“The medium for punk has always been vinyl. So it has never gone away, in my mind.”
So says Peter Genest, owner of Hits And Misses record store. The shop houses punk, metal, ‘60s garage rock, and “rock ’n’ roll from the ‘50s to the present, any sort of offshoot,” and is located on Hastings amidst farm markets, Chinese bakeries, and odd shops. Gems line the walls, from recognizable Rancid albums to Dissonance’s record in a pizza box.
I catch Genest outside, taking a smoke break from his 20-year-long gig as a record store owner across four cities and two countries. When asked the age-old question of whether vinyl actually sounds better, he’s more confident than most. “Absolutely,” he says. “It was the way things were supposed to be made. Things were supposed to come out on vinyl. [It’s] more fun too.”
Genest’s relationship with record stores began with Roundhouse Records in Portland, which he founded and ran for four and a half years (1992-1996). Admittedly, Portland remains his favourite city to hang out and buy records. Wanting a “change in life,” he moved to Seattle in 1996 and opened Singles Going Steady, and its satellite in Vancouver. After ten years in Seattle, he moved back to his hometown of Toronto in 2006 to open up the first incarnation of Hits And Misses, but business there was horrible. “I love the city, I love the layout, I love the transit system,” says Genest, but “nobody cares about punk rock stuff … probably 20 per cent of my customers were from Hamilton.”
Running Hits And Misses in Vancouver is still not easy. “So, you’re saying I shouldn’t run a record store when I grow up?” I jokingly ask. “Not unless you wanna live on Mr. Noodles and become a serious alcoholic, and never get a day off,” he warns. “You want all that, you should open up a record store, because that’s what your life is gonna turn into.”
Genest got into punk at the “gullible” age of fifteen in the early ‘80s, and says, “It sorta changed my life … Bands were actually saying stuff.” He was tired of five-minute solos amidst even longer epics, but admits that “punk doesn’t mean what it used to mean,” referring to the mainstreaming and commodification of the genre. He points out that you couldn’t even get Ramones t-shirts in malls during the ‘80s. Now even babies wear them. Punk was a smaller scene in Portland back then, with 60-70 people all knowing of each other. The same few bands would play over and over, and a good turnout to a show was 30-40 people.
The names of Genest’s record shops are shouts out to the legends of punk. Roundhouse Records was named after a London club he heard about in a Mott The Hoople song. Singles Going Steady was the name of a Buzzcocks LP, also the name of a punk store in Portland in the ‘80s: “It had been closed for over 10 years, but [I] always thought it was such a cool name for a store.” Hits And Misses is named after a song from Stiff Little Fingers’ Go For It.
As for what the media calls ‘the return of vinyl’, Genest has his own theory. “It [is] the major labels’ last attempt at selling records by pushing this ‘vinyl comeback’ because they have nothing else. Nobody buys CDs.” And he is convinced it won’t last when people realize they can buy $45 AC / DC records in London Drugs or Urban Outfitters as $10 used originals. Still, he thinks it’s cool that young people are getting into vinyl, though he wishes they’d collect their own stuff instead of buying back what their parents listened to. Most of Hits And Misses’ clientele are older collectors that didn’t grow up with social media, preferring the, well, hit-and-miss process of record-hunting.
A visiting customer, Damien, tells me how he found new bands as a kid: “You open up the liner notes, the thank you’s, and you hear all these weird names, and you go to the record store and boom, you find ‘em.” After a bit of crate-digging, he unearths Youth Brigade’s Sound & Fury and is visibly stoked. “Now there’s a life-changing album right there,” Genest chimes in. Intrigued, I ask for names of punk albums for newbies and leave with a big list, including Sound & Fury.
Sure, vinyl might be dead, dying, or very much alive (who knows?) but discovering new music never gets boring. So if you happen to prowl East Hastings one afternoon, hungry for something fresh, look for the bull’s-eye logo of Hits And Misses. You might find a hit.
Hits And Misses is located at 2629 East Hastings between Penticton and Slocan. It is open Sunday – Friday 12-7pm, and Saturday 11-7pm.