RISKY BUSINESS: “Maybe six months will go by and we’ll fall apart and I’ll be arrested or something like that,” says Sawyer. “But it’s a fantastic thing to try.”
"I have a philosophy degree, which has really come in handy in my life," says Weirdo Records owner Angela Sawyer. "Especially when I'm sitting here watching some guy drool snot on a $50 record."
We're sitting in Sawyer's bedroom (until now, the command central of Weirdo) under clip lamps attached to her loft bed. Half-packed boxes of records and CDs — Italian soundtrack imports, rare noise records, field recordings — sit piled in clusters all over the room and against the walls. Outside in the living room, which Sawyer shares with a houseful of roommates, pine record shelves line the walls and the floorspace, a futon and TV buried in the middle like newly discovered pieces at an archæological dig.
But it's all on its way out. Beginning this week, Sawyer is doing the unthinkable: expanding. She's moving the whole operation from her Somerville home to a Central Square storefront she's secured at 844 Mass Ave, and she's celebrating with two weekend-long moving parties. (The second one is this weekend and open to all volunteers — ahem.) It's the beginning of what seems like, in this rickety economy, a swashbuckling adventure of danger and peril. But if anyone's fit for it, it's Sawyer.
"Maybe six months will go by and we'll fall apart and I'll be arrested or something like that," she says. "But it's a fantastic thing to try."
Weirdo Records has so far enjoyed a special place in its tiny corner of the crumbling music industry. Begun as a rare-finds Web-site store she started with $200 and no HTML skills, Weirdo eventually sprouted regular business hours (1-9 pm), and it's been operating out of her house for about a year now, serving brave walk-ins — "20 or 30 regulars" — as well as buyers around the world at her encyclopedic Web store. She adds about 90 new titles every week; on-line, she writes descriptions for every item in stock. She has about 7000 titles in the shop and another 10,000 in her personal collection. (The line between these tends to be a little hazy.)
Sawyer had a running start in the business. Since she moved here from Denver in 1990, she's worked at a best-of list of indie shops — In Your Ear, Cheapo, Looney Tunes, Pipeline, Twisted Village — as well as performing in strange bands from all across the board. (Right now she's fronting a hardcore band called Exusamwa and a duo called Duck That who play only game calls.) The whole time, she's been building a personal reputation and style. "Record collecting is really about building your own æsthetic. Record stores are supposed to be the place you can go and work on that part of your head."
Eventually, Sawyer — who maintains a friendly kind of Western drawl and a laid-back cadence to her speech left over from growing up in Denver — became the kind of person from whom people will buy records wherever they see her. "I've sold people records while I was in the bathroom line at a show. I've had people come over to the house at like 7 am looking for a new record. People have known me for a while and know I'll hold onto stuff for them." Her catalogue is huge but selective — these are all deep, curious cuts on the noise, experimental, and international side of things.