Glasgow’s reputation as a city brimming with musical activity is undeniable. From the post-punk scene of the late 70s to the historic Sub Club and, more recently, parties like Numbers and Huntleys + Palmers, the city wields a sense of hedonism and a DIY attitude that makes it an incredibly special place to hang one’s hat.
One of the DJs making up its new wave is Sophie Reilly a.k.a Sofay, A&R for Numbers and regular for La Cheetah. Her passion is literary, and it’s these influences that she translates into her musical approach; she has an innate ability for storytelling, for conveying certain moods and emotions through her selections. We chat to her about her relationship with records alongside a vinyl-only mix themed around feelings of nostalgia and the changing seasons.
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
Yes, my parent’s music taste and collection has definitely had somewhat of an impact on my taste, more so when I was a teenager but I’ve noticed myself going back to some classics from then lately. I’m not sure about pivotal records but they definitely turned me on to a lot of 60s folk, 70s rock and of course, Prince. The classics I suppose. Talking Heads got played a lot, I can’t pinpoint any pivotal records but definitely people like Neil Young, Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen were on repeat and I still find myself going back to them with a warm feeling.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
Drawn to beautiful, pretty things I guess. I’m the same with books, lots and lots and lots of piles in my room that I can’t bear the thought of giving away. I’ve stopped buying books though. I’ve started trying to be more frugal with my record purchases, giving myself a budget. I’ve been buying a lot of new records at the moment as opposed to second hand, so much amazing new ambient, modern classical and experimental stuff this past summer and certain online retailers are very good at selling them to me.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
They are mostly all in my small bedroom. Since changing up my buying habits it’s much easier to file them away. Different loose sections for genre, I guess. I initially started buying some techno and house, a lot of dancefloor stuff but I released that I never really played it at home and I use CDJs in clubs so started buying more second-hand bits for bar sets or warm up slots. The records I buy now I want to be able to play any of them in any way I want to, be it radio or warming up or a bar set. Maybe not peak-time! I hope that makes sense, basically there’s no hard and fast rules about my filing system, it makes sense to me where they are but probably not to anyone else. In the future I’d definitely like to upgrade my set up at home a bit, get a nicer mixer, monitors and more plants, obviously.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Honestly, the internet. I’m quite all over the place musically so I never really know what I’m looking for when I go in and end up getting overwhelmed. Not that having 30 tabs of discogs open at once isn’t overwhelming but at least I’m sitting at home with a cup of tea. And I’ve never really considered myself a “digger”, I’m not sure what constitutes that title in 2019 to be honest. Also Glasgow doesn’t have a lot of second hand spots and finding the time during the week to go is hard when you are working two or more jobs. Rubadub is good for new bits and the staff are lovely. Monorail can be good for modern classical/avant garde and soundtracks. It’s also situated inside a vegan restaurant, very Glasgow. I’d like to go through to Edinburgh a bit more often, perhaps visit the illusive Backbeat records.
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
Not really, I can be a bit shy in record stores so haven’t personally met anyone that stands out but some shops that I’ve picked up some great (and cheap!) records on my travels have been: 2 Bridges in New York, this place also has a lot of very, very nice books so always a bonus. Discos Paradisos, what a place! I’d bankrupt myself if I lived in Barcelona. Red Light of course, always nice recommendations in there. I’m going to Los Angeles soon and am quite excited to look for records there, some pals have found some beauties out on the West Coast so I’m hoping to as well.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?
Two records that spring to mind are Silueta Pálida – El Paso Del Tiempo and Samba Creole- Vacances. I’ve never come across them while in record stores and I’ve not bit the bullet yet with the wild discogs prices.
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
Friends, always. As I said earlier I get too overwhelmed on my own so if I go with pals I can have a look at what they are listening to, get some tips, chat about what we’ve been up to. I like having it as a social thing to do, especially in another country.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
I’ll go to the second hand bit first if I’m in a store that’s selling mostly new stuff. Then I’ll go to genre, usually having a look at experimental, ambient, post-punk, synth, whatever. I like to think I know what year of music I like of a certain genre or to be on the look out for a certain label or whatever but really I just want to come away with something I know nothing about and is totally fresh to me.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
I would like to say it doesn’t but when I look at the artwork for the records I picked for this mix they are all gorgeous! So on some level it is playing a role, just how big I’m not sure of. I definitely have some older ambient stuff that has some truly cheesy sunset-esque covers but I kinda love that too. I’m a big fan of the ECM covers, buy on sight material.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
At this time of year in Glasgow the nights get darker, it gets colder and it gets harder. You might think that is the case for any city transitioning into winter but there’s something about Glasgow that when this transition happens it feels like a real punch in the stomach. So while picking out records I’ve tried to concoct something of an antidote to this annual feeling. It moves from September into October and November into December with the pains/pleasures I have over those months. It’s turned out quite personal, perhaps more than I had originally intended but I like the vulnerability in it.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
The section from around 57mins to the end.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
My friends, mostly. Most pals in Glasgow have enviable record collections. But I particularly love the music played by my close friend Ribeka, a truly brilliant DJ and has such a wild knowledge of post-punk, industrial, synth (and more). Watching her DJ at after parties is a total joy, she plays for hours and hours, turning her head every so often to make sure people are still having a good time. It’s been a dream getting to DJ almost every month with her over the past few years, feel very blessed to have her in my life. Bake too, his selections are so considered, totally magic behind the decks every time. Also I must shout out Tom (Mr TC) and Dan (Lo Kindre) – two good pals who very similar taste to mine but always seem to be one step ahead of me with the 80-100bpm sludge that I love. There’s really too many collectors to name that have had some kind of influence on how I play records and how I decide what I’m going to play but Optimo are probably the most influential in terms of style and no fucks given attitude towards elitism and snobbery in collecting, buying and playing records. Glasgow is lucky to have such a crazy amount of talented selectors. It seems maybe a little trite to say this but people here just really love playing records it seems.
Outside of Glasgow I would say DJ Marcelle, CCL and Gigsta are three collectors who I adore in terms of their approach to playing, digging and presenting music. I think the three of them also have a similar ethos as each other. They aren’t bogged down by rules, what they do is subversive and psychedelic, weird and wonderful.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
I’ll probably forget some names here and some are definitely already on your radar but at the moment some diggers that I often go back to for inspiration, getting in the mood to DJ, record radio or a night out are Bianca Lexis, Alicia Carrera, Flo Dill, Boosterhooch, Yu Su, Leila Samir, DJ Voices, Cait and Mary Lake.
Collectives I really admire are Radiant Love in Berlin, Draft in Barcelona and Hot Mess in Glasgow. All wicked resident DJs involved in those parties who have ridiculously good taste in music and invite DJs from across the board to come and play. I like parties that have a very loose music policy.