• Record Collector: Turntable Kitchen

    There is perhaps nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal. That is of course if it’s paired with the perfect record. Founded by wife and husband team Kasey and Matthew Hickey, Turntable Kitchen operates under this belief. Aiming to connect food and music enthusiasts alike, the Seattle-via-San Francisco site uses their joint interests to create a well-curated soundtrack to wholesome recipes.

    In addition to their features online, Turntable Kitchen offers a monthly subscription service, The Pairings Box. Each month subscribers receive a seasonal recipe, limited edition 7” vinyl and 1-2 premium ingredients.While deciding what to cook and what to listen to in 2016 can feel overwhelming, Kasey and Matthew alleviate the stress. As they gear up to launch their most ambitious project to date, we caught up Matthew at home to talk vinyl, the site’s lasting success and why food tastes better when you’ve got a record spinning.
    Photos by Kelly O, words by Jeffrey Silverstein

    What was the inspiration behind Turntable Kitchen?
    It started when my wife and I first started dating before we were married. She had a food blog she was running when we met. I was really into music and a little into food. She was a lot into food and a little into music. We were introducing each other to our hobbies and interests. I had written years and years ago for a friends zine back when they had black and white paper zines that you would hand out at coffee shops or whatever. I hadn’t done that for years, but she knew that at one time I had. She said why don’t you write about the records we listen to when we cook dinner for my food blog. I said sure, why not. 

    We did it more for one another than for an audience. We had about 70 readers per month. Most of them were family members and friends who were checking in on us. It wasn’t a big thing. It was just a fun thing we did together. It grew from there. People started connecting with what we were doing and enjoyed our perspective on putting food and music together. We realized that food and music are things that people our age are very into right now. Food is hugely popular - everyone talks about the new hot restaurant. And then there is always talk of have you heard this new band. There are a lot of parallels. 

    When did the pairings box and subscription model come into play?
    We started the pairings box two or three years after the blog launched. Really that was a situation where the site had grown in ways we hadn’t anticipated and we were asking ourselves, what else can we do with this? We talked about things we had always wanted to do. Kasey had thought it would be cool to write a cookbook. But writing a cookbook is actually a lot of work and not necessarily a lot of reward. You spend a year working on a hundred recipes, trying to perfect them over and over. And then who knows if anyone is going to buy your cookbook? We also have day jobs so it wasn’t really practical. 

    Likewise, I had always dreamed of owning a record label and releasing records, especially vinyl. It was a passion of mine. But again - it's widely known that labels are not what they once were. There is a lot risk involved in releasing records as well. We put our minds together and talked about some options. Somehow we fell upon the idea of the subscription service which allowed her to create unique recipes every month and allowed me to release records for bands I like. 

    How do you decide which artists to pair with specific recipes?
    We stumble upon the artist first. That’s partly because the production time in producing vinyl is so long. We can make recipes today, photograph them and get them to the printer and have our recipe cards by next week. We always start with the artist. I listen to a lot of new music and do a lot of discovery. When I hear someone I really like I say to myself, that’s the one. I’ll reach out to them directly. Bands that I want to help share and expose the world to. Here’s someone you have to be listening to. Artists are really excited to be a part of it. Once we have that - we go from there. We start thinking about recipes. There is no one process. Inspiration comes in a lot of different ways. We also include an ingredient people can use to make the recipes so sometimes the ingredient jumps out at us first. Other months we have a series of recipes in mind. October has always been our breakfast box. So every October we do a series of breakfast recipes. It's a tradition we’ve started. 

    Do you and your wife have similar music tastes?
    Similar but not identical. Kasey responds more to pop than I do. I’m more into psych-rock and garage-rock. Quite often I’m listening to something, you could say I’m the first gatekeeper in the house. I kind of end up knowing when it’s something Kasey is going to jump on. She’s like  oh who is this…this sounds awesome’ and we decide to reach out. When we find an artist that we are both excited about, that’s when I know we have something we have to jump on.

    How often do music submissions to your site become artists you release?
    Lots! That’s probably the most common situation. Not 100 percent, but it is very common. Most of the music comes from one of three ways. It’s either a submission that shows up in our inbox, something I discovered on a friend's blog or KEXP or something, or we occasionally partner with record labels that have an affinity to what we are doing. We’ve worked with Brassland Records, Roll Call Records and a few others, Father/Daughter. People who we respect and admire. They’ll say hey why don’t we do something and we’ll talk to artists that way. 

    What’s your favorite part of owning an album on vinyl?
    It’s a complicated answer for me at this point. Initially, when I bought my first vinyl records I think it was something where I felt strongly that I wanted to support artists. I personally liked having the physical aspect to my purchase. I started buying vinyl before I had a turntable because they also had the mp3 download. I’d look at a record and think well it’s 15 or 20 bucks for the vinyl and it comes with an mp3 download. Or I could just buy it for $10 on iTunes but I don’t have the physical aspect to it. For me, the value is there to spend a little more to have a physical product plus the digital. Over time - I love the art too, not just the cover art, but colored vinyl I think is really cool. It speaks to the collector in me. I jump on that stuff pretty quick. 

    Was collecting vinyl something that was handed down to you or did you pick it up on your own?
    It’s more of an independent hobby. My parents had vinyl records. We had a turntable for years, but at some point the turntable got sent to the attic of my parent’s house and most of the records are not around and didn’t last. I did have a few records that to this day - one my brother gave me, one I received as a gift from a friend before I had a turntable. A few that I picked up over time in various ways. At some point, many years later that led me to becoming a full-time vinyl enthusiast. 

    You recently relocated from San Francisco to Seattle. Has being there shaped your musical tastes at all?
    We’ve only been here for a year. I think both cities have had an influence on my taste. With the pairings box, in particular, we always really liked supporting local artists from our community. Over the years we had released a number of records from San Francisco-based bands like Mikal Cronin, Running In the Fog, and more. We had an intentional focus, it wasn’t exclusive by any stretch, but still a focus on Bay Area artists. Now that we are in Seattle, when we see bands from San Francisco it gives us warm, fuzzy feelings but we are also now intentionally seeking out Seattle artists as well. This month we are releasing a band from Seattle called Sloucher. We are definitely now starting to look for artists from this community. 

    Have you found your favorite shops in the area?
    We’ve explored a bit of course. I’m sure there are a lot of tucked away gems I’m going to find as the years come. I love Sonic Boom and Easy Street Records. They’re both across the street from one another which is kind of incredible. They have different focuses in their curation. Sonic Boom is a great place to go to get a new Radiohead or Death Cab record. Whereas Easy Street is better in my mind for finding that old world music record that is obscure and you are not going to find it anywhere else. Maybe an old jazz or blues record, I love that. 

    What is your routine when you enter a shop?
    It’s not super formal. Normally if I enter an Amoeba or a Sonic Boom I typically have something in mind I want to pick up. I always stop at the new arrivals bin to see what’s in there and pull out any gems. When I go to record shops with more past release and catalog type stuff I have a list of records with me that I’m still trying to find and have been hunting for over the years. I’ll b-line to those sections to see if there is anything there to fill my wish list. 

    Are there any on that list you’re still tracking down?
    There is this one Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben record. It’s a Brazilian record from the 70s. They made a record together. A one-time thing where they would take turns playing on each other's songs. That one I look for every time I go to a shop. My hope of finding it at this point is pretty low. Every now and then I find something on Discogs, but its’ always an import from Brazil and they want to charge thirty dollars just for shipping. 

    Tell us a bit about your latest project, Sounds Delicious. 
    It’s a project where we decided to ask our favorite artists to cover something that means something to them. And to do a full album cover in its entirety. We’ve asked the Pains of Being Pure at Heart to do a record. They landed on Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever which was his first solo record. It’s got Free Fallin and I Won’t Back Down. Solid Tom Petty songs. They invited their friends to come on board to help record it. Yumi Zouma is tackling Oasis’ What’s The Story Morning Glory. They’ve taken a few of the songs and are taking a more shoegaze approach. For Champagne Supernova, it’s a dream-pop take. Really reimagining the songs in some pretty interesting ways. We have one other artist that is nearing completion which is Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. He is doing Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. We’re really close to finally being able to announce a few more artists. 

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