With vintage clothes and posters hanging on the walls, Joint Custody is a must-visit for music and pop culture lovers in search of memorabilia. At its heart though, the shop is still very much a record store, and with Record Store Day coming up on Saturday, April 22, it’s definitely worth checking out. We caught up with co-owner Gene Melkisethian about his spot and all things vinyl.
On Tap: When and why did you open Joint Custody?
Gene Melkisethian: We opened our store on September 11, 2011. An auspicious date for sure, but we just hustled to get things going in time for the Adams Morgan Day festival held on that date. We decided to open the store that we always wanted to shop at. We both had other incomes, so we knew we could concentrate on making Joint Custody exactly what we wanted it to be without the pressures of hand-to-mouth survival.
OT: What’s the look you’re going for at Joint Custody? Who shops here?
GM: Our store has an eclectic assortment of things we find amusing on the walls and small shelves. Definitely not as fanciful as we’d like, but space is an issue. Our customer base is an assortment of creative people who are doing all sorts of interesting things. The MVP is definitely Ronald. He’s a walking billboard for everything that makes this city so great.
OT: What genres do you cover? What about new versus used records?
GM: We try to cover the full spectrum of genres. We have quite a large selection of rock, punk, jazz, alternative, heavy metal, hip-hop and international. We prefer used for a variety of reasons, be they related to sound quality, environmental concerns, price, etc. We do try to keep a wide spread of new releases, and work on improving this aspect of our store constantly.
OT: What kind of record player do you own?
GM: I have a Technics in my current setup that’s my day-to-day turntable. I have some others that I’d put into rotation if I lived in a bigger house.
OT: Any vinyl-themed events on your radar in and around the city?
GM: I travel a lot and have played in touring bands for 20 years, [so] I’m normally trying to run away from loud music and hide in Rock Creek Park when I’m home. I always to try see anything that Beautiful Swimmers are spinning at, because they’re really nice people and their events always have a positive vibe. Moneytown is great, but it’s on Fridays and I never seem to make it out to Little Miss Whiskey’s on H Street. But DJ Nitecrawler is surely the go-to guy for the best in soul. Songbyrd has events constantly, as does U Street Music Hall, and Ten Tigers is a newcomer that has already had some killer events including Baltimore club legend DJ Technics. Slash Run, Black Cat and Dew Drop Inn always seem to have good music playing or on the jukebox. With the explosion in bars, venues and DJ nights in this city, you really have to try to go to a place that doesn’t have good music playing. That’s a very good thing.
OT: Do you see a shift in vinyl’s popularity locally, and nationally?
GM: Consuming music only through computer speakers and earbuds is like eating PowerBars as your sole means of sustenance. You can do it, but why? The major labels are milking it for all they can. They are doing their best to create a bubble, but I think there will be sustained popularity for the format as people begin to value objects for their quality and not their quantity again. People are willing to pay more for ethically-sourced food and handmade products as opposed to blind consumption for the sake of it. The same is happening with records and books. Have you ever had a meaningful conversation with your Amazon shopping cart?
OT: What are the best and worst parts of owning a record store in the DC area?
GM: The best part is all of our wonderful customers. We meet all kinds of great people that have interesting things to share. All of the business-related stuff is annoying to deal with, but what can you do?
OT: What goals do you have for your shop in the next several years?
GM: We would like to continually improve and expand in every way possible.
OT: If you had to put into only one sentence what you love most about vinyl, what would you say?
GM: After backaches from repeated moves, still worth it.
OT: Why do you feel that Record Store Day is important to the local music community?
GM: I’m not sure if Record Store Day is that important to the local music community; they’re already immersed in music every day. I think RSD is more helpful for getting the casual buyer through the door to see what they’re missing out on. RSD is our chance to show the community at large what a great experience rubbing elbows with other music fans can be, and helps to illuminate the special things that can’t be emulated via the online shopping experience.