If you ask Origami Vinyl owner and Echo Park resident Neil Schield what is the best part about owning a record shop , he’ll tell you it’s getting to meet his neighbors. He’s even played a neighborhood matchmaker of sorts, bringing together new couples and friends at his community-based Record Club nights across the street at El Prado bar.
Schield had no business plan when he opened the sliver of a shop on Sunset Boulevard five years ago. Instead, Origami was a passion project born out of a high school dream and a dash of desperation. 2009 didn’t exactly present the perfect economic climate to open an independent record store (Schield, himself was a casualty of the recession). The L.A. Times agreed as much at the time, and wrote an opinion piece questioning the store’s forthcoming opening – and Schield’s sanity. But there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? A week after the article hit, Schield was still building out his store when Pete Townshend of The Who walked up looking to buy a record.
Now, as the store approaches its 5th anniversary on April 3 (Schield’s longest-term relationship to date), the 37-year-old plans to celebrate in a big way. He’s invited the community down to The Echo for a night of bands, giveaways, fun and an even brighter future.
Was there a record for you that sticks out as particularly formative?
It wasn’t maybe a particular record, it was just the relationship I had with music and my parents. My parents had always bought records, and my mom took me record shopping from a young age. So I think the experience of just going to concerts with my parents and putting a needle on a record – music was a big part of the household.
Why the name Origami?
Origami came, first off, from me wanting to start a record label in 2001 and writing a bunch of names down. And a friend, knowing my love of Japanese culture, had sent me an origami mobile as a gift. I just wrote down the name ‘origami’ and it just looked and sounded really cool. There was something unique about the vowel, consonant, vowel, consonant … it rolls of the tongue in a cool way. But it also became a reference to my dad. He would travel to Japan six times a year for work so he would always bring me a lot of toys and [origami] back.
Record Store day is coming up in a couple weeks, what has that occasion meant to you over the 5 years you’ve been here?
Record Store Day has changed a lot in the five years we’ve been open. We didn’t even understand what it was before. It happened two weeks after we opened our doors and all the sudden we had a 100 people outside our door. It’s really evangelized the independent record store and vinyl as a format. It’s helped spread the word that [record stores] are cultural centers and they’re important to support.
The neighborhood is quite rich in vinyl stores these days. What’s the relationship like between all the shops?
I think I heard that there’s something like 40 record stores in L.A. now. It’s absolutely insane, but awesome. It really just validates why we’re here. I look at all the stores as brethren, we’re in the trenches together. Music’s a very personal thing and there should be lots of records stores like mine all out there curating their own personalities. Certain people will gravitate towards certain stores. When a record comes out and we don’t have it we send people to Permanent Records in Highland Park, we send people to Vacation Records in Silver Lake, so it’s a very friendly relationship.
Why do you think there’s been a particular resurgence in vinyl over the last decade or so?
I think the younger generation, maybe they just grew up with MP3s and iPods – not even CDs. So the idea of this tangible product is kind of exotic and new and cool. Maybe they’ve never seen artwork in that way before, maybe they’ve never interacted with music in such a way. [A record] really forces you to pay attention to the music, you have to be present when taking off the needle and flipping the record. You don’t get that when you put your iPod on random.
Marni Epstein Epstein is an entertainment, music, and lifestyle Journalist and resident of Echo Park. She has previously worked in the film and digital media industries with FOX and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She is currently also pursuing a Masters in Historic Preservation.