We love when we see diversity in any part of the vinyl making process, but when you have a female press crew like Furnace, you’ve got our attention. We were lucky to be able to hear from three of those women working hard to get your vinyl out the door at Furnace Record Pressing in Alexandria, Virginia a short distance from Washington, DC. In this interview we’re speaking with Sophia Landers who is a pressing manager and all around badass in the press room, Becky Anderson a press operator and press runner with a keen eye for color mixes, and Kylie Coggin press operator and press runner willing to jump in where needed to solve issues as they arise.
Furnace was founded in 1996, and is known for making high-quality vinyl records at their 50,000 square foot state-of-the-art record pressing facility in Alexandria, Virginia. The ethos of Furnace is to care about quality, craft and doing the right thing. Their staff has been involved in just about every part of the music industry from playing in bands, to recording music, distribution, retail and, of course, buying records. A small but scrappy crew, Furnace’s pressing operation is anything but small, pressing for all types of clients from bands and indies to major labels. Women in Vinyl’s founder Jenn, works at Furnace as well, and has shared about their diversity and how so many women there are in management roles from front to back of house.
In their free time, Sophia enjoys painting and taking naps, occasionally blowing off some steam at the gym, but on a day off: “I’m a pretty good couch potato” she says. Becky, when not retrieving stampers and labels at work, is an artist, drummer, a step mom to three kids and two loving dogs who enjoys live music and good food, sports or a good trip to the mountains. Kylie spends her down time listening to her records, going to shows, being a foodie and reading. A lot of that reading involves courses she is taking to get a degree in the GIS field, which takes up the majority of her free time.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
Sophia: I’ve been in the manufacturing field for a few years now, and loved learning about machines and how they work. I also share a love for vinyl, so it was a win-win for me.
Becky: I have always been mechanically motivated and was looking for a job change when I stumbled upon Furnace. I was unaware of what the job would require at the time, but very eager to learn something that I was passionate about… Music!
Kylie: It was a by chance happening, I had never even considered it an option till I saw the posting for the position. I immediately got really excited because I have always enjoyed vinyl. I had started a small collection on my own prior to my employment but it has definitely expanded since then.
What is a day in the life like?
Sophia: A day in the life consists of lots of coordination. I make sure the crew has all the supplies needed for different jobs. I feel like a total girl boss when I get to drive the forklift around. I help troubleshoot machines, bring hundreds of pounds of different color vinyl in and out of our press room, and make sure everyone is good to go for the day.
Becky: For me it’s easy. I enjoy my job. I love what I do. I get to use tools and help fix machines. Listen to new and old music. I retrieve labels and stampers, move vinyl to help setup daily changeovers and initial daily job start-ups, as well as train new employees on the shift. I get to be artistic with mixing vinyl colors and finding some we have never made before. From early mornings to 5pm. It’s doing what we love. And making the best records that we are capable of producing.
Kylie: A day in the life of a press op is one of alarms, vinyl dust, hot pucks and shiny stampers. It’s a day filled with always having something to do and new things to learn about the mechanics, the physics, and the day to day of trying to make it all run just a little bit better, to always get the clearest sound.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Sophia: Tough question. We’ve worked on a lot of legendary artists. I’d probably have to say Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Not because I’m a total fan or anything, but it was one of the very first jobs I ran by myself when I first started at Furnace. It was a pretty teal/coke bottle clear, and I was proud of it!
Becky: Honestly for me. I grew up listening to southern rock and country music. So coming into the job and the company being so new… when we got our first big job it was the new release of Trisha Yearwood. The album was the fastest selling album for women in country music. I was happy and proud to know that I was part of that.
Kylie: The Bad Brains limited edition splatters, The Ladies ‘They Mean Us’, I love that we still press local stuff like the Darkest Hour ‘Live in Lockdown’ and the Loud Boyz album. I would have loved to have been able to work on the Women of Doom pressing that I keep hearing about.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Sophia: The most difficult part of my job is when the caffeine wears off. Just kidding. I’d say the most difficult part of my job is trying to troubleshoot stubborn problems on the press machines. Physically, not hard. Mentally, very testing.
Becky: The heat. Winters are good because the temps are pretty steady. During the summer, with the adding of more presses it will be hot in the press room.
Kylie: The vinyl regrind, it gets everywhere.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Sophia: Invest in good soap. At the end of the day, you do get a little greasy and dusty!
Becky: Be open to learning all the details. Take in every tidy bit of information about the pressing process. Remember that you can never make a perfect record every time. But allow yourself to enjoy the process and you will love what you do.
Kylie: Apply, don’t be shy!
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Sophia: I am a vinyl collector. Not as avid as others, but I love the authenticity of it. It is physical music, which is so mind blowing to me. My mom and grandma collected when they were growing up, and it was cool to see a physical collection instead of a digital playlist on your phone. I love coming across vintage vinyl. Remastered stuff is great, and of course I hope people continue to collect new stuff (especially what we produce), but there’s something timeless about originals that I’m drawn to. Flaws and all!
Becky: I always loved the sound of vinyl as a kid. As I got older it was having that original sound, that original print of the artist I loved then and still do today.
Kylie: Yes! It’s the original format for transportation of sound. The whole process is still fascinating, like magic. Plus there is more opportunity for specialty artwork and collectibles.
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.
Sophia: I am so excited for the “comeback” the vinyl industry is making. Even though it’s been around for a zillion years, it’s nice to see more people appreciate and support the artists. Big things are coming!
Becky: Excited about the growth for sure. I mean the vinyl industry is exploding right now. Jobs are lined up with no stopping in sight! Eyes on the prize guys.
Kylie: I’m excited to see what we can do in the year to come, I know last year we took a lot of steps forward to becoming a larger figure in the industry and I’m hoping we can keep that up. We have some cool things going on in the press room, right now. If I could hope for one thing to become a trend, more random color orders.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Sophia: Keep being awesome. Continue supporting small businesses by buying from your local vinyl shops, and promoting your favorite artists. Post pictures of your records, new and old, and tag the artists and shops your bought it from! Don’t you dare gate keep the awesomeness.
Becky: Keep buying. Keep listening, and more than anything support your local bands and record stores.
Kylie: Always show local love, the stores are where it started. If you can, special order through them. You will probably end up with a better product than taking a chance on eBay or some other auction site. But if it’s only on eBay…. you know. Buy it.
Anything else you’d like to add, if not tell me what you’re listening to:
Sophia: I’m really digging more indie alternative and really heavy metal at the moment. The harder the breakdown, the better.
Becky: My favorite bands or artists have always been Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and Tracy Chapman.
Kylie: I will always love doom, been digging on Ufomammut, LLNN, Green Lung, Belzebong, Toke, Heavy Temple, Acid King, Sleep, clearly I could go on. I’m also into sludge, thrash, heavy metal, death metal, psychedelic metal/rock, southern rock, blues, rap, disco, trance, classical… I really love cross-over genres. I have recently fallen into the lighter side of things and have been listening to a lot of Twin Temple and The Darkness as well.
Find the Furnace Vinyl Team:
Furnace Record Pressing: @furnacemfg