many individuals’ tastes in the process–I can’t wait for us to send out our first round of records to members! We’ve gotten into a groove with curbside pickup and appointment-based shopping and I feel so fortunate to get to work around records in these crazy times.
As far as DJing goes, I’ve pulled back a lot this year as a result of Covid and focused on a handful of socially-distanced and virtual gigs while I prepare for a post-vaccination comeback. I’ve used the opportunity to regroup and slow down a bit after moving at a breakneck speed for some time. I miss playing late nights in crowded, dark bars, but that time will come again! When it does, I’ll be grateful to have had time to achieve some balance and know how many days and nights a week it’s really healthy for me to work. It turns out that rest really is good for you! In the meantime, I’ve continued to commission curated playlists for various businesses, share playlists for fun on my DJ pages, and do occasional virtual gigs.
What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
We used to have a regular, if you could call him that, named Donnie Lloyd. Donnie, also known as the Haywood Heartache, was a wild and rambunctious man with less than no filter. He never bought anything from the store as long as I knew him, but would spend many hours and days in Harvest, drawing (usually R to X rated) pictures while he sat on the couch in the back of the store. Donnie was the loudest person to ever enter Harvest, most days busting through the door singing made up lyrics to whatever we were playing and dancing around the store (once until his pants fell down). He made fun of everyone, was known for stealing our markers and mailer inserts for his drawings, but he also always made a point to say “love y’all” before leaving the shop. Occasionally we had to ask him to leave because he’d be such a distraction, but he was an incredible a source of laughter and joy, too.
Donnie wasn’t for everyone and even put me off more than a few times with his inappropriate comments, but I really cared about him. He came in most every day with an exuberance I haven’t known many people to have. He had an amazing propensity for levity; even on days when he had slept in the freezing cold beside the highway guardrail because someone had stolen his tent, he managed to squeeze out jokes. On days when he’d come in appearing downtrodden, I knew things must be especially difficult, because Donnie was TOUGH. Homelessness is so hard and even in ways that I regret not having considered before my friendship with Donnie. He got into housing and we saw him less, since his apartment was on the other side of town, and in June of 2019 got word that he had passed away. I’m fortunate to still have a robust collection of his artwork, including many commissioned flyers for my DJ gigs. For folks living in our area, Beloved Asheville does amazing work providing organized mutual aid to houseless individuals.
In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / the thing you had to keep / almost couldn’t put out for sale?
We get asked A LOT about Frank Ocean LPs. The thing is, he doesn’t have much available. There were limited releases of Blonde and Endless, plus a handful of bootleg versions of those and his others, but I never managed to get my hands on any of the official exclusives. Someone on staff was selling their copy of Endless I think it was $80 bucks(?) and being a big fan, I sprung on the opportunity while I could.
I don’t always fall victim to limited releases and value in exclusivity, to be honest it can be difficult to want to even pull something rare out of its sleeve and many of my cherished albums just cost me a few bucks, but Endless happens to be one of my favorites. Because I value my friendship with the co-worker who sold me this record, I hope he hasn’t checked in on it’s value appreciation since I bought it from him but let’s be honest not much gets past him. I was a little ashamed to share this example because it shows the bit of insider trading that can happen at record stores. I’m sorry, y’all, we really do leave most of the good stuff for you but this was one of the perks we signed up for!
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
Being in a record store, crazy things happen all the time. Folks roll in with their young kids who have righteous 45 collections, people sell back catalogues of Black Sabbath originals (Jenn, I think this speaks to you), touring musicians stop in the store on their way through town and ask us where to eat, drink and hang, and sometimes people tell us the most insane stories. It’s so wild, in fact, that Mark and I started co-hosting a podcast centered around record store life called “Sticker & Sleeve” which features some of our customers and tales of their lives. We’ve been paused since Covid struck, but our back catalog still exists until we return!
While it might not be “crazy”, I think the experiences that get me most hype are when sample diggers come into the store. We have a customer who comes in periodically who has worked with artists I know and love, including Kanye West. When he comes into the store, he’ll run around for an hour or so collecting records, accumulating hundreds of them, many even from our two dollar bins. The process is so exciting to me! If you think I didn’t try to sneak something nerdy into cue over the speakers while he was shopping, well, you’d be wrong. Luckily, my plan worked and he asked what it was. If a Jeff Phelps sample makes it way into a hip hop track, my life will be made..
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
If there’s one thing I feel increasingly sure of, it’s that leaning in to what you enjoy and are moved by is one of the best decisions you can make. Bettering my understanding of myself and my strengths has helped me focus on what comes most naturally to me.
For folks wanting to work in a record store in some capacity, I’d recommend letting go of the notion that pretension is the ticket. Sure, it helps to have some cool artists and bands up your sleeve, but I think curiosity and open-mindedness are some of the most valuable assets in that environment. People working and shopping in record stores aren’t all the same and, if they are, we need to change that.
For folks wanting to get into DJing, I’d recommend building your music arsenal and refreshing often. Let your obsession with music run free and trust your style and what moves you. Another important tip: make friends with DJs! They offer great technical advice, might throw you your first gigs while you’re still learning, offer useful feedback, hype you up, and make great friends for music nerds.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I grew up the daughter of a record collector though he never felt comfortable with that label, because as he would say, “I actually listen to them!”. He and my mom gave me my first turntable when I turned 13 and I’ve been building my record collection ever since. I love seeing how where I’m at in my life affects the types of music I’m drawn to at a specific point. As it stands, electronic music (think Nicolas Jaar, Aphex Twin, Helena Hauff, Holly Herndon) and hip hop (think Freddie Gibbs, Kanye West, Young Thug, YG) are my most heavily-represented sections. I also collect a fair amount of funk, soul, new wave, and punk albums. There’s always something I’d like to have more of–right now it’s jazz like Don Cherry, Brown Rice has been the one for me recently.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Covid has been a challenging curveball. We’ve had to adapt our plan for the store, focusing on curbside pickup and (more recently) in-store shopping appointments. This means a few things: first, we miss out on some of the interactions that helped us really get to know our customers (plus, we had fun) and many patterns that used to be so natural (customers coming in at random, browsing, and picking out what they want) now require a lot more effort on everyone’s part. We’ve done our best, but there is something inevitably clunky about this system as compared to how we did things before.
As for DJing, one of the new challenges is trusting my own instinct more than ever. I used to rely on crowd feedback to improve my sets and see what moved a crowd. Now, I have to trust that if I love a song and it moves me, it’ll move someone else, too.
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.
2020 was a tough year for independent record stores. Between Covid, buy-outs, warehouse changes, and the fires at the California lacquer manufacturer earlier this year, there have been significant manufacturing shortages for most of 2020. These setbacks have made competing with huge online retailers like Amazon increasingly difficult for small businesses. Though I think many folks have done some personal reflection about where their money goes and what businesses they’d like to support, the bottom line is that if you’re asking small, independent businesses to compete with the prices and inventory of conglomerates like Amazon, most just can’t do it. Amazon’s primary goal as a retailer is to build the largest selection with the lowest prices, and while the convenience is undeniable, the ethics are questionable. That’s the bargain you make.
On top of that, the human touch will always be capable of providing an experience that no algorithm or machination is capable of, and to me that’s part of the value you’re paying for and supporting your community, well that’s priceless.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Shopping locally and supporting artists directly are huge but don’t stop there, focus your funds on Black owned businesses and ones owned by people of color. Making the choice to shop at small, local businesses has a real impact in terms of keeping money in the community and even creating opportunities for greater accountability and support within your city. If you want to show love to independent musicians, buy their albums directly, from local stores who offer them commission, or on Bandcamp Fridays when they receive 100% of the profit. While programs like Spotify can be a great way to access, discover and listen to music, artists receive a pittance for their streams and showing direct monetary support outside of this is imperative to independent musicians’ success.
If you’re looking for some Black-owned record stores to follow and support, check out Jampac Records in Monroe, NC, JB’s Record Lounge in Atlanta, GA, and fellow Idris Muhammed fan Le’Shawn Taylor who curates a fantastic selection of funk, soul and jazz records for sale online at Stokely’s Records.
Tell me what you’re listening to right now:
I am usually obsessing about some album, artist or sub-genre. I recently had a New Years Eve gig on Twitch and most of my set was inspired by hip-house and ghetto house. While selecting my tracks, I took a dive back into some of the music that defined those sounds and how those genres evolved over time. Another thing I’ve been super into is a compilation by Soul Jazz that I picked up from Harvest. It’s called “Black Riot: Early Jungle, Rave and Hardcore” and is absolutely FIRE. You might be able to skip your coffee if you start your morning by listening to this. Not for the faint of heart.