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Add live music, great beer and rockin’ food to a vinyl store, and you get The Record Crate. We chat to the owner Nev Sergent about his little, unique venue

A cosy niche in the bustling streets of Glebe, The Record Crate is more than a music venue and vinyl store. Chill out in the courtyard with friendly locals, browse Nev’s extensive vinyl collection or enjoy a hearty meal, all while experiencing the vibrating soundwaves coming from the second floor.

The Record Crate is all about the Inner West – pouring local beers and showcasing diverse local talent. With musical prestige and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere, The Crate has become an established music venue in Sydney.

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In the dusty, afternoon hours before opening, Happy got together with owner and old hippie Neville Sergent to talk about the current condition of local talent, and what The Record Crate is all about.

HAPPY: The Record Crate opened about three and a half years ago, in December 2012. Generally, how many live bands do you showcase weekly?

NEV: On average 15.

HAPPY: Are you looking for a certain genre to play at The Record Crate? What kind of music can one expect to hear?

NEV: Upcoming bands, all originals. We particularly like a lot of the bands in the Inner West. We stock Inner West beers; we’re all about the Inner West, we’re all about Glebe, local musos, poets, lefties. Everything non-corporate – the opposite of corporate. I’m an old hippie.

HAPPY: A lot of artists these days, well it’s quite inherent for all artists actually, want to sound different. They want to stand above the normal genre and introduce fresh, new sounds. With the musical talent that’s coming out of the Inner West at the moment, do you see any diversity?

NEV: There are some good bands out there. And you’re right about the sub-cultures and the rise of shoe-gaze. And punk – punk has always been around. But also, I gotta say up in the Inner West there are some really good rock bands that actually aren’t boring. It’s not meat, potatoes, rock. It’s actually got good grooves and shuffles, good solos, good guitar work, good vocals. It’s really quite impressive. There are some good bands out there.

HAPPY: Do you reckon that’s a bit rare these days?

NEV: No –

HAPPY: It’s quite apparent?

NEV: Yeah, there are some really good bands out there. And I think, I mean I know we’ve been going three and a half years and we’ve always had indie bands, alternative indie bands, and local bands, but whether it’s got any better over the last three and a half years or we’ve got better over the last three and a half years, I don’t know. But it seems to be on the rise. And there’s just so many bands out there that want to play.

HAPPY: What’s it like to perform at The Crate?

NEV: We’ve got a good sound system. I’ve just upgraded that, we’ve got a new 16-channel mixer. Everything’s up there. There are six mics, there are mic stands, the whole thing’s there. We’ve got lots of carpet up there, curtains so the sound’s really good. The bands love playing up there. They like that little room because you can be an up and coming band and get 25 to 30 of your mates up there and because it’s a smaller room you can pack more in. But you get a good vibe on a small gig. Better to have that than a room that can take 200 and there’re 25 people in the room and the whole thing’s just got no vibe. Small rooms are cool.

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HAPPY: What kind of audience does The Record Crate bring in?

NEV: We’re very diverse. We have on our roster that we rotate, a bunch of bands. There was a band called Ashtray Boy and they played with Lobster Man and it was ‘Lobster Man versus Ashtray Boy’. Now, Ashtray Boy have been around for 20 years – they’ve done ten albums. I didn’t know, I went and did all my homework on them. And they’re signed to a label called China Pig Records. We’d had Lobster Man play before and they’ve got an older crowd but they still party, still go and see live music – cool, old crowd. When the two of them played together, Ashtray Boy and Lobster Man, they packed the place out. They would all be 40, and had a ball. It was an older crowd because Ashtray Boy had been around for 20 years and they hadn’t played for ten years so playing again after ten years packed the place out.

HAPPY: Wow, in that little room up there. They didn’t think they were going to pack the place out?

NEV: It’s because Lobster Man had played here before and China Pig Records had put on gigs here before so they wanted to do it here because they knew it was going to be a good night. Less pressure on Ashtray Boy to fill a room, they might not have been confident to do so.

HAPPY: So, it’s good that there is diverse sound coming from local musicians?

NEV: Vive la difference.

HAPPY: Do bands have to tell you what genre they are? Do they have to classify themselves?

NEV: Not really, I don’t care. I just do my homework on them. I’ve got this guy called Scruffamudda and he’s like a one-piece band and he comes in with his effects peddles that are basically all screwed on to a door – he always struggles to get it up there – and he’s played here four times. Every time he packs the place out. He’ll just get all these loops and stuff going on and then he’ll rap over the top. He’s fucking good. Everyone likes him, his music’s good and he’ll pack the place out on a Saturday night.

HAPPY: So, The Record Crate doesn’t really have a specific genre that’s performed. If you’re good, you’re good.

NEV: Well I’m teaming up with management – there’s a meeting on Tuesday – they will probably end up changing the direction of The Crate, but we’ll see.

HAPPY: Dot, dot, dot…?

NEV: It’s too early to say. But that will take us to the next level. That will be: all tickets for the weekend will be sold online, there will be package deals with food, it’ll be like a rock ‘n’ roll version of The Basement. But we’ll see.

HAPPY: While I was researching the history of local music in Sydney, from pub-rock to shoegaze, I found that there are lots of genres circulating at the moment which have essentially been there for ages.

NEV: Yeah, they’re old. It (shoegaze) is a 25-year-old genre. It’s always been there but it seems to be coming to the fore. There’s more and more of that genre of bands out there than there’s ever been. Mind you, my events manager – that no longer works for me – played in a shoegaze band and he was always playing fucking shoe-gaze music, so he was looking for bands that had that. But it’s interesting that you said it, because I’d already picked up on that. Whether that’s just what’s generally out there or my events manager was choosing those bands… I think it was a bit of both. But the bottom line is – yes, there are quite a lot of those bands out there. It’s not new.

There is a bucket load of sub-cultures around here. There are just all these little sub-sections that all over a period of time get a rotation at The Crate. We’ll get old punks. There’s a show called Punk in the Park and it got cancelled ‘cause it was raining. Nothing was on and we picked up that show two days before it was going to go down, and they packed the place out. They were old punks, hardcore shit, mohawks and chains – but they were all cool. They looked scary but they were not.

Photo by The Record Crate

Photo by The Record Crate

HAPPY: That’s interesting. Punk is still relevant, it’s still popular.

NEV: There are a lot of different sub-cultures out there in Sydney and they’re all still active within that sub-culture. So, if you get the right band that appeals to that sub-culture or whatever it is – the place is full. Doesn’t matter what age – like Ashtray Boy versus Lobster Man. (Laughs) I loved that gig.

HAPPY: Are they a band?

NEV: Two-piece.

HAPPY: I wonder why they didn’t call it Ashtray Boys…

NEV: It was a girl and a guy. I think they were partners. I don’t know … (laughs) It’s nothing to do with me, I didn’t name the band!

HAPPY: It works for them!

NEV: It works for them.

HAPPY: There is always something going on at The Record Crate. For example, Crackin’ Eggs. Crackin’ Eggs has moved from Wicked Lounge in Petersham. I used to go all the time.

NEV: It’s a great night. That’s another sub-genre that we’ve got. They’re great guys. Keegan, who puts it on is an excellent guy. The guys from the Lord St Collective – they’re great guys and excellent music. I like to support that crew – they are professional and a good bunch of people. I’m totally there behind those guys.

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November 21, 2016