Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller on Their “Other Music” Documentary | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, January 28th, 2021  

L to R: Rob Hatch-Miller and Puloma Basu

Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller on Their “Other Music” Documentary

An Enduring Presence

Nov 25, 2020 Photography by Lauren Randolph Web Exclusive
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In such cloistered times, a geographical myopia begins to appear. Though the record store was once a habitual oasis in the incessant tide of activity that animates our lives, it has been an increasingly distant retreat, vanishing behind the lines of gentrification, monopolization, streaming, and global health crises. Despite, or perhaps because of this increasing rarity, its function takes on a near sacrosanct quality, reminding us of a time when shared community spaces energized our interests and deepened our appreciation for the soundtracks that guide us through life. Few spaces could lay claim to the enduring influence and historical importance that defined Other Music, the Manhattan record store that operated from 1996-2016, a titanic purveyor of all things odd, eccentric, and independent. In their touching tribute to this truly singular space, filmmaking couple Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller bring to the fore the impassioned, curious, and generous spirit of the souls who made Other Music like no other record store before or after.

The store itself brought an intimately personal touch to music fandom, even functioning as a sort of jumping off point for the directing couple. “I was a long-time customer, Rob actually worked there for three years. We actually met through a dear friend who worked there as well,” explains Basu. Through a carefully curated selection of rare and independent treasures, owners Chris Vanderloo and Josh Madell created a vibrant ecosystem of deeply knowledgeable outsiders whose enthusiasm and passion were contagious. “In New York, at the time there really wasn’t any equivalent. There were lots and lots of record stores, and there used to be a store for Reggae, and Soundtracks, and Trance music, but Other Music was a central hub of a bunch of different scenes that represented not only indie rock but club-oriented dance music, and avant-garde, and jazz music. They crossed over all these scenes and became a hub for the underground music scene in New York for the years that it existed,” says Hatch-Miller.

At a time when the underground music scene in New York was going through a resurgence, its heart was centered in Other Music. “When TV on the Radio, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Rapture were all coming through Other Music none of us had any sense that they would still be bands that people would really deeply care about two decades later,” describes Hatch-Miller. “They were the first store in the United States to sell a Belle and Sebastian album, so in 1997 there were just thousands of people coming in to buy that album because you couldn’t get it anywhere else.” Unsurprisingly, such an ethos attracted tastemakers and artists from many different walks of life, a small selection of whom make an appearance in the film, including Benicio Del Toro, Jason Schwartzman, and even previous employees Dave Portner and Noah Lennox of Animal Collective. The real stars of the film though, are the curators and employees who eat, sleep, and pray music every minute of every day. A delightful cast of inspiring and offbeat dreamers made the otherwise intimidatingly “in the know” atmosphere a welcoming space for heads and younger fans alike to cross-pollinate and rejoice in their shared passion for the eclectic and original in music.

In reflecting on the state of record stores more generally, Basu and Hatch-Miller feel that Other Music was yet again ahead of the curve. “Record stores are an option, even for music fans, now. You don’t need the physical thing to experience the music, and while I don’t think [record stores] are going away, it’s just that they exist for a different reason. I think that’s one of the reasons Other Music didn’t stay open is because after their 20 years of being open, they saw that their reason for being open shifted and the need that they served changed. They weren’t going to be exposing people to new music the way they were back when they had the first Belle and Sebastien album,” explains Hatch-Miller. Luckily, record stores are still in existence and many of them benefited from the rental of this film online, which raised over $25,000 for independent stores as COVID-19 threw many of them into precarious financial circumstances. 

A fitting send-off for one of the most loved and inspiring record stores ever known, the documentary has continued to foster the spirit that made Other Music such an enduring space. In recollecting how big distributors turned down the film, Basu recalls that the commercial potential of the film was never the motive behind elegizing such a fiercely independent location. “Everyone said it was a niche story and we knew it was, but we wanted to make this movie because it is a universal message. I think people that don’t go to record stores can get that community and small spaces matter.”

(Other Music is available to stream on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vimeo On Demand, and elsewhere.) 

www.othermusicdocumentary.com

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