Record Store Day has a noble-ish origins, even if, of late, it has become more about novelty pressings than supporting struggling mom-and-pop record stores. Thankfully, there’s someone close to home turning it back into a force for good. Outhouse, home to the most vital resources for Dublin’s LGBTQ community, have been hosting their own event, Record Store Gay, since 2011, an all-day, all-welcome festival of music with a tie-inrecord featuring a slew of Irish acts covering their favourite ‘gay anthems’. We talked with Áine Beamish and Andy Walsh about the importance of the day, tackling stereotypes and what to expect on Saturday 18th April.
Maybe to start out you could tell me a little about the history of Outhouse?
Áine: Outhouse was established in 1996 shortly after after the decriminalisation of homosexuality. A bunch of people got together to create a space where people can get information about LGBT support, health services, shared accommodation, social spaces, that sort of thing. It was vital to get a space open quickly so people could speak openly without being frightened or even arrested. The centre was originally run out of a building on South William Street, just two rooms with a couple of offices, until they moved over to Capel street in 2002. Now we have the whole building entirely for Outhouse’s use. The space is essentially a community centre like any other: there’s health services, community services, social supports. There’s also 56 different organisations that meet here each month. So we’ve got the Gay Switchboard Ireland and Dublin Lesbian Alliance, which are both phone helplines, and we’ve also got a deaf LGBT support group that meet on site, then there’s the Gay Men’s Health Service who provide health testing and so on. We’ve even got a Trekkie club.
Andy: And the best coffee in Dublin… I think!
I had no idea it’s been ongoing for so long.
Áine: It was much smaller then, and when it began would be a bit before my time as well. I’ve only been working out of the centre for the last three years, though I’d have been aware of the centre in the early 2000s when I was coming out myself. It’s a great space. Last year 38,000 accessed Outhouse, which is a huge number.
It seems you straddle the line really comfortably between being a resource for the community and just being a nice place to hang around.
Áine: Yeah, there are really serious resources in place, but also a lot of fun stuff. We have weekly AA and NA meetings on site, but also film clubs and board games and stuff. It’s a very mixed-use space.
Would you say there’s a real cross-section of people of different ages availing of it? Whom do you see the most of?
Áine: Well, BeLonG To meet here every Sunday which is a youth LGBT organisation. They start from 14 years of age up, so you might have a couple of 14 year olds here but then we’ve also got an older gentleman’s group who meet every Friday. Once we had a guy in his eighties come in here for the first time, he was just coming out. The age spectrum is huge. A lot of the time it’s people’s first port of call when they’re coming out, as we’re able to signpost different services to them in the community.
So how did Record Store Gay come about?
Andy: Well we decided to put on a gig for Record Store Day a few years ago and it struck us, why not do it as a benefit for Outhouse? Once we had that idea, we were looking at the list of all the different special releases that were coming out that year and, as ever, it left a little to be desired. We spotted that there was an ABBA reissue and we sort of took inspiration from that. We thought why not put out some covers of these old acts instead of just watching Warner Brothers sell re-pressed 7 inches for 40 quid a pop? By 2012 there was Elastic Witch and Tower putting on parties for the day that’s in it. Everyone wants to play on Record Store Day though. We decided to do an alternative to those shows and get everyone who want to play that aren’t the ‘in’ bands that had been scooped up elsewhere.
One of the most exciting parts ended up has been seeing so many of the acts being challenged to branch out from their own ideas of what their band, or the bands they are covering, sound like. Instead of just sticking to the script of the song you find people doing it in their style. It’s really prompted them to think outside of the box, and I think it made a real difference to the development of a lot of the bands featured on the Record Store Gay releases over the years. We pitch the idea to bands as ‘their favourite gay anthem’, but that’s more of tongue-in-cheek guideline than anything else. We’re trying challenge stereotypes in a playful way. If you look at the track list of the compilation, there is such diversity in the selections that it kind of takes the ‘gay’ out of it. It’s about all kinds of people playing all kinds of music.
Áine: When Andy came up with the idea originally it really appealed to me personally. When I was a gay teenager there was just such a focus on pop in the gay scene, which I didn’t identify with at all. I was much more into indie and electro and a bit of grunge, it was the ’90s after all. So the first time I went into The George, I was horrified. It took up all my courage to get in the door only to be like, ‘Holy shit, this is terrible,’ and going back up to the Mean Fiddler. It’s no secret there’s one side of the gay community that’s very pop-focused, so it’s refreshing to have a more alternative kind of music tacked onto the gay scene as part of Record Store Gay.
That’s something I wanted to talk about. There’s such discussion at the moment about misconceptions associated with the gay scene. Do you think people still make unfair assumptions about people’s cultural tastes based on their sexuality?
Áine: When I was coming out, there were only two clubs to go to and the DJs played the all same stuff. It really was mostly Kylie. So, when other smaller clubs started popping up like Q&A, Dive and Bitches Be Crazy, it was really exciting in that they were alternatives on the scene to pop. Sweeping generalisations about what kind of music you like are nothing new. Thankfully there’s more discussion at the moment about how there is obviously not just one ‘type’ of gay person.
There’s so many different tribes that you have to find your own one. That’ s one of the great things about Outhouse, it puts people of similar tastes in touch with one another. When I was coming out I really wanted to meet other gay women in a peer capacity, not to find a girlfriend or whatever, just to feel normal. You might end up meeting people and becoming close with all these great new friends only to realise that the only thing you have in common with them is that you’re both gay. So when Andy came up with the idea for Record Store Gay it seemed perfect.
So, what’s on the agenda for the day itself?
Andy: There’s about 20 bands on the compilation and something like that number playing on the day. We’ve two stages in Outhouse and then from 6pm we’ll have bands in Pantibar too.
Áine: It’s Record Store Gay by day in the centre, then nighttime in Pantibar. During the day it’s alcohol-free so that we can have teenagers in, but if anyone’s really eager for a pint they can just nip across the road.
Andy: We do a pop-up record shop in here too. I’ve just opened up a record shop of my own – Little Gem, on Cavendish Row – so I’ll be bringing the shop up around the corner to here. It’s going be great, we’ve tonnes of deadly stuff in at the minute.
You’ve got a bit of an art show that goes along with the celebrations too?
Andy: Yeah, we get a load of artists to design posters for the gig, Everything on display is just on sale just for the one day too.
Áine: A lot of the bands we feature have really creative illustrators and artists in them, so a bunch of them design their own posters for the exhibition, all proceeds of course going towards the Marriage Equality campaign. We’re going to have an area set up with a big prop ballot box where everyone can pledge to vote. It’ll be only a month before the referendum so that’s when people really make their mind up. It’s a once in a generation vote, and we’re really positive about it. There’s so many really good people all over Ireland that want it to be a more equal and fair place. We like to think that next year we’ll be celebrating a successful vote.
Record Store Gay takes place on Saturday 18th April at Outhouse, 105 Capel Street, Dublin 1. You can check out all the Record Store Gay covers of years gone by at recordstoregay.bandcamp.com. You can also see a find out more about the services and communities operate from Outhouse at www.outhouse.ie
Words: Danny Wilson
Photography: Killian Broderick