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Mention to any Melburnian that you're going to a chilled out Sunday afternoon gig to watch a great music act, chances are they'll turn around and ask, "Pure Pop?"
Tucked away in the iconic suburb of St Kilda, Pure Pop has carved itself out a niche as being quite possibly the only combined record store, record label, cafe and live music venue in the world. And despite being in one of the city's trendiest, celebrity-filled areas, you will find no pretension here at all. You can pick out a quality vinyl at the front, or head to the back and enjoy a good toastie and beer while watching an intimate unplugged set on the venue's tiny stage (which we imagine is battling out with The Birmy for first place in the small-stage-stakes).
Paper-Deer had a beer with owner Dave Stevens about his pride and joy.
As one of the owners of Pure Pop, one of Melbourne's iconic record stores, what do you do?
It’s more of a question of what don’t I do. Pure Pop is a pretty small operation and between myself and our three staff members we manage to get most things done. We manage to run the record store, café, bar and venue pretty smoothly although it can have its moments of chaos.
It's been said that Pure Pop is the only record store/cafe/live music venue/record label in the world. How did the idea to combine four amazing concepts together?
I think it was when I realised that I had achieved my dream of owning my own record store about twenty years too late. Downloading, CD burning and other things had conspired to make my CD store as popular as a penny farthing shop. I was trying to sell something that was pretty much available free elsewhere, albeit illegally but with very little chance of prosecution. After a few months of no sales, banks and creditors screaming, debt collectors knocking my door I was sitting in the empty backyard of Pure Pop, head in hands wondering what I was going to do.
The idea of the bar and live venue came to me and with the help of a few tradie friends we transformed the place bit by bit over a few months to make the venue and start putting on bands. The liquor license took longer (two years) but somehow we survived, I really don’t know how, but now we have a place that we can truly be proud of. Alcohol sales allow us to keep our CD and vinyl stocks healthy and the increased traffic through the store has led to increased sales of music.
It is often mentioned to us that we should get rid of the music and open up the whole place as a bar and live venue. We would make more money but to be honest the soul of the place is that we are first and foremost a record store and always will be.
Does the cat in Pure Pop's logo belong to someone? (Weird question, but I've always wondered.)
The cat is a tattoo that I have. Pretty fierce, hey?
Paper-Deer has heard about the Pop Goes the Curfew gig around the traps, and particularly that Swedish group The Men are flying down for the gig. What else can you tell us about the gig?
It started out as our fifth anniversary gig but unfortunately we opened our doors in July – not the best time to put things on in St Kilda. We spoke to the Prince and they were keen to do something in January. From there it snowballed and now it’s become an all singing, all dancing entertainment one night only spectacular!
The Men were the first band we put out on the Pure Pop label way back in the deep dark days. They are a fantastic sixties style mod band from Lund in Sweden. We’ve stayed in touch over the years and in November I wrote to Sven Kohler (The Men’s frontman) to catch up, and mentioned the Pure Pop gig in passing and he said he’d ask the guys if they were keen to come down. The rest is history.
The other bands on the bill are all Pure Pop faves who have graced the courtyard stage over the years. Gun Street Girls and Pony Face will be able to turn up the volume a bit higher than our council restrictions allow so that will be great. Mates of ours like Tim Rogers, Charles Jenkins, Ryan Coffey, Jeff May, Heath & Alex (from Dirt River Radio) and Hugh Gurney (from The Skybombers) are dropping by to do a song or two each and the fantastic comedy duo Anyone For Tennis will be hosting the night.
Pure Pop is known for amazingly intimate gigs from prominent musical artists in your cosy venue. Why the decision to host Pop Goes the Curfew at the Prince of Wales Bandroom?
Our courtyard is very small and of course outside. Therefore all our shows are limited to 50 people and we have strict sound restrictions. We wanted to a have a party, we have more than 50 friends and we wanted to make a lot of noise. The Prince have been great friends of ours – as have all the St Kilda venues – and offered us their place to hold the party.
Pure Pop's incredibly unassuming stage has seen the likes of Charles Jenkins, Tim Rogers, Kate Miller-Heidke, The Swell Season, Barry Adamson and more. Which act was your absolute favourite and why?
It would be too easy to say The Swell Season because their performance was spine-tinglingly great as were the others you’ve mentioned but what really excited us was when a 17-year-old school kid named Alex Lashlie dropped in after school to ask if he could play. We gave him a Friday night spot and he absolutely blew the place away. He ended up doing Fridays for over 12 months and his sets became legendary. He’s now 20 and is touring Europe.
Owning your own indie record store always seems like the ultimate job. Any advice for budding music lovers who are desperate to get into the business?
Don’t open in St Kilda. This spot’s taken. Seriously it makes me sad to say but I wouldn’t recommend anyone opening a record store unless they are able to supplement the turnover with something else. We’ve gone down the route of bar, café, venue but there are other options.
- January 1: Conway Savage at Pure Pop
- Sunday January 2: The Adventure Spirit and Pure Pop Ha/Ha at Pure Pop
- Saturday January 8: Brillig, Ben Revi, Chris Assaad, Conway Savage at Pure Pop
- Sunday January 9: Cambodian Space Project, Coby Grant, The Scholars and The Skybombers at Pure Pop
- Friday January 14: Large Number 12s at Pure Pop
- Saturday January 15: Jules Sheldon, Dan Webb, Conway Savage at Pure Pop
- January 16: Pop Goes the Curfew at the Prince Bandroom [with The Men, Gun Street Girls, Pony Face, Tim Rogers and others]
- Sunday March 27: Paul Collins at Pure Pop
- Friday January 21: Large Number 12s at Pure Pop
- Saturday January 22: Cloudmouth, Lord Bishop Rocks, Conway Savage at Pure Pop
- Sunday January 23: Citrus Jam [EP launch], Yeo, The Skybombers at Pure Pop
- Friday January 28: Large Number 12s at Pure Pop
- Saturday January 29: Delsinki Jane, Conway Savage at Pure Pop
- Sunday January 30: Lisa Wood, Nick Batterham, The Skybombers at Pure Pop
By Paige X. Cho