Ottawa band The Johnnies are signed to Pretty Bad Records—a record label that only releases 7” vinyl and digital music.
“There is something about the sound of vinyl that is classic and nostalgic,” said guitarist and vocalist Mel Sturk.
The old demand for vinyl seems to have been rising among younger generations, and The Johnnies are happy to play to that niche.
“Releasing this 7” documents our fun times and lets people know what we sound like—so that we can book more shows and have more fun times,” said bassist Devin Cook.
Pretty Bad Records was created approximately a year ago when the owners put out a record for The Shakey Aches, their own band. They played with The Johnnies around that time, and the Ottawa rockers have just become the first band other than the Shakey Aches that Pretty Bad Records has recorded.
Matthew Clare, one of the owners, said Pretty Bad Records wasn’t really a label until Feb. 4, when they released The Johnnies’ record at Dominion Tavern.
“A year ago, the Shakey Aches put out a record, branded it as Pretty Bad Records, and [this month] we become a record label by putting out a record that’s not our own.”
The Johnnies are the first of many. The newly-established record label hopes to release a record by the Polymorphines this May. And while vinyl may be new to some, it’s a familiar sound to Clare and co-founder Tim Matthews.
“I grew up with vinyl. I never stopped buying it, it’s not a new thing to me or a novelty. But it’s something I love,” said Matthews.
Clare grew up listening to vinyl records because his parents listened to them. He says there’s something timeless about vinyl records.
“It’s funny because, in hindsight, I just had a kid and I’ve been listening to my records from growing up and they don’t skip, they still work,” Clare said. “I can’t listen to a CD that I bought when I was fifteen. It doesn’t work. There’s just something about the physical medium to it.”
In an era that, to Clare, is largely about selling products that people are going to throw on their iPods anyways, Matthews says vinyl is about more than just nostalgia.
“At least this way they get the novelty and the warmth of the sound,” Matthews said.
Guitarist and vocalist Sturk says that vinyl provides a great balance to digital music.
“It’s fun to sift through friends’ vinyl collections at parties and in order to keep music going everyone tends to play DJ or the music ends,” he said.
It is the album art, the sound, and the romantic aspect that drew bassist Cook to vinyl. She says she thought with digital music being so accessible, she wouldn’t need any physical object. She was wrong.
“I missed the album art and having something to hold on to,” Cook said. “I love the sound and can’t deny—I’m a bit of a sucker for the historical/romantic factor.”
While vinyl may seem historic—especially to the youngest generation of music-lovers—it’s not about to go to war with current musical mediums.
“I’d like to believe that it’s a revolt against electronic music and a throwback to rock and roll, but I know that’s not the case,” Clare said about the new demand for vinyl records.
Matthews said he agrees.
“It’s just history repeating itself, but in a new form,” he said.
—Illustration by Carolyn Frank