As iconic in Brisbane as the Gabba, Rocking Horse Records opened around since 1975 and has been an integral part of the community ever since. Ric Trevaskes has been around the store since 1982 in different roles, returning in the last 18 months as a partner.
“Rocking Horse has been an import shop since 1975,” says Trevaskes. “It’s a very iconic shop in Brisbane, because its been one of the only shops – well, it’s been the only survivor. But it’s also been one of the only shops that’s been able to import records from all around the world and get anything that’s available.
“[We mainly source records] from Europe and America. We also do a lot of travel these days and buy a lot of second hand, so a few times a year we go travelling in different parts of the world - Japan, the States, and we have been to Europe.”
It’s no secret that record stores went through a rough patch in recent decades, but Trevaskes is staying optimistic about the future with the recent upswing in vinyl sales. “It went through a difficult time there’s no doubt about it. I mean all record shops did when people were downloading music, and that’s all they were doing, they weren’t buying physical product,” he says. “With the turnaround of people now interested in buying records again – but also CDs again – that has been a big shot in the arm for record shops, there’s now a future to it. Shops like ours are stocking and talking our customers into buying decent turntables. So they can get a good reproduction from those records, which will ensure they come back because they’re going to hear something different to what they’re hearing on their phone.”
The decent quality turntables that he is talking about are Audio-Technica products, and Rocking Horse are one of the many record stores stocking them. “They’re quality, well made and good value,” says Trevaskes. “If you’ve got a budget of say, $1000, and you’re going to spend half of it on a turntable and half of it on an amp and speakers, you’re going to get good quality.”
The store’s position in the Brisbane music scene has made it an important way in which local artists can get their music out to the public. “We absolutely stock all the local records. A lot of the local records that come from Brisbane are self-released and that’s the only place that people can sell them is in Rocking Horse, because local artists don’t particularly sell very well online unless they’ve got a good profile. People come [here] to be able to see a whole selection of what’s available in Brisbane.
“Rocking Horse has always had such a great range and has always covered all bases as well, so it’s been strong for jazz and blues, but also gets all of the new releases and covers classic rock and mainstream music very well. But certainly focusing foremost on independent music and punk and post punk and so forth.
“We bought a collection of a Brisbane label called the Able Label recently and had every single on that label, which was the first Go-Betweens singles, the first Apartments single [amongst others],” says Trevaskes. “Some other brilliant things came out on Able Label, the first Riptide single, the first Numbers single, and those were very exciting to see. We’ve also sold some really good punk records recently, and some fetching $1500 to $2000 just for 45s. Brisbane punk seems to be something that is becoming world renowned [with] a very, very snotty sound. Brisbane had its own sound in the punk times. These are just some of the recent things we’ve had too.”
The great relationship the store has formed with the buying public in Brisbane is key to their business. “That’s the only way that Rocking Horse has survived - or any record shop survives - when customers choose to shop and take the advice of the people behind the counter as recommendations of what they should be buying,” says Trevaskes. “Quite often when you walk into a record shop you’re listening to something that you’ve never heard before, or you never would have the opportunity to hear before, and listening to it on good gear; through a good turntable and speakers.
“Its always gone hand in hand with Triple Z, the community radio station that has served everybody for 40 years. I think Rocking Horse is 12 months older than Triple Z, so it’s been hand in hand for that time,” he says. “Certainly my early days when I started here in 1982, Triple Z got nearly all of its new music through Rocking Horse. So [we’ve] played a huge part of the musical landscape in Brissie.”