Adam Tye’s love affair with music began 14 years ago, when he set foot inside Salt Lake City’s all-ages music venue, Kilby Court. “A friend took me to [see] Form of Rocket and that blew my mind,” says Adam. “That was the first local band I found that became a must-see every time they played.”
Local music inspired Adam so much, that he started thinking about ways he could be part of Utah’s unique music scene. He didn’t really play an instrument but he had a passion for vinyl records. Adam liked the idea of opening a record store and began brainstorming names and logo ideas in his sketchbook. Soon after, Adam met his future wife and business partner, Alana.
“It was something we connected on very early in our relationship,” says Alana. “Diabolical Records is the name Adam had chosen for a record store for over a decade but it was never much more than a logo to dream about.“
“Any time we talked about our future together, opening a record store was always the thing we wanted to do,” says Adam.
In mid-summer 2013, the now-married couple decided it was time to take the risk and Diabolical Records was born. They found a small space and cheap rent inside of an old shipping container, turned retail shop at the Granary Row project on 700 South and 400 West in Salt Lake City. “It was the perfect way to see if the idea we'd been kicking around for years could actually work. We were there from July 5, 2013 to November 2, 2013,” says Adam.
Word spread and Diabolical’s customer clientele grew as cold weather set in and soon, the seasonal Granary Row project came to its end. The Tyes feverishly began looking for a new, permanent space they could open before Christmas. Then by happenstance, Alana reconnected with an old friend, Timo Hatziathanasiou. “Alana and I have known each other for a long time, having gone to middle school and high school together,” says Timo.
A freelance writer for SLUG (SaltLakeUnderGround) Magazine, Timo was assigned to interview Adam and Alana regarding their quaint record store on Granary Row. “Our conversation continued after the interview was over,” says Timo. “Knowing that we had many of the same interests, they asked if I’d be interested in working together,” says Timo. “I’d had a similar thought and was happy to accept the offer.”
Instead of viewing each other as competition, the two prospective store owners teamed up and moved into a downtown retail space on Edison Street (an alleyway just shy of Main Street between 200 and 300 South). By December 2013, Albatross Recordings & Ephemera, along with Diabolical Records opened their shared door for business.
The concept of running two separate record stores out of one storefront seems peculiar, but it actually works quite well. By combining efforts, both businesses share overhead expenses while providing a community space for free local concerts. Each owner sells specific inventory catered to his or her own taste. “This way, nobody has to compromise their vision, and instead share the same space,” says Timo.
Diabolical and Albatross’ joint effort has allowed their space to become a hub for like-minded music enthusiasts and record collectors. Patrons are encouraged to gather, converse, play LPs on the store’s turntable and become inspired by discovering new music. “Our idea from the start was to have it be comfortable,” says Adam. “We want people to come in and stay for awhile.”
The storefront has large, east-facing windows that allow natural light to pour in. Healthy plants grow on the sill. Each store owner uses unique furniture, indicative of the their own style. There are thrift store couches and chairs, a portable record player, brightly painted blue and red walls with wood floors. Framed local artworks exhibit next to custom-made shelves and cabinets. Used and new records, cassettes and a few CDs are priced to sell. Diabolical occupies the front and Albatross is in the back. Although there are no actual physical barriers, it's easy to differentiate which-is-which.
“My favorite shops, restaurants, etc. have always been those that feel more like a living room than a waiting room,” say Timo. “Reflecting the personality of the owners, maintaining an aesthetic and atmosphere unique to that place.”
Albatross specializes in noise, occult curiosities, audio experimentation, soundtracks, jazz, avant-garde, world and various in-between gems. Diabolical caters to garage, psych and punk patrons. They also boast a large local section of releases by Utah bands. Both shops hope to expand their inventory to include hip-hop in the near future. The majority of their inventory is in LP and cassette format although, a dozen or so used CDs are offered for sale.
“Vinyl Sales grew 39% in 2013,”says Adam. “That’s only including new records with barcodes from stores that actually scan barcodes, which most do not. Vinyl is back. It’s the ideal format to listen to music.”
Adding to Albatross and Diabolical’s unique atmosphere are their free, weekly, Friday night shows. Store inventory and couches are set aside, making room for band gear and a small PA. The Grub Truck (a local food truck) parks out front to feed hungry millennials.
“We feel it's the responsibility of local record shops to promote local music,” says Adam. “It's great to sell people the new big national releases, but it's also fun to introduce people to local music they've never heard before.”
Alana earned a master’s degree in community leadership and believes supporting local musicians and artisans is a way of developing community. “We believe that providing a space for local artists to showcase their skills is essential for any successful, thriving community,” says Alana. “Salt Lake City needs to offer more spaces that will support musicians and artists which will eventually improve our community health, happiness and the local economy.”
Supporting local musicians by selling their product and providing a place for them to play is a vital part of each store’s mission. “Adam has booked all of the shows that we’ve had and that are currently on the lineup,” says Timo. “If there’s somebody that I’d like to book in the future, I’ll do my best to make that happen, but Adam has done a great job so far.”
By allowing bands to gig for free at their shops, Diabolical and Albatross are cultivating the next generation of musicians in Salt Lake City’s music scene.
“We feel it's important for us to host shows every Friday, because all these kids in town are looking for good music and don't have free places to find their new favorite band and get inspired to pick up the guitar or drums,” says Adam. “We really do believe that Salt Lake has one of the best music scenes in the country.”
Diabolical Records and Albatross Recordings & Ephemera are open six days a week, Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 238 South Edison Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84101. 801.792.9204
Angela Brown is editor of SLUG Magazine and a member of KUER's Advisory Board.