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A Fresher’s Guide to Independent Record Stores in Leeds

For most of the last decade and despite the recession, Leeds has grown and maintained a thriving network of independent music venues, record shops and other arts outlets. With its two main universities and numerous arts colleges, the city has also been a beacon for music-loving students for even longer.

While it may not have the same reputation for producing great bands that other northern British cities like Manchester, Sheffield or Glasgow have enjoyed over the last four decades, Leeds has always been a centre of creativity for people with a DIY approach. Wire, Gang Of Four, Soft Cell and Alt-J all formed after meeting at university here; The Mekons, The Wedding Present, The Sisters Of Mercy and Kaiser Chiefs are local.

The Cribs hail from nearby Wakefield but have always treated Leeds like a second home city. Pulled Apart By Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up have been at the front of a wave of groups indebted to grunge and post-hardcore, while Eagulls, Hookworms, Brooders, Jellyskin, Forever Cult and Autobahn represent the best of the guys and girls wielding guitars in the city.

The First Direct Arena, opened in 2013, at last gave Leeds the kind of huge venue for massive international bands to perform at. Even newer venues in the shape of Headrow House and the Belgrave Music Hall put on up-and-coming bands all the time.

Contrasted to that, the humble Brudenell Social Club is the oldest independent venue in the country (with the Hyde Park Picture House, just down the Queen’s Road in the Hyde Park residential area of the city, one of the oldest cinemas in Britain).

Here, we showcase the best independent record shops in Leeds, as a kind of rough guide for newcomers to the city.

Happy record hunting!

 

Jumbo Records

Where? 1-3 Merrion Centre, Leeds LS2 8NG

In the unassuming and slightly soulless environs of The Merrion Centre (in the northern part of the City Centre, not far from Millennium Square and which also contains the city centre Morrisons supermarket) lies Jumbo Records, which is Leeds’ oldest independent record shop.

It recently moved across the road from its long-term location in St. John’s Centre to its new, bigger store, a sign of its fantastic management combined with the general upturn in the fortunes of the independent record scene, both in Leeds and nationwide.

Tiny rock venue The Key Club – itself a sort of reincarnation of legendary Leeds spit’n’sawdust indie venue The Cockpit after it closed in late 2014 and which hosts many of the same club nights – is directly underneath the shop.

For fans of? Jumbo has a traditional background in soul, reggae and ska, dating back to when it opened in the early ‘70s after the original owner expanded what started as a mobile disco business. However, the punk revolution provided impetus for the independent record shop network in general, with lots of tiny labels producing records tailor-made for the independent circuit, and Jumbo was no different. The soul/reggae roots are still evident in-store, but it’s now just one part of what Jumbo sells.

It has also done more than most stores to showcase new up-and-coming local bands, so it’s DIY aesthetics are still pleasingly front-and-centre of what it offers. There’s a prominent local bands section, with people always been able to come in with CDs of their music and Jumbo has endeavoured to sell them for them.

I’ve whiled away many a pleasant hour flipping through albums, looking at weird and wonderful compilations, and chatting to the friendly staff. Music snobbery is more or less completely verboten – no stereotypical ‘Jack Black from High Fidelity’ sorts here! – so whatever your music passions, the enthusiastic staff will at the very least try to cater for you.

In their own words? We spoke to shop manager Adam Gillison about the Leeds scene, students, and the state of the record industry.

 

Crash Records

Where? 35 The Headrow, Leeds LS1 6PU

Where Briggate intersects with New Briggate and just opposite the massive Sports Direct store is Crash Records, as you head downhill on The Headrow to the gigantic and soulless Victoria Gate.

Crash is the second of the Big Two independent record shops in Leeds, dealing mainly in new releases in friendly competition with nearby Jumbo.

For fans of? Whereas Jumbo has dealt mainly with indie, soul, reggae, folk and specialist sub-genres in a come-one-come-all policy, Crash is a little bit more firmly in the rock and metal categories. Not that they don’t stock any other stuff, or are in anyway exclusive or snobby about it, but Leeds has a long-established hard rock and metal scene and Crash is the go-to shop for those fans.

In any case, arguably the most notable feature of Crash is the pretty thoroughly comprehensive ticket selling system that deals with the myriad of gigs going on in Leeds at any given time. There’s also a hugely impressive second-hand section for vinyl in the basement. Their mail-order system is also very efficient, if you want to bag those high-demand new releases ahead of time.

In their own words? We spoke to mail-order manager Scott Gamble about Crash and it’s place in the Leeds music scene.

 

NoiseIsForHeroes

Where? 75A Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3BR

Great George Street, near the city end of the LGI hospital, is an up-and-coming area of Leeds’ city centre, having been something of a blackspot for businesses over the years as it doesn’t normally get a lot of pedestrians coming through. However, recently, Great George Street has seen a number of cafes, bars and other small businesses popping up and thriving in the last couple of years, and one of those newcomers is second-hand record shop NoiseIsForHeroes.

Run by the personable Chris Coulthard, who used to work at the prestigious Vinyl Tap store in nearby Huddersfield, walking into NoiseIsForHeroes is more or less exactly like how you imagine a stereotypical second-hand record shop to look. Plastic crates of records in states of condition ranging from near-pristine to dog-eared, special items hanging in plastic sleeves on the walls, clearly a one-man operation. The environment is friendly and knowledgeable, and you can easily chat to Chris about most genres of music and he’ll recommend stuff to you, and is interested for your tips too.

For fans of? The stock in NoiseIsForHeroes is pretty firmly weighted in favour of ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s guitar music, with a particularly speciality in punk and hardcore from both sides of the Atlantic. But there’s also a pretty exhaustive collection of Beatles / Dylan / Zeppelin etc., as well as a worthwhile rack of ’80s indie and decent collections of jazz, soul and hip-hop. With the buying and selling aspect of the shop emphasised, the turnover can be quite rapid, so it’s always going back every 2-3 weeks because the stock will have been refreshed to a significant degree.

There’s not much by way of the 1990s onwards, mainly as most new releases stopped coming out on vinyl during that CD-dominated decade, so if you’re looking for more modern things you’ll be better off elsewhere like Relics (see below), which is much bigger.

This is the first academic year in which NoiseIsForHeroes will be fully operational, having opened around six months ago in March 2017, so spread the word! It’s only a 10-minute maximum walk from Leeds University from the medical school-end of campus going downhill on Clarendon Road, so it’s quite easy to reach.

In their own words? We chatted to NoiseIsForHeroes’ owner Chris Coulthard about his tastes in music and what his shop has to offer.

 

Relics Records

Where? 53 New Briggate, Leeds LS2 8JD

On the other side of the road from the Brotherhood Sports Bar and The Grand Theatre & Opera House lies Relics Records, the oldest second-hand record shop in Leeds. It doesn’t look like much from the outside and is perfectly easy to walk straight past without realising, but inside lies two floors of exhaustive second-hand collections from virtually every genre up to the present day.

The shop front is getting a refurbishment in the coming weeks, so it’ll be much easier to spot from the street.

For fans of? Everything, in short. While it may give off a slightly fogey-ish vibe initially that one imagines would put off students, any cursory inspection will uncover the fact that there’s a galaxy of rare and classic records from every genre that would take more than a half a day to explore fully.

While the vast majority of stock is second-hand, Relics does deal in newly-released re-issues and box sets, so those collectors looking for good deals will absolutely love the place.

In their own words? We spoke to Relics’ manager Stephen Farrer about the shop and the city of Leeds.

 

SingleShot Vinyl Records & Coffeehouse

Where? 30 Central Road, Leeds LS1 6DE

Tucked away on Central Road behind Briggate, a couple of doors up from Hi-Fi (one of the best nightclubs in the city, btw), is Leeds’ very first vinyl / coffee shop hybrid, SingleShot.

Opened in November 2016 by Rob Tierney and Paul Raper, both of them well-established figures in the local music scene, SingleShot is obviously much more than just a second-hand store. Right from when you walk in the front door, confronted by the racks of vinyl but also a sofa and coffee table, there’s the vibe of a welcoming, all-purpose hangout space. A small pile of cans of craft beer rest behind the counter, along with the espresso machine; towards the back of the shop is where the coffee shop bit begins. Downstairs is a small live music area, with more tables and chairs, that is open at weekends.

For fans of? SingleShot doesn’t have the largest amount of records because it isn’t solely a vinyl store – however, what it lacks in size it makes up for in concentration and variety. ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s vinyl, ranging from mainstream pop to weird and wonderful left-field stuff, appears to be the theme, with a small number of proper vintage records hanging from the walls.

Several shelves worth of records underneath the main table is on sale for £1 a shot – a brief search turned up a Supremes greatest hits album in decent nick for the princely sum of an English pound. Brilliant stuff.

In their own words? We chatted to co-owner Paul Raper about how business is going and why Leeds is so attractive for students.

 

Doghouse Bar & Record Store

Where? 92 Kirkgate, Leeds, LS2 7DJ

Located on the oldest street in Leeds, and mysteriously one of the few places in the city centre that hasn’t seen any regeneration, Kirkgate goes down the hill out of town. But the comparatively modest surroundings (compared to nearby Victoria Gate at least…) mean that many small cafes and bars are springing up – and one of the very best is the Doghouse Bar & Record Store, which opened its doors back in July this year.

The ground floor is a compact but cosy bar area – craft beer, wine, spirits, the usual – with additional seating on the first floor above and escapes the dreaded hipster tag just by how welcoming it feels. Unsurprising, as it is owned by the same people as the excellent 212 Café & Bar on Brewery Place.

But on the second floor is Paula’s Record Store, operated by the Doghouse’s co-owner Jacob Kelly and containing a modest number of racks of vinyl bursting with house, world, disco, electronic and techno records both new and old. A set of turntables stands in the corner, and a dedicated wall showcases a few real oldies that look a bit out of place – Bruce Forsyth and Mrs. Mills, we’re talking here – as well as new releases from Leeds labels, meaning Kelly is doing his bit for the local scene.

Additionally, on Saturdays the record store section hosts in-store guest sets from headlining acts that are performing in Leeds or nearby that weekend.

For fans of? I have to admit, there’s little here for the average indie fan, but careful digging might yield a gem or two – I picked up a second-hand copy of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s ‘The Message’ for £4 in decent nick.

But for anybody obsessed with electronica and dance music – predominantly house, techno and hip-hop breaks – Paula’s Recordstore is a small treasure trove, filling a gap in the market for Leeds’ burgeoning number of second-hand stores.

Essentially, it is a place to buy the kind of music you can hear at the 212 Bar, so the two locations dovetail nicely into each other.

In their own words? We spoke to co-owner Jacob Kelly about the shop and the city of Leeds.

 

Norman Records

Where? Unit 20, Croydon House, Croydon Street, Leeds LS11 9RT

Founded in 1996, Norman Records is a bit out of the way, located a good walk from the city centre in the direction of Holbeck (south-westerly). However, if you’re prepared for the 30 minute walk or so – or are lucky enough to have a car – it is one of the big mother-lodes in Leeds, with their official website currently saying “41,353 items by 19,612 artists” at the time of writing.

It’s only open during week-days, making it a touch inconvenient if your schedules are busy, but it’s certainly worth raiding once every couple of months on this basis. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and will order in anything for you and are determined not to be beaten on price where at all possible. Their mail-order service is also excellent.

1 Discussion on “A Fresher’s Guide to Independent Record Stores in Leeds”
  • Not sure I agree with ‘Everything, in short’ for Relics. Nice shop and all, but hip-hop, dance and everything of similar nature is in very short supply for example.

    I’ve picked up a fair bit of 1990s – 2010’s in NoiseIsForHeroes so definitely worth checking it out.

    The record store under Crash mentioned above, Wall of Sound is in my view the best in Leeds. For Second hand only.

    Worth visiting Leeds market on a Thursday too for the two stalls.

    There are also two smaller stores opened down Kirkgate.

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