Photo: Lindsay Galatro

Record Store Day 2017: Joe Lapan and Alisha Edmonson of Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe

Whether you’re in search of records, listening parties or live shows, Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in Adams Morgan has you more than covered. We caught up with owners Joe Lapan and Alisha Edmonson about all things vinyl, and their plans for Record Store Day (RSD) on Saturday, April 22.

On Tap: How would you describe your relationship with vinyl?
Joe: As a “generation X member,” I think the experience was somewhat typical in that I was always fascinated by my parents’ records, but really grew up in the cassette/CD era. My CD collection was quite large, and I carried them everywhere. My transition to digital was actually pretty late. I stuck with CDs for quite awhile. We probably “rediscovered” vinyl more recently as we learned more about it and appreciated it, kind of like a lot of people our age.

OT: What genres does Songbyrd specialize in?
Joe: With our record cafe concept, we are not a full-scale, large-format record store, so we have to curate well, just as a matter of space. We specialize primarily in “new” records (i.e., fresh, unwrapped), but our selection ranges from soul and hip-hop to jazz and rock classic albums as well as the best new records. It is also important to us to feature and provide space for local records.

OT: What kind of music do you play in the store? How do you select your lineup of tunes for the day?
Alisha: We have a very eclectic playlist. During the day, we tend toward low-key music, folding in new artist playlists or themes. Like right now, we are playing SXSW artists. At night, we have a little more fun. We crack open new album releases every Friday, [and] we have a Yacht Rock night [and] a Bring Your Own Vinyl night. It’s always fun stuff.

OT: High Fidelity moment: name your top five albums of all time, either most coveted or favorite to play in-store or at home.
Joe: We’ll tag team this one: The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest, Voodoo by D’Angelo and Currents by Tame Impala.
Alisha: Electric Warrior by T. Rex and Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys.

OT: How many record players do you own/use? What kind?
Alisha: Here at the music house, we have five Technics 1200s and one Audio Technica AT-LP120BK for daily use. Then at home, we have a U-turn Orbit Plus. For Classic Album Sundays, we bring in different, higher-end turntables, such as REGA Planar, depending on the sound the album requires. Turntable varieties are way more expansive and unique than a lot of people think.

OT: How do you think the vinyl scene has shifted in DC over the past decade?
Joe: I’m from the DC area and have lived here since 2001. I think there is certainly a renewed and growing interest in records, similar to the rest of the country. But the true “vinyl heads” never left, or aren’t new. Collecting and DJing vinyl requires devotion, and DC has always had its devotees. While its probably been increasingly difficult to maintain a record store in the city, shout-outs to shops like Crooked Beat and Som Records that have been feeding DJs and collectors their fix this whole time.

OT: What goals do you have for Songbyrd in the next several years?
Alisha: We hope we are able to grow our listening parties [and] to see more people using the cafe as a place to hang out with friends, have coffee and listen to music. We would love to explore the use of the Voice-O-Graph we have, and continue to expose musicians and regular customers to it.

OT: What do you have planned for RSD?
Joe: We try to go big on RSD. We have a great day planned with DJ Nitekrawler from DC Soul Recording spinning brunch, a series of live acts during the day and into the evening, and then partying with the all-vinyl Ritmos Raros event that night! And of course, as many of the RSD releases as we can get our hands on. We try to make the day one of vinyl celebration in addition to record buying!

Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475-2477 18th St. NW, DC; 202-450-2917;