Digging Deep: Closer Record Store

    Photo: Courtesy of Closer Record Store

    For the unprepared people, Closer Record Store is not THAT easy to find (easier than spelling the name of Nyzhnyoyurkivska street for the first time, but still). A healthy minimum of social network activities, zero outdoor commercials, but the magic word “Closer” in the name instead. That is the main clue – CRS is located in the same building as Closer, Savage Food, Otel’, Mezzanine and many-many other activities, well-known for the people, that are in touch with the nightlife of Kyiv. That, eeehm… closeness to Closer set the bar very high from the beginning – you just can’t run a great club and a not-so-great record store with the same name, right? It seems that the bar is also being reset higher and higher all the time since there have been hundreds of positive feedbacks and a minimum of bad ones over the years. Still, I felt that their story hasn’t been told in full so far…

    So, during this year, at Closer’s Maslyana event in February, and a few times after that I spoke with the man who started all this – Andriy Shakolin (or just Shakolin) and another one, who became a part of the team a bit later – Alex Kudryavtsev (also known as Gapon). They told me almost everything about the best record store in Ukraine mainly orientated towards electronic music, established…

    …in 2015, right?

    S: Yes, it was the “young Closer” … But it wasn’t a new idea. I loved that atmosphere of the store, let’s say… in Rush Hour or Hardwax years ago. Unique atmosphere in every store. Like, every one of them is into electronic music, but each one with its own vibe. I wanted something like that here too. It was proposed at one of our meetings, but the proposition was declined at first. Then we played at CDV for the first time, and also were running through many record stores. The Record Loft, for example – we’re there and it starts raining. Like, huge, cats and dogs rain. One employee comes to us, gives us a pack of beers so we won’t go anywhere else and were listening to the music – it was lovely. I wanted something like that at home. So, when we got one free space in this building, I reserved it for the store. That was the start. Then we needed the first pack of vinyls to sell, at least 1500 – I started to make calls. All our DJs, friends, people, who aren’t playing anymore… And we started all of this. I wasn’t really thinking about something big at that time, probably, it was the way to grab the records for myself, but then we sold more than a 100 for the first month and I thought – nice. Got a lot of good feedbacks.

    Photo: Courtesy of Closer Record Store

    Were you alone?

    S: Yes, at first. A bit later our Roman K came, he left his job at a digital agency, was tired of it and wanted to help. He brought a lot of records, one record player at the store is his right now (the other one is mine). He still sends a lot of music. There was also Sasha Shyvkin, he’s a professional bartender now, working at one of the best bars in Kyiv, I heard that he sold a lot of his records. Sasha Shults also – you asked me before who came up with the idea of our DJ Choice series – he did… And Gapon.

    What is the usual week at CRS like?

    S: Before all that COVID story we had five stable years. Tuesday-Saturday, 17:00-21:00. People were coming after their work usually…

    G: During those COVID quarantines it got really cold in the building, our neighbors from Sofa Store stopped working too, so we had a really broken schedule.

    S: We were like a pop-up store – announcing that we’re here and waiting for you, so come on over.

    G: Started a channel on Telegram for quick announcements…

    How are you selecting the records for the store despite all that second-hand vinyl?

    S: Spontaneously. When we can go for a trip, let’s say, to Berlin – we are taking all the records from distributors and friends. The whole car is filled with the records, then come the scary moments at the border, haha. A usual thing during those trips is when everybody is chillin’, and I’m running around with all those records and taking extra luggage for everyone.

    Buyers – Discogs or locals, more or less recently

    S: Locals. If there’s a collection from, let’s say, “a good DJ” – it’s gone in a week. What is not gone in a week – goes to our Discogs page. But, since we’re not really cheap, because of the selection, and the delivery price from Ukraine isn’t cheap either… Locals, definitely locals. And there were a lot more of them before COVID. Also, people change – for some of them we’re not interesting anymore. Some started with us and shifted to other shops – our mission is accomplished here. I bet a lot of people started to DJ after our store, we definitely shook the ground here.

    Photo: Courtesy of Closer Record Store

    Celebrity customers’ stories

    S: I wasn’t there but was told about it – when Mr. G came – he took a quick look into the disco section, took a pack and said, “I’ll listen to that at home”. Prosumer came before his set, wanted something from Ukraine, after our talks he took the record without listening to it at all – that’s trust. He also took the Star Wars OST. Domenico Rosa asked the locals to pick up the record he chose. Fumiya Tanaka, Maayan Nidam… We had a party with The Volks – with Praslea, Raresh and Vlada – they were here for six hours and checked, like, half of our records. I can’t say that this is a rule with the guests – you are playing at Closer, so you’re going to the store too, but a lot of them stopped here.

    G: I remember PLO Man, Eris Drew & Octo OctaMama Snake came for the first time when she played at the club on Kyrylivska nearby and for the second time she said “Look, I have your Wi-Fi on my phone, ha!”.

    S: Oh, when she was here for the first time, it was the first shift of Shyvkin, she bought a lot of records, that shift was hard for him, yes.

    G: When Melina Sercer played at the THP party a few floors above, I took her down to the store after her set and she came back with 6-7 records, as I remember. DJ Masda, of course…

    Collabs with other local shops and sellers

    S: We’re definitely connected with Mavr from Diskultura. Sometimes we’re buying records from each other. Audiophile bar Gram, regular participants in our Vinyl Markets…

    G: A lot of locals, actually, especially during the market time – we definitely know, who we’re gonna call. To mention some new people – there are Oldtunes – they are into downtempo and IDM more… We love the fact, that we’re not clashing with others shops stylewise.

    Non-electronic records in the store.

    S: That’s Gapon. When he started to work here, our “Ambient” section went tripled.

    G: Let’s see – we’re not taking pop/rock music usually, maybe with some HUGE exceptions, dunno, let’s say, that’s some Janet Jackson pressed in Czechoslovakia on vinyl, while on CD everywhere else. Our “Experimental” section has some pieces of kraut-rock, noise-rock… Something, that DJ like, Melina Sercer can speed up or slow down. Get it?

    S: But, still, the main criteria is whether or not we like the record. Also, trust to our core of the second-hand sellers – that’s around 70-80 people, you asked before.

    G: One more important criterion – not to scare the customer away (both are laughing).

    S: If you want an example of those who buy stuff like this – we had one recently, he came and asked for jazz. I told him that we’re not really into jazz here, but offered to check the downtempo section or something. He dug and found something really rare from his wantlist. He showed that to his girlfriend and both went home happy.

    G: I have one more story – a guy came and asked for records to cut for hip-hop samples. He took some Senegal folk music from our “Downtempo” section, an album of Mister Maloy, some bass records and some German hip-hop.

    COVID

    G: When all that started, Andriy was stuck in Dominicana and there was a period when we didn’t work at all, after that we started working online bit by bit. Our usual market sale the RSD in April was cancelled, still we had it online (on Instagram, I’m sitting near a pile of records we sold).

    Markets (the next one will be held on 25.12 if you’re curious)

    S: The idea of record fairs at Closer wasn’t new, a few times we helped Dasha Redkina with her Vinyl Picnic at Closer. I wrote her to do kinda similar thing here. She said, she’s not doing that anymore, so I started doing it under another name here – and here we go. We tried to change the timing, locations… Usually we’re trying to synchronize with the RSD.

    G: There are around 15 sellers usually…

    S: Yes, that’s the most comfortable number. We had 30 for the first time – it was too much.

    G: When I lived in Kharkiv – Pavel Plastikk from LOW Party did something similar there, I was involved since 2014. In 2017 Pavel moved to Kyiv and I started checking them out too, since I had a lot of records.

    S: Gapon sent us a lot of records – we didn’t know each other, but I saw his different music – ambient, UKG, house – a very nice selection. Then he started to work here too.

    G: Going back to the topic, there were a lot of sellers, and there was almost no space. So, 12-15 of them is a perfect number here.

    S: We have the only rule of about 50+ records too… You know, so people won’t bring five. Usually they’ll bring 50+ even without this rule. The last number will be 10 – 10 euros is the price for participants.

    The arrival of The Ghost

    S: A legendary but a little overhyped story. It was our birthday – 3 of 4 years, don’t remember right now. We made a line-up – The Ghost fitted perfectly. We’re booking them and buying them two extra luggage bags – that’s all. But one Ukrainian news website boosted “the arrival of the Berlin traveling store” so much, we had more people than records here – The Ghost brought only around 150 with them. People took the records as souvenirs – it was fun. All of them thought that the van is coming too, all because of that news website. You know – a lot of people gave us two bags of their records – only The Ghost banged so hard, haha.

    Podcasts

    S: We had a few and somehow it ended on its own. When we played, we picked the records just from the shelves, by the way. To be honest, I love our Play Vinyl evenings more – people just come with the records and have a good time. Zero cameras.

    Possible collabs with other cities

    S: Once a guy from Belarus wrote – let’s do this thing in Minsk, money is not a problem, blablabla. The next question was about his possibility to play in Closer… And that’s it. We were invited to a competition of Kyiv startups once – they definitely didn’t know how much we’re earning here (laughs).

    G: The guys from Kharkiv contacted me, but it was all just talks so far…

    S: Dnipro (my hometown) got a store not so long ago too… Interesting, since, when we started all of this, Serhiy Yatsenko said, that we, would probably sell something nice, something you could present to someone – turned to be totally different. Probably, because of our vision. And our location – it sorts people too, but those who come, do that specifically.

    Shakolin (left) and Gapon (right) are standing in the middle of Closer Record Store

    Business or pleasure

    S: Always trying for ourselves in the first place. We have to like it – that’s good for the business too, people really feel it. It’s not really a great idea to open a record store and think about the business only.

    G: I wrote to Andriy not so long ago about Virgin – I found out that they started as a small record shop and their first releases were some weird leftfield… And now they are an airline…

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