Ask a die-hard record collector what matters when it comes to love and you’re unlikely to hear much about shared religious or political views.
All that stuff plays second fiddle to musical compatibility.
In addition to the personal traits that bring people together, for these three couples it was essential to find someone with an appreciation for collecting, hunting for records and, perhaps most important to their compatibility, an openness to discovery.
P.J. Sykes and Melissa Koch
Koch: On our second date, we went to Tower Records — R.I.P. — and Plan 9. I bought an LP of Israeli music that I remember having a solo dance party to in P.J.’s apartment.
Sykes: Actually on our first date, we played music for each other, taking turns after each song. I bought Caribou on our second date at Tower because she played it for me on our first date.
Koch: When we travel to a new city, we look up two things: record and thrift stores. It’s just what we do. The used bins in every city are different and it’s really exciting to see what people in that city were into. We’ve found records from D.C.-based bands in California and P.J. bought tons of free jazz and 20th-century composers in Chicago.
Sykes: Our honeymoon involved going to all three Amoeba Records. What’s really neat is that I’ve been going back and getting into things that Melissa was hip to years ago. I can’t say the same for her and my weirdo taste.
Koch: Technically, we have records or a record player in five rooms. One room is just records. It’s a lot and I wish I could be minimal about it, but they bring us so much joy!
Sykes: Sometimes I get Melissa excited to hear something new, then drop the needle on this record I found in a Lynchburg thrift store of blind twin sisters with giant hairdos singing, “He Washed My Eyes With Tears.” It’s finding something unexpectedly that keeps us going back for more. The artwork, the story of where you found it and who might have had it before, is always fresh.
Sara Gossett and Greg Darden
Gossett: It’s pretty impossible to know Greg for long before finding out he’s had a lifelong interest in music and records. We got to know each other through going out to the same DJ events — Troy Hurt’s Soulpower-Mercy nights where only 45s were played — so it didn’t take long before we were talking about all of it.
Darden: “Collector” has a funny feel to me. Being around the culture of vinyl record passion can turn you off to the hardcore collector. I don’t think either us is snobby about what’s deemed cool or hip. And I’m not uptight about what condition a record might be in or what pressing it is. That said, I’ve been collecting since junior high school. Thanks, big brother Fred!
Gossett: Greg has such a wide-ranging appreciation for all different kinds of music and the depth of his knowledge always impresses me. I love that he can go from a metal record he’s had for over 20 years to bossa nova from a trip to Brazil and tell a great story about all of it.
Darden: Our records take up a couple of good-sized walls’ worth, so you have some that are easier to reach than others. When people come over and say we have a lot of records, I always reassure them they aren’t all good [laughs]. The beauty of a collection is not the rare things. Sure, there might be some weirdo jazz record, but Human League’s “Dare” is good too, right? Even after years of seeing a gazillion records, there are always new things to discover or uncover.
Tracy Keats Wilson and Kenny Close
Wilson: It’s helpful to have someone who understands what takes up 90 percent of my brain, someone who doesn’t find it an absurd idea to spend hours traveling to a record store. One of my favorite things is during the summer, we take two piles of records and our portable player out to the porch and take turns pulling out a record and playing it for the other one.
Close: Most mornings start with something spinning while we’re getting ready. Normally, when we get home in the evenings, a record or two will get played as well. Sometimes there are days in which we’ll do listening catch-up and read in another room while we get through a giant stack of records that need some attention. We have an entire room of our house with three walls of LPs and singles.
Wilson: Some people when they want to get to know someone look at their photo albums. Record collectors share records to tell that history, how they got to that place today. You don’t just love free jazz from the start, there are stories attached to each record. That’s why we don’t combine our record collections. You wouldn’t merge your photo albums. I love that he has an identity.
Close: Music is involved in almost every aspect of our lives and that isn’t something I want to go away. I’ve been a collector since 1987. My first LP was the Beastie Boys’ “License to Ill,” not that you asked, but it’s a point of pride that my first record was the Beastie Boys. As long as there’s quality recorded music to own and hold, I think you’ll find us shopping for it. S