Behind the Counter: Landlocked Music (Bloomington, IN)

Each Tuesday, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.

Landlocked Music in Bloomington, Indiana has been around since 2006 and has since proved to be a staple in the small college town. The store has hosted a number of notable in-store performances and curates a collection of music to satisfy almost any taste. With its fifth anniversary coming up in March of 2011, we spoke with Landlocked c0-owner Jason Nickey and got the inside scoop on one of the Midwest’s top record stores. A message to any straightforward rock-‘n’-roll bands from Bloomington: get in touch with Nickey; he doesn’t believe that you exist.

What was your motivation for starting a music store? / What is your background in music?

I had no choice, really. It’s the only thing I’m fully qualified to do; I’m otherwise unemployable. All I ever did at any other job I ever had was talk to people about music and records and try to discover new stuff I hadn’t heard yet. So it was probably inevitable. Also, at a certain point, when you’ve acquired a certain quantity of recorded music, it’s the next logical move.

I worked in record stores all through college, and I’ve worked a bit on the distribution side of things, as well as some writing for magazines, websites, etc., and deejaying at college and then community radio. All of those experiences have come into play to some degree. Also, finding a partner was key. It would be near impossible to do this alone. I’m sort of the behind-the-counter guy; my partner is the marketing/social-networking guy, broadly speaking.

Jason Nickey holds the Flamin' Groovies' Shake Some Action
Jason Nickey holds the Flamin' Groovies' Shake Some Action

What is the musical community like in Bloomington?

I’m feeling a little negative about it at the moment to be honest, although I’m quite thankful that we have a music community at all given that Bloomington is a small Midwestern town.

There are tons of bands here. But generally speaking, it’s all very arty. Even our punk bands have some sort of conceptual angle. Either that or it’s some horrible crust-folk hobo-bike-pirate friendly punk BS, which won’t ever seem to die here. Not my bag at all.

Showing people a good time seems not to be taken into consideration much. The concept of fun takes a backseat to making some sort of “art statement” or something. I’ve been waiting for years to stumble upon some straight-ahead rock-and-roll band that just plays Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly-type songs non-ironically but with passion and soul.

There are larger musical institutions here like Secretly Canadian and her related labels, and the annual Lotus World Music Festival — both of which have an overall positive effect on the Bloomington music scene. And lest this all sound like a rant, there are a handful of good bands here. Among my favorites are Apache Dropout, who has an LP coming out on Family Vineyard early next year. They’re sort of a ragged caveman-bubblegum band, if that makes any sense.

(And in case you’re wondering, yes, John Mellencamp lives here, but he’s a total nonentity on the music scene. I’ve never seen him at a show or even sold him a record in 15 or so years here, which is a shame.)

Tyler Damon holds Dead C's Eusa Kills
Tyler Damon holds The Dead C's Eusa Kills

What can someone expect when visiting Landlocked for the first time?

I’d like to think that we have a good balance of the esoteric and the basic catalog that any decent record shop should have. You can find Les Rallizes Denudes next to Led Zeppelin here. We do our best to be helpful guides, so you’ll be asked if you have any questions and then left alone to dig and be surprised. More and more people seem to come in knowing exactly what they’re looking for, or they want to be told what they should buy. Both attitudes I try to redirect.

Sure, I want people to find what they’re looking for, but I’ve tried to create an environment where people find what they didn’t even know they were looking for. That’s what I like personally when I go to a record store, that feeling of serendipitous discovery.

Mikey Kapinus (keyboardist from Magnolia Electric Co.) holds a Drakkar Saunna 7'
Mikey Kapinus (keyboardist from Magnolia Electric Co.) holds a Drakkar Sauna 7"

Give me three great albums that you’ve enjoyed lately.

Not incredibly new, but the latest Ty Segall LP on Goner, Melted, is probably going to be my favorite of 2010.  The Liminanas LP on Chicago-based label Trouble in Mind is probably the best new release I’ve heard in the past month or so. Sort of reminds me of Shocking Blue, which is a good thing in my book. Also, I revisited The Silos’ Cuba LP the other day for the first time in years. So good. Excellent songs.

Which albums has your store sold the most over the past month?

The double-disc version of The National’s High Violet has sold the most, largely due to the label doing a big promotional push on it, offering it to stores at a super-cheap price, and even directing people online to indie shops. Matador/4AD/Beggars Group are true friends of indie record stores.

James Paasche holds Reverend Charlie Jackson's God's Got It
James Paasche holds Reverend Charlie Jackson's God's Got It

What is the strangest request you’ve ever received?

Sometimes friends prank call us and I always fall for it because their questions and requests are always far less strange than the real questions we’re asked. We’ve been asked everything from “Do you carry trombones?” to “Can I get a quote for some work?” thinking we’re the tattoo place around the corner (mind you that this is someone INSIDE the store asking this, surrounded by LPs and CDs).

In terms of the strangest music request we’ve had: since we sort of specialize in strange stuff, strange for us is like Barbara Streisand or something — stuff so common I wouldn’t even waste space on it. The most frustrating questions are less strange than just unreasonable. Like some dude from Denmark or wherever on some cross-country record dig drops in and before even looking at anything says something like, “Where are all your regional private-press funk 45s?” Oh yeah, sure, let me go get them, there’s a whole box back by the toilet.

Heath Byers holds most of the Spacemen 3 catalog
Heath Byers holds most of the Spacemen 3 catalog

Have you had any in-store performances that really stand out?

We’ve had a lot of good ones over the past five years: Besnard Lakes, Indian Jewelry, Daniel Higgs. Our “Breakfast with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy” (Will Oldham) and Lou Barlow in-stores were particularly meaningful to me. More recently, Bare Wires totally killed it to a small but enthusiastic audience.

Any big future plans for Landlocked?

Our five-year anniversary is coming up in March. We’re working on having some sort of show/celebration and customer-appreciation-type shindig. Still in the works. Any good bands want to play? Get in touch. We’re also going to be putting out at least a couple records ourselves in the coming year. Stay tuned.

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