All images courtesy of Eric Callero
Eric Callero AKA “The Vinyl Geek” may seem humble and that’s because he is, but don’t be fooled or take his channel for granted. Over the years, Eric has managed to grow his channel to over 150,000 subscribers and make a real impact on the VC. His vintage style and delivery give viewers a very real insight into the person behind the camera.
During Eric’s initial run as a YouTuber, he has put out dozens upon dozens of excellent videos ranging from retrospective album reviews to interviews to good old-fashioned unboxing videos, which prove that he and Vinyl Rewind are here to stay. With loads of records, smooth style, endless musical knowledge, and the coolest vintage-themed record room you’ve ever seen (The Vinyl Pad), you can expect Eric’s channel to continue to grow for as long as he wants to keep at it.
Today I’ve got the man behind the camera, Eric Callero with us today for an interview. But before we get to that, I would like to direct you to Eric’s YouTube channel here. Be sure to check out his latest videos and don’t forget to hit subscribe before you leave. With all of that being said, Eric is a great guy. It was nice getting to know him a little better. I know you’ll feel the same way, too. Let’s do this.
Eric, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us about your back story. How did you get into records?
Pretty much since I was three years old. My very first memory of music is vinyl. My family had this media center and we kept our vinyl in the bottom cabinet and that was the only area I was tall enough to access. I just remember pulling out the records and looking at the covers and being so enthralled with that because I couldn’t I physically couldn’t reach the record player. I loved watching my brothers get a new album and recording it to tape so they could play it in their car. They would use this Zerostat gun and then the duster so they wouldn’t have pops on their records. Sometimes, they would pick me up and let me drop the needle down and it just felt like magic to me. Like there were there was some sort of wizardry going on that my brothers knew that I didn’t. So, records have always been special to me. From then on, records were the cheapest form of music compared to cassettes and CDs, so I collected them because you got more music for the money. I can’t remember a time without records honestly. There were times when my collection was very small or in storage, but I always had a few records with me.
2020 was a weird year. What have you been doing to pass the time? You’re out in California right? I hope you were far away from those crazy wildfires.
Yes, I live pretty much in the heart of Los Angeles. I’m originally from Santa Cruz, so I’ve been in California my whole life. So far the fires have been in other areas but I still get the smoke. I’ve been staying busy, writing for the show and working on home improvement projects around the house. I recently moved and rebuilt my bar in the Vinyl Pad and I also remodeled my office where I write and edit for the show. My second job as a videographer for events pretty much dried up since lockdown so I’ve been putting more focus on the show. Surprisingly, I’ve been just as busy as before but the workload is different now.
You’ve been running the Vinyl Rewind channel for some time now and I have to say – I’m a big fan. Tell us how that started? What gave you the idea, and how did it become what it is today?
Since 2006, I’ve worked as a wedding videographer and that’s how I ended up with so much camera gear. I also have a bachelor’s degree in cinema so that’s where I got a lot of my filmmaking knowledge. When I moved to LA in 2008, I still shot weddings in the Bay Area, and so on Fridays, I would make the 5 and 1/2 hour drive back to Santa Cruz where I’m from, and then work the weekend and then drive home. By in large, it worked really well because I could make money and see my family, but the drive could be brutal. There was this 3 hour-long stretch of highway on I-5 where it was nothing but a straight road and farmland. It got very monotonous and I would listen to music and think about things. At that time, I was watching a lot of internet content like The Angry Video Game Nerd and The Nostalgia Critic. I wanted to do something similar to them but I didn’t want to talk about video games or movies because even at that time, the field was pretty crowded, and also, it was my passion. But I love music and I enjoy collecting vinyl and that was the hook.
I think probably the next weekend, I asked my old roommate from college to help me shoot what turned into the first seven episodes. Basically, I picked out seven records and just started talking. My initial thought was to put a record on and then tape my live reaction to the music but that proved to be very boring to watch as you can imagine. So as we were taping, I needed to include more content and I thought to talk about the history of the record. I think that the first episode that I did that for was the Buck Rogers soundtrack. And that proved to be really interesting to me. The next time I shot, I included more details and pulled more from my experience with the record. In that first season I think I made about 30 episodes and the show progressed a lot during that time thanks to the help of my best friend, Josh Sankar. He works for the art department on big movies and TV shows and so he has a great visual sense. He is the one responsible for how the show looks and how I dress.
He says he tapped into my natural vibe, which has a retro feel, and he just expanded on it. At this time, I did a lot of shopping in thrift stores and so I acquired a lot of vintage suits and ties, and really that’s where I bought a lot of my vinyl early on since it was so cheap. So, he raided my closet and started having me wear my suits, and incorporated my love of cocktails into the show.
After that first season, we built a set for the show that could be built and then taken apart in the living room of where I lived at the time. Josh designed it to reflect this kind of 60s/70s vibe, which to him was the heyday of vinyl, both in sound quality and presentation as well as popularity in the general public. In essence, the Vinyl Pad is meant to evoke the feeling and warmth of listening to vinyl. It also reflects my love of Midcentury Modern design. Since that initial build-out, we’ve added to it over the years, including the bar and I have plans to finish decorating the Vinyl Pad so I will be able to store the majority of my vinyl collection in the space.
In terms of the content for the show, it’s pretty much the same as it was; a show and tell of records. However, my presenting style changed a lot. Originally, I had more of a tongue-in-cheek way of delivering lines. Not quite Anchorman, but a little too game show host ala Guy Smiley from Sesame Street which I think turned some viewers off as it came off as inauthentic or a little arrogant. Also, as the show has progressed, I’ve turned into more of a researcher, actually reading books and sourcing old newspapers and magazines. I used to rely too much on Wikipedia but I still use it to look up the sources cited and then I read from those.
In general, the channel has always been a place of experiments and I’ve changed up the kind of content I create over the years. Some types of videos do better than others, but you never know until you try. I think the biggest area where I’ve changed the most and also struggled the most is my reviews. I think with my latest review on Animals by Pink Floyd, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I feel comfortable writing them. I think before I struggled with the direction to take or the argument but now I am more inspired to write than ever.
Also, in the last year or so, I’ve been more focused on YouTube and how best to optimize growth for my channel. For many years, I created weekly content for growth but now I’m starting to think that taking my time to create quality content will be better in the long run. It’s all about time management. I’m not a fast writer and trying to meet a weekly upload quota forces me to make content that doesn’t take as much time to create. The tradeoff is that those videos usually don’t do well in terms of views and they have the trade-off of taking time away from writing/creating the content that does do well. So moving forward, you will probably see less but more engaging and interesting content.
What I really dig about your channel, and what makes it unique, is the cool vintage vibe. Tell us about that. I‘ve always wondered where you got that room full of killer vintage furniture!
It came from a lot of bargain hunting at thrift stores, garage sales, and Craigslist. Once we established the time period of the look we were going for, my eye was trained to pick out items wherever I went. Also, going back to working weddings. When I traveled back up north, I would stay with my parents and since most weddings don’t start until the afternoon, my parents and I would spend Saturday and Sunday mornings shopping at garage sales. So, I got a lot of pieces from just doing that. As long as you know what you’re looking for, you can score some amazing items. Once I brought things back to LA, I would let Josh decide what to use and where they should go.
I’ve discovered a lot of cool music through your channel. How has your musical taste evolved over the years to where it is today?
My first influences were my parents. My mom listened to Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Phil Collins, and Sting. Dad was really into Classic Rock but more so Blues in the sense of Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, and Traffic. From both of my folks, I got my love of The Beatles. My older brothers were into U2, Pearl Jam, Toad The Wet Sprocket, and The Lemonheads. So, that was probably my elementary years; I didn’t really own music of my own, and I just enjoyed what my family listened to.
For maybe my 9th birthday, my friend gave me a cassette of Weird Al’s Dare to be Stupid which is my first memory of having my own music. And that just set me off and I just gobbled up more and more Weird Al. My friends and I collectively bonded over Weird Al. We watched UHF religiously. But looking back, his music had a huge impact on me appreciating all styles of music because if you’ve ever listened to one of his albums, you know that half of the songs are parodies and the other half is his own music which tends to be pastiches of other songs. So, on a given album, he might do Hard Rock, Rap, Dance, and Alternative all on one record. He really gave me an understanding of the different types of music that are out there.
In sixth grade, I met a new friend who loved Classic Rock. His favorite artist was Jimi Hendrix and he got me big into Classic Rock. I remember distinctly the first album I bought on vinyl was Lynyrd Skynyrd Gold and Platinum because I really wanted to get a copy of “Freebird.” At that time, vinyl was the most cost-effective way to buy a bunch of Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. At this time, I don’t think I was very aware of the current music scene as I mostly listened to Classic Rock radio.
Then in junior high, I started turning the dial over to the new Rock station and that’s when I got into current Rock music. I started listening to Nirvana, Green Day, Aerosmith, Foo Fighters, Hum, Nada Surf, and Weezer. In High school, I got way into the Ska scene with bands like the Aquabats, Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones, and the local band Slow Gerkin. Then about my sophomore year, I got heavy into 1940s Swing, 1950s music, especially Rockabilly and 60’s stuff like Sinatra and Exotica. By the time I graduated high school, I learned how to play both trumpet and guitar. Eventually, I formed a two-piece Rockabilly band with my friend. We even made an album together of mostly original songs.
Once in college, I started getting into the current Indie scene with bands like The Killers, Modest Mouse, and Franz Ferdinand. And keep in mind, at this time, my main way of listening to music was through the radio. I would hear about new music through friends and through mix-tapes/CDs. My knowledge was still pretty limited by the size of my wallet, so I did my best to discover new music through legal means. Especially at this time, most of my music purchases were in thrift stores and I was limited to what people were getting rid of. This created a musical deficit, where I had these huge holes in my knowledge of music. Like, I could go on hours about the 50s and 60s music, but I really didn’t know classic albums Dark Side, Loveless, Pet Sounds, etc. because people really didn’t donate those records, ya know what I mean?
So, when I started the show, this was the knowledge base that I had and it’s only been through the course of the show and from suggestions from the audience that I’ve been able to expand my knowledge of music. I’m grateful to be in this position where I am appreciating more music than I think I would otherwise. Many of my friends hit a music block where they stop listening to new music and stick to what they know. It’s a common thing and it takes a lot of work to stay current. I love hearing what’s new, but I also keep an open ear to what came before because there is so much catching up I still have to do. I’d say overall, since starting the show, I know so much more and have a larger appreciation for all types of music. It’s also been really cool checking out albums or bands I just wrote off when I was younger.
In watching your channel over the years I’ve come to learn that you’re very honest when it comes to the state of the industry. Whether it’s pressing quality, RSD issues, or price gouging, you’re always very informative, and honest. Why do you feel that’s important?
I think you lose credibility and goodwill with the audience if you don’t. If that happens, I think people have less incentive to watch your videos.
Is there anything within the industry that you would like to see change for the better? What improvements would you like to see that you feel would be beneficial to us all within the vinyl community?
I’d like to see a move away from shrink-wrap. It seems so wasteful. Some companies ship records in outer sleeves or a sleeve with a perforated top that can then be used as an outer sleeve once opened. I’m sure fans of sealed records would hate the change though.
I think a new development in manufacturing pressing stampers would be great. As it is now, it’s a multistep process that’s complicated but also costly. It would be great if we could reduce the number of steps while at the same increasing the audio quality. I know that guy behind HD Vinyl is trying to do this, but I haven’t heard any updates in a long time.
I know this is a broad question, and many of us who watch your videos will know this, but for those who might be new, who are some of your favorite artists? What’s your favorite genre, and why?
Weezer, Beatles, David Bowie, Dave Brubeck, Prince, Weird Al, Daft Punk, Esquivel!, Frank Sinatra, Genesis, Johnny Cash, Julie London, Metallica, Les Baxter, New Order, Nick Drake, Radiohead, Tame Impala. Probably my favorite genre to listen to is Synthwave because I’m a child of the 80s and I can’t get enough synths in my life. There’s something very comforting about the sound for me. I also want to mention that since meeting my now wife, Emily, in 2012, she really helped to foster my love of Prince, Bowie, and everything 80s. It was something we really bonded over early in our relationship. But more than that, before I met her, I enjoyed both Prince and Bowie, but I only really knew the songs that came on the radio. Through her immense love of both artists, she showed me how much I had been missing out on their music. I’m so thankful for her showing me the way.
We know you collect records, but beyond the collecting, what do records mean to you? More so, what does music mean to you in general?
Records are memory markers, not for every record, but for many albums I remember where I got them from, or what I was doing at that time. They can also carry with them their history of previous owners. From little newspaper/magazine clippings to signatures on the jacket to customizations of the album art, used records can tell a story. They are also a memory in time, stamped into plastic. Especially for original pressings, the music presented was alive. The record contains the music as it was recorded on fresh tape. Newer re-pressings lose this aura.
Music is therapy, and inspiration; it sets a mood, and gets you from point A to point B in style. Music makes the world a better place and makes life worth living. It’s also depressing because I know I will never be able to hear all the amazing music in my lifetime.
What are some albums you don’t have, but hope to find one day? Are there any albums you’ve given up that you wish you hadn’t? Are you like some of us who purge records only to rebuy them again?
Maybe an original copy of Prince’s Black Album or a 1st State Butcher cover. I’ve really haven’t given up albums I wished I hadn’t. The closest I’ve come was selling the clear limited edition version of Speaking In Tongues by Talking Heads. It wasn’t in the best shape. I think maybe I got $20 in trade for it. I did purge my collection when I moved to LA but at that time, it was mostly thrift store records and I hung onto anything of value based on those giant Goldmine price guides. It’s only since starting the show has my collection really grown, and gotten better.
Once COVID-19 calms down, what does the future hold for Vinyl Rewind? What’s next? What drives you? What inspires you most?
Like I said earlier, COVID hasn’t really slowed me down, and I’m still just as busy. I think you’ll see fewer videos but better content overall; from deep-dive reviews to video essays and mini-documentaries. Seeing the positive response on a video I spent a lot of time on really keeps me going. I would say my curiosity about how things came to inspire me the most.
Even though 2020 was a really off year, we’ve still seen a ton of great music released. What are some of your “must-haves” of 2020?
Mac Miller – Circles
The Strokes – The New Abnormal
Tangerine Dream – Recurring Dreams
Dan Decon – Mystic Familiar
Caribu – Suddenly
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
King Krule – Man Alive!
Hum – Inlet
Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Tennis – Swimmer
Aiming For Enrike – Music for Working Out
R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages
Masters of the Universe – Binary Star
FM Skyline – Liteware
Peter Cottentale – CATCH
Soccer Mommy – color theory
Early James – Singing For My Supper
Last question. Is there anything else you want all of us here as well as the general record-consuming public to know?
Stay safe and hang in there. Support the artists you love however you can.
Want to learn more about Eric and Vinyl Rewind? Check out the link below:
Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews