Thalia M. España • College Times
Iconic record store closes, but the passion remains
Eleven years ago, TJ Jordan opened Revolver Records on Roosevelt Row and built a community of fellow music lovers around this “vinyl-centric” store.
The store has since shuttered, but Jordan witnessed the fluctuating landscape of the vinyl record industry and says records were a “novelty for people who were really into music” at the time.
That is where it has all stemmed from for Jordan: a love for music that he says is not just something he adores, but rather something he is.
“There is nothing that is more me than music,” Jordan says. “There was never a time where it was separate from who I am. You could say it’s a passion, but it’s just a way of life.”
Although he says there was no such thing as a record resurgence for those who have always loved records, he says Revolver Records opened at the right time without forethought.
“Coincidentally, in 2009, 2010, 2011, the Record Store Day helped bring records back into the consciousness,” Jordan says. “It has kind of died off a little bit from where it was. It’s back to people being collectors. It’s back to people who really care about it, which is nice.”
Jordan says Revolver Records was never about making money or following a resurgence trend, but rather about the experience in owning and listening to a record.
“If you were an author, you would want your book to come out as a book with a nice jacket, nice cover, feel,” Jordan says. “People say things like ‘records sound best,’ but that’s not what it’s about. The experience of putting on a record and looking at its cover and owning it … owning and collecting records is absolutely natural if you’re a real music lover.”
The end of an era
To Jordan, it has always been about the art within the art and how people experience it differently. This was especially significant based the arts district in which it was located, but Jordan says that art district slowly died away as it became a “condo district.”
It was the end of an era when Revolver Records officially closed February 1.
Jordan says it was due to gentrification that also led to a change in the community around it.
“The real reason why Revolver closed was because there was a decision back in 2014 to revitalize the Roosevelt Row from Central to Seventh Street. When the city greenlit that project, they greenlit condos,” Jordan says. “A small little place like me had signed leases based on a certain community that was there, and the construction and the subsequent condos changed the demographics of the community, (and people) were coming down less.
“For instance, let’s say there is an older gentleman from Glendale who liked to shop at record stores. He didn’t want to come to downtown anymore because it wasn’t cool. Condos are not cool. Art galleries are cool. Record stores are cool. Cool restaurants are cool. Condos are not cool.”
However, a piece of Revolver Records lives on in the heart of downtown, just a few miles away. As Jordan said goodbye to his record shop, he donated some of the remaining inventory to the Trunk Space, a nonprofit arts organization.
Now the Trunk Space runs a mini record shop open during shows. Records are sold for $2.
Trunk Space co-founder and board president Stephanie Carrico says music can build a community.
“Art makes you healthier, regardless of the type of art you make,” Carrico says. “It gives you an outlet.”
As music lovers find their passion in many different forms, they are all brought together through music.
“A lot of the people that come here obviously have an interest in music because they’re here to see live music a majority of the time,” Carrico says. “In the old space, we had a couple of record racks, and the one thing people complained about this space is that they often said, ‘we miss the records.’ It’s the one thing that people seemed to miss the most about the old space.”
When a small room inside the Trunk Space freed up, Carrico sought to transform it into a mini record store, and says Jordan was really excited to share what he could with them.
“I’m glad that we can do that,” Carrico says. “It’s really sad to see Revolver go. It feels like one of the last remaining pieces of old Roosevelt. I’m glad that there will be a place for people who do like to look through records, a place downtown to go and still look through records.”
With 2,500 records in the mini store, the goal is to provide a space for new discoveries, especially as the Trunk Space is about giving the “outcasts” a platform in the music scene. This can now include new discoveries in the records.
“I think it’s a good addition because it fits in with music in general,” Carrico says. “It is a chance for people to discover new things that they maybe didn’t know about. Just like if you’re here to see your friend’s band, there’s usually three or four acts in a night, and if you stick around you might see another band that you really liked that you didn’t know anything about. You can get the same experience from the little record store.”
A new, natural experience
Jordan is at peace with his new record and coffee shop called Mojave Coffee + Records, which aims to bring back a love and appreciation for art.
Through this new space, Jordan says he wants to celebrate the individuality in creativity as a place to cultivate it.
Named after the Mojave Desert at Joshua Tree, Jordan says he wants to create an “artistic oasis in the middle of the shallow desert that we call the modern age of technology.”
Tucked away with a clear view of Camelback Mountain, Mojave sits at just 600 square feet compared to the 2,000 square feet of Revolver. The warm browns, yellows and orange colors in the shop are immediately noticeable through the wood that lines the walls and the furniture that fills the room. It is all about the natural tones as Jordan aims to create a space that connects back to nature to be “off the grid” with things that are wood, Earthy, glass. Handmade. Plants. Things that are more natural. As Jordan says, things that are the opposite of the hectic atmosphere of Revolver.
“What we do here is real. The experience is real. Conversation is real,” Jordan says. “I wanted to do something that was more representative of real life.”
Revolver Records was busy work. Jordan says it is not the most “stress-free job” as it was centered on the business, instead of the artists.
With this change, Jordan hopes to change the quality of the records he sells through careful curation. He says carrying 25,000 records is no longer important, but rather it is about curating records that are in good shape.
Jordan says records encompass multiple art forms that few appreciate.
“Art in its simplistic way is taking in the world, processing it through your brain and putting it out through your craft,” Jordan says. “Your craft could be painting, your craft could be photography, your craft could be poetry, your craft could be writing. For me, nothing is as magical.”
Using Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 album “The Jimi Hendrix Experience Axis: Bold as Love” with a Hindu-inspired cover, Jordan says there is art in every part of the record packaging.
He says the artwork is enough to get someone interested in listening to it as it is a part of the process.
“This is an absolute work of art,” Jordan says. “This is what’s cool about records, that it’s more than the music.”
Jordan set it into the record player, appreciating it’s sound and artwork, demonstrating the real experiences he wants others to have at Mojave, especially as the landscape of the vinyl record industry has quieted down again.
“It’s like art. It is art. It’s an artistic thing. It’s about getting back to displaying art the way that I think it should be displayed,” Jordan says.
“And by the way, how many Tweets did Jimi Hendrix send out? None. How many Facebook posts did he send out? None. That stuff is an illusion. It’s dumb.”
With the Jimi Hendrix iconic guitar riffs blasting in the background, Jordan says, “This is going to last forever. An eternity.”
Mojave Coffee + Records, 4747 E. Thomas Road, Suite A, Phoenix, 480.794.0341, mojavecoffeeaz.com.