I met Bobby Egger in NYC back when thrash was a big thing on the East Coast especially in NYC, New Brunswick, DC, and Richmond —think 2008/MySpace era. He was living in DC and doing Headcount Records and was friends with NYC thrashers (you know, like “punk is dead/bang your head” maniacs like VERMEFÜG). Bobby wound up moving from DC to Richmond. I’ve kept an eye on him over the years and heard about him taking over the Vinyl Conflict record shop. Brandon and Lauren (the original owners) were great and had a vision, but life happens and their store got passed into Bobby’s good hands. So, have you ever had dreams of opening your own record store or running one? Well, hopefully you’ll get the juicy answers you longed for about being a shop boss, Vinyl Conflict, and a mini-update on Richmond, VA punk!
Why’d you move from DC?
I initially moved down to Richmond to work for the Independent Label Collective. It was a distributor of vinyl and CDs for punk, metal and indie labels.
Why stay in Richmond, Virginia?
Work was a good start. Affordable living, affordable night life, and it was still quite central as far as being on the East Coast.
You guys still get a lot of bands touring through. Usually Richmond is as far south as anyone will go! How’d you wind up taking over Vinyl Conflict?
I took over the shop in February 2012. I was already an employee of the store at the time, and the previous owners had made the decision to move when they found out they we’re having twins!
Congrats Brandon and Lauren….so what was it like taking over a preexisting store?
It was very much like inheriting the shop — I tried to change as little as possible to keep the same ideals, location, and focus. The previous owners had a very special shop and people loved it for its unique flavor. I was very careful to make sure the shop never lost that charm.
You definitely inherited a gem! How did you change Vinyl Conflict from when you got it until now?
I haven’t made any drastic changes. I have tried to build out more of what we carry within the hardcore/punk/metal realm. Those genres mean a lot of different things to different people. I want to make sure as many people’s interpretations of that are met as possible. I’ve grown the stock a good bit, I am always looking for a stronger social media presence, and I promote as many gigs as I possibly can without losing my mind.
I have made some physical changes to the shop, as far as the layout, with different racks and placement. I had the front windows painted professionally by Sure Hands Signage.
How do you figure out who to hire?
I’ve been very lucky to have reliable and knowledgeable staff. I’ve had a mix of friends and regular customers, as well as a couple references. However, I will say I’m generally in the shop every single day for some portion of the day (unless I’m out of town).
Do you sell online? Why?
I was against selling online because I did not want our in-store experience to compete with online shoppers. The other difficulty for me was if there is a title that I know I can sell, say, five copies in the store, I don’t know how many I would sell online. I was worried if I got five and sold them online I would disappoint my customers. I also wasn’t prepared to order numbers to keep online stocked.
I do sell online now a bit, because there have been those titles where I ordered five copies, but ended up selling no copies in the store, so I had to figure out a way to move those items. I have a very small Vinyl Conflict web store which has our in-shop titles, shirts, slipmats and some of the stronger titles we ordered in confidence to sell online, however I do not order every title with that in mind. We use Discogs a lot to sell off duplicate and obscure items which may not sell in a physical store.
Is it hard to stay out of the red?
I would love to say no, however it can be difficult during certain points of the year. Richmond is unfortunately extremely college based, even if most people don’t want to admit it. A large portion of the scene is service based, so when the kids go home, hours are cut and tips are in a lower quantity. We have the privilege of getting great shows all year long, so I have a fair amount of traveling shoppers as well as the touring bands coming through. But you really have to prepare for it. Everything’s going to sell eventually, but doing a huge order right before school gets out can really put a bind on things. Over-buying on titles that will be limited in quantity in times like this can hurt too, something that would sell 20 copies during a semester might sell four copies over summer break, but be out of print by the time school is back in session. Finding the balance is not always easy.
Is Richmond, VA, changing a lot?
Yes, I would say it is. The college is rapidly becoming a regular university, while it was originally known mainly for being an art school. Now it’s better known for its basketball team and its growing business school. It will always be a hub for culture, which will keep its music scene thriving. Rent keeps rising and people seem to be moving to more affordable neighborhoods, opposed to leaving the city. More people interested in music seem to be moving here all the time, so I would just say the city is growing overall.
Why is Richmond a cool place for punks to live?
Cheap rent compared to many popular cities with big scenes, tons of shows, many different genre-based scenes with decent draws, affordable food, many vegan and vegetarian spots, and tons of art. It’s small enough to get anywhere on a bike or a five-minute car ride, and it’s surrounded by history and nature. It really has something for everyone, like a larger city, and still has the small town vibe (for better or worse).
Any good new bands in Richmond?
I dont know how “new” your readers will be looking for — haha! So I’ll just cover as much ground as possible: ASYLUM, CRETINS, BARGE, FIRING SQUAD, PRISONER, SLUGZ, MERCY KILLINGS, OCCULTIST, UNSACRED, CHERRY PITS, CHRISITI and KEVIES HEAVIES will make my list today. Sorry, I’m bad at remembering stuff, I’m sure I’ve left someone out who will be disappointed. It wasn’t on purpose!
What are your favorite releases you are currently selling?
SLUDGE Conduct LP is some Japanese punk intensity. S.H.I. (STRUGGLING HARSH IMMORTALS) — both 7″s, also Japanese, kinda like MINISTRY meets DISCHARGE? New BAD DOCTORS LP for some sick new wave in the vein of DEVO, NEW ORDER and so on. New ASYLUM 7″ out on the shop label! BREAK OUT True Crime 7″. Any weird comps I can turn someone on to…
S.H.I. is the best band! Yeah, MINISTRY-meets-DISCHARGE is good description! So, for all us record nerds, what is the craziest, rarest record to ever come into your store?
ANTIDOTE Thou Shalt Not Kill 7″, URBAN WASTE 7″, POISON IDEA Pick Your King 7″, NEGATIVE APPROACH 7″, RODRIGO D No Fururo LP, AFI All Hallows EP 7″. I always think it’s never gonna get crazier, and then something always turns up. Yo, bring us your stuff — we ain’t afraid!
Are you a record collector?
Absolutely. I started collecting at age 14. I have my hardcore punk collection, a massive DEVO collection, DC go-go collection. I also collect reggae and surf rock. I can’t stop in a record shop with out looking through most of the stock.
What record is top on your trade/wish list?
I wanna fill out my Dischord and Dangerhouse collections. Looking for the RUDIMENTARY PENI 7″s, BIG BOYS Frat Cars 7″, THE FACTION 7″s, MIDDLE CLASS Out of Vogue 7″, CAUSE FOR ALARM 7″ and an assortment of other stuff.
Any last words?
The best way to check out bands isn’t to look for blogs that haven’t been shut down yet — it’s by grabbing a stack of 7″s and taking them to the listening station.
Or by seeing bands live. I still believe punk should exist offline! So, how can we best stay up to date on Vinyl Conflict?
We are all over the interwebs:
Facebook: Vinyl Conflict Records
But the best way to stay up to date is to make a trip to the shop!