Welcome to the long overdue return of our monthly feature 'Record Store Of The Month.' We kick it off with one of our favorite stores, Breakaway Records, located in Austin, Texas. Store owners Josh LaRue & Gabe Vaughn shed some light on why the store remains one of the finest on the planet.
Light in the Attic: What was the inspiration for launching Breakaway Records and how and when did the doors open?
Gabe (Breakaway): Music & community have always been at the heart of the shop. Being a native Austinite, it has always been important for me to try to build spaces that celebrate community, art and individuality, especially in a town so challenged in supporting these elements.
Josh (Breakaway): Gabe opened the shop in June, 2008. Originally it was on East 5th street and way smaller. I got involved 2 years later, just after the shop had moved to our North Loop location. I had just moved back to Austin and checked all the shops in town and Breakaway was def my shop. I knew Gabe from online record nerd-ery (back when there were message boards about rare records and general record info sharing) and we hit it off. The shop needed some help at the time and I tried to turn my love of music and records, and my small biz experience into helping take the shop to the next level.
LITA: You all are truly the masters of creating a beautiful space and visual aesthetic, a super solid mix of both new and used wax, and a warm and welcoming environment -- which is often a rarity in the record store sphere. What's the secret to Breakaway?
Gabe (Breakaway): Not many secrets. Josh and I are just very passionate about music and record collecting, mostly. The layout of the room has always been the soil for harvesting the good vibes at Breakaway. Our recipe can really be broken down here: the right staff!
Josh (Breakaway): Ideally you need cool, reliable folks of all ages and backgrounds with different taste and varied interests.
Gabe (Breakaway): a clean, well organized space, room to breathe, the vast musical knowledge/taste of 2 old ass music nerds
Josh (Breakaway): who are also trying to continually learn and discover and stay excited about music
Gabe (Breakaway): with sprinkles of humor and hand-made touches all throughout
Josh (Breakaway): and never losing sight of what it's like to BE a customer, and that magical feeling of discovering something you didn't know you were looking for.
LITA: Tell us about Breakaway's epic wall of 8x10 promo photos. Each time I visit the shop, I drool at that wall. It's a world that I want to live in. How long have you been collecting 8x10s? Got any good stories?
Gabe (Breakaway): The only story I have is that the ATCQ one came from my promo copy of "People's Instinctive Travels...", which also included a type-written, 3-page letter describing the "new sound" that had not yet hit the world.
Josh (Breakaway): Hearing your excitement makes me wanna find more! It started kinda small and organically, and then Gabe and I realized we could make a visual statement with them, so I searched out more, spray painted a bunch of thrift store frames gold and voila! we got a motherfuckin wall of fame! (blatant 'Do The Right Thing' reference here...). No real great stories, The Brothers Of Soul was signed to Breakaway by member Fred Bridges, sent to us unsolicited by a Breakaway fan from another city. That person knew Gabe and I were huge fans since we had made a cryptic t-shirt honoring the band that read BRIDGES & KNIGHT & EATON. A couple (Steve Reich, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Eno & Byrne came from a guy who worked at a DC newspaper in the 80s writing about the arts. The 80's Roky one is an all-time fave, also found inside a copy of the LP.
LITA: During the early days of the pandemic, you guys brought much joy to our house, with your weekly Instagram show, live from the store. Any plans to bring it back?
Josh (Breakaway): Once the shop re-opened, we didn't really have the time. We (especially Gabe; he may still be mad at me for stopping the runaway hit show that was TWIN SPIN) wanted to continue, and talked about bringing it back for some kind of special event but it hasn't happened. I kinda like that it was so of that weird time. It was pretty fun to do though. And gave us some connection to the folks and interactions we were missing.
LITA: Congrats on hitting your 15th anniversary this summer. How have things changed since the shop opened in '08? What's the dream for the 30th anniversary?
Josh (Breakaway): Thanks! We're bigger, busier, have more records, more gear, more staff, more ideas. We started as a small, mostly soul music focused shop that only sold used LPs & 45s. We slowly added more genres, re-issues, cassettes, stereo gear, accessories, new releases & contemporary music, etc. And we've tried to keep the growth organic and make sure the shop still feels like US.
LITA: What are the top 5 big sellers these days?
Josh (Breakaway): Boy it's alway changing based on new releases / re-issues / availability, but consistent big sellers over the last several months:
Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo
MF DOOM - MM..FOOD
Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Mort Garson - Plantasia
Thee Sacred Souls - S/T
LITA: My favorite section of the shop is always the Staff Picks section. Over the years, I've found many gems in there. Got a few new releases (both contemporary and reissues) that you'd recommend?
Josh (Breakaway): Recent staff pix action: The Color Green, Pat Martino - Baiyina, Pharoah Sanders - Pharoah, Ernest Ranglin - Below The Bassline, The Waziri Oshomah re-issues, Matthew Halsall - An Ever Changing View, Dry Cleaning - Stump Work, Unrest - Imperial FFRR. Def look for the new Resavoir LP on International Anthem (their s/t has been a shop fave) AND the new release from Planet Ilunga (they've put out INCREDIBLE re-issues of Congolese Rumba) to be new staff picks later this month...
LITA: Any great local Austin bands to check out?
Josh (Breakaway): CACTUS LEE! Money Chicha, The Point, Adrian Quesada's stuff, Alexalone, and Being Dead.
LITA: I've been continuously blown away by your new spot, the Equipment Room, located here in Austin. The music is always killer and I had one of the best cocktails of my life there (some smokey whiskey or bourbon drink?!?). Mind sharing some background on how the place came to be?
Josh (Breakaway): I've wanted to have that Jazz Kissa concept in Austin since going to some of those spots in Japan 10-20 years ago. The vibe and the reverence for not just music, but for records blew me away. One of the other EQ owners, James Moody (Mohawk, Rambler) had a similar experience.going to Japan and really wanted to make this happen in Austin. Moody approached Gabe and I about 3 years back with a location in mind and asked us to be involved. We built the record collection and figured out what gear to get.
(Photo by Robert Gomez)
LITA: And who designed the space?
Josh (Breakaway): A firm called RIOS designed the spot, with lots of input from Moody & Breakaway. But the reason it looks so magical is the team from Bunkhouse (the company that owns Hotel Magdalena where EQ is, and designs/builds cool hotels here in Austin and now all over!) totally crushed it. Tenaya Hills deserves the main credit. That place looks sick because of Tenaya. Klipsch helped with some technical aspects of the system. Really there were many folks involved in making that place.
(Photo by Nick Simonite)
LITA: What are your Top 5 favorite record shops on planet earth?
- Domino Sound - New Orleans
- Som Records - DC / Joint Custody - DC (2-way tie for my DC homies)
- Disk Union - Tokyo (Shimokitazawa & Shibuya)
- End Of An Ear - Austin
- Human Head - Brooklyn
Shoutouts from the misty past to: Hi-Fi Records - Chicago (RIP) / Shrine Records - NYC (RIP) / Record (Sound) Exchange - Austin (RIP)
LITA: What's that dream release we should be reissuing?
Gabe (Breakaway): Records you absolutely NEED to release:
Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos
Sex Mob does Bond
Señor Coconut Y Su Conjunto – El Baile Alemán
Josh (Breakaway): Latin Playboys S/T needs a re-issue. There was an RSD version (and the ONLY vinyl version) a few years back but it quickly disappeared.
All The LKJ records need to be re-issued.
The King Sunny Ade records he did for Island / Mango in the 80s.
Art Farmer Quartet - To Sweden With Love
Willie Nelson - Good Times
Le Seigneur Rochereau's LPs
The Joe Harriott / John Mayer Double Quintet LPs on Atlantic (Indo-Jazz Suite and Indo-Jazz Fusions)
LITA: And lastly, what's your favorite Light in the Attic release?
Gabe (Breakaway): Bobby Charles!!!!!!
Josh (Breakaway): Ya'll have had consistently amazing taste, and put out a lot of records, so it's very hard to pick one!....The two I've listened to the most and def discovered because of ya'll are Jim Sullivan U.F.O. and Free Design Heaven / Earth.