Electric Kitsch

Walking into Electric Kitsch on Washington Avenue in downtown Bay City, you could be tempted into thinking that it's just...well, kitsch-y. ⠀

In front of the door is a giant, neon pink plastic chair shaped like a hand, and every inch of the store is covered by a different light fixture, lamp, figurine, or piece of art. The long narrow room is stocked wall-to-wall with vinyl records. ⠀

And while to some "vintage" might be just a trend, when you sit down and talk with co-owners Jordan Pries and Jessica McQuarter, for them Electric Kitsch veers closer to representing belief.⠀

"Really, all I care about the discovery of music. Listening, playing, creating. I have no Western, first-world education in it. I don't have a degree in any of this stuff," says Jordan. "Opening a store like this seemed like the most viable way to be able to immerse myself in music and art. You can go to school for this stuff, but once you're out of school, you're not learning anymore. You're put into the position where you just do the job now, instead of learn. ⠀

Music and art, though, they're endless. Totally endless. Infinite."⠀

What do you love most about running this store? ⠀

"Really, it's the people that you can connect with. That's what it's all about. It's all about sharing."⠀

What do you think about the music scene here in Bay City? ⠀

"It's good. To me, it seems unknown. Yesterday we went to Bemo's and there was maybe about 20 people there, but it was all Bay City musicians just up on stage playing, and it was great." ⠀

Jessica says, "Do we want to be more known? I guess it depends on the musicians, and if they want to be nationally or internationally touring acts, then I suppose, but Bay City has its own scene and we entertain each other."⠀

"And I think something like that is hard - all you can do is dangle the carrot. You can't force people to go into it. All we can do is present the information and tell you that it's here, but people have to discover themselves. You can't force anybody to like something. And that's the big idea of marketing, and I don't agree with that," Jordan says. ⠀

"I want to find your passion. What YOU care about."⠀

So if running a business isn't about marketing, what is it about? ⠀

Jordan says, "It's caring about what you do. It's caring about what you put your work into. That amount of care and love, really. It shows the people that are coming in and buying stuff that it's legit, that we're doing what we're here to do. I'm here to teach people about and share with them music. I don't care about the monetary value, I care about the stuff within.⠀

I'm just trying to tell people they can find amazing things." ⠀

What do you love about vinyl? ⠀

"It's a moment in history that is literally burned into a physical medium. It's engraved into something." ⠀

While we talk, there is jazz playing off a vinyl from the sound system next to us. At the moment, there's a pop in the sound. ⠀

"See, there you go. That was the live tape, that's a mess-up, a human mess-up. I mean, that's even written on records, that there are source limitations. It's trying capture what we recorded but it can't."⠀

Of all the music you have in here, what is the best? ⠀

"That's not for me to decide," he says with a smile. ⠀

"To you, what is the best? I want to know what you think," I ask him. ⠀

"I think is anything that is a true artistic expression. Whatever comes out as naturally as possible. I think a lot of Jazz and experimental musicians saw this. Pop music has been manufactured, it's an algorithm now. It's a formula. But when you find people who create music simply to create it for their personal existence...that's my favorite stuff."⠀

If someone walked in and said, "Give me three records I should listen to," what would they be? ⠀

"Wow, that's hard...!"⠀

Jordan gets out of his chair, walking quickly to the first rack of records and starts flipping through a stack. ⠀

"I would recommend ‘Deaf Dumb and Blind’ by Pharaoh Sanders. That record seems have a stream of consciousness - it's all free improv, there's no structure behind. It's free jazz, but it's cooled down free jazz. More like being Zen. It's a powerful record and stays with you. ⠀

Maybe second I'd recommend Franco Battiato's "Fetus", he was an Italian composer. Totally outside the norms, didn't want to compose music that was verse-chorus-verse-chorus, he just wanted to create things that were from him. When you're born, you don't have any outside influences. With this record he was asking 'Can we get back to that point?' Third, let's do Betty Davis. The first woman to not only write, produce, and record her own on a major label. Ultimately here artistic integrity was destroyed by the industry and she wanted nothing to do it. She loved making music, but the industry ruined it for her." ⠀

It's hard to not become excited talking with people who love what they do, and i find myself writing down his suggestions less for the interview notes and more so that I can look them up when I get home. ⠀

This store is filled to this brim with stuff, and I walked through it three times to take pictures, each time I noticing something new, fun, or interesting. ⠀

But the store isn't about the stuff, it's about what Jordan and Jessica believe about art and music. ⠀

"There's always something to be discovered, always."⠀