The Sound of Durham

Shaun Bernstein headshot. Shaun Bernstein

Everything old is new again, and that’s certainly the case in the music world. Music technology has come a long way, to the point where there are now AI-generated songs that can simulate the vocals from our favourite artists.

So, why are vinyl records and traditional musical instruments more popular than ever?

Whatever the reason, Durham Region is—as usual—staying a step ahead of the trend. The region has always been home to an incredible music history. Neil Young cut his teeth in Pickering, and the pop punk band Sum 41 proudly hail from Ajax. Grammy-winning producer to none other than Drake, Boi1da is based in Pickering, while members of Steppenwolf, Barenaked Ladies, and Blue Rodeo have all called Durham Region home—as have artists like Dizzy, Daniel Caesar, and Protest the Hero.

So, where do Durham’s musicians go when they want to browse for vintage records, buy new pressings or shop around for their favourite instruments? We went to some of the top spots to find out.

Interesting Music Shoppe, Cannington

Vinyl records, vintage tapes and cds, and acoustic guitars at the Interesting Music Shoppe.

20940 Brock Road, Cannington

If you’ve only ever driven by the Interesting Music Shoppe, you’d never guess as to what treasures await inside. Owner, Jeff Elias, has run the store out of a home, more specifically his home, in the north end of Durham Region for the past 33 years.

Elias noted that he started his career working in other music shops while keeping his hands busy doing small electronics repair. He gained a reputation for tinkering with instruments and got into the business of selling his repaired items, which then gave birth to the Shoppe.

Elias says he hasn’t attracted huge crowds…which is exactly the way that he prefers it. He has plenty of musicians and hobbyists coming from all corners of Durham Region, and that suits him just fine. Along with a few cases of vinyl records, eight-tracks, cassettes and CDs, the shop sells instruments of all styles and vintages, along with the necessary supplies and accompaniments.

Chase the Glory, Brooklin

Vinyl records hanging on a wall at Chase the Glory.

51 Baldwin Street, Whitby

The chic boutiques and quaint restaurants of downtown Brooklin may be odd surroundings for a hybrid punk rock music store slash tattoo parlour, but Chase the Glory fits in just nicely. Owner Barry Mantle operates the business, which is the proud home of the Chase the Glory record label, and a high-end tattoo parlour.

But, if you think Chase the Glory is only one or two things, you’d be mistaken. Along with his international record label, Mantle also operates a busy online store, alongside in-person shopping. The in-person vinyl selections skew more toward the classic rock and punk varieties, and Mantle said they routinely sell a few records a day, mostly while patrons are waiting to receive their ink.

There are other parts to the business as well. Along with the label itself, Mantle has branched the business off into other areas. The store offers branded merchandise such as socks, T-shirts and hats, and now includes their newest offering, skate decks for skateboards. If you’re a fan of bands on their label, such as SNFU, you may have already heard of Chase the Glory, but if you haven’t, it’s definitely worth dropping in to check out.

Kops Records, Oshawa

Rows of vinyl records on the shelves at Kops Records.

34 King Street East, Oshawa

Kops Records may be a familiar brand to vinyl fans in the heart of Toronto, but the store’s downtown Oshawa location is proudly becoming a staple of Durham Region. “We’re an attraction,” said store manager, Will McGuirk, himself a longtime Durham resident and local journalist.

McGuirk noted that while the store does get foot traffic from downtown, he’s proud that the recent relocation to King Street with its bright open space makes the store a destination for travellers as well. Travellers from Niagara, Peterborough or Kingston passing through Durham Region, make it a point to stop into Kops to investigate the wide-ranging collection of both new and vintage records.

McGuirk is tremendously proud that the store has become a community hub, and something to experience in Durham Region. Not only do they carry pressings from a wide array of local artists, but they also routinely host concerts for artists to play in the store, happy to offer them additional exposure. With low prices and an enjoyable space, McGuirk summed it up best. “We’re an attraction,” he beamed, and it’s easy to see why.

Another Spin, Oshawa and Whitby

Rows of vinyl records on the shelves at Another Spin Records.

25 Bond Street East, Oshawa | 217 Dundas Street East, Whitby

If you’re looking for a different kind of record shop in downtown Oshawa, you don’t have to go far. Just steps away from Kops, the Biltmore, and the Regent Theatre, is Another Spin, located on Bond Street just a few metres north. Owner, Andre Lessard, has always been interested in records and record labels, which likely inspired his long career in graphic design. Two and a half years ago when the opportunity came to open Another Spin, Lessard jumped at the chance.

The shop has a smaller retail footprint, but it’s still growing, with a second location recently opening on Dundas Street East in downtown Whitby. Lessard noted that it’s his passion for customer service that leaves an impression, with new visitors quickly turning into followers and repeat customers.

Lessard also credits social media with helping to spread the word about the store and its offerings, from positive Google reviews to a robust Instagram following. With customers of all ages, Lessard said Instagram is “what makes people jump.” For shoppers looking for that customized record buying experience, Another Spin has got you covered.

Long & McQuade, Bowmanville

Instruments on display at Long & McQuade.

41 Temperance Street, Bowmanville

Long & McQuade has long been an established name in the Durham Region music scene, but the new location in downtown Bowmanville is focusing on becoming a pillar of that community. Since it opened at the end of 2022, store manager, Dillon Gillespie, has worked to make the store part of the fabric of the local arts and culture scene. Gillespie noted that he’s been fortunate to hire a number of local staff born and raised in the region, many whose own children drop in for music lessons after school.

Gillespie has worked to support the community music scene in unique ways, such as sponsoring a biweekly open mic night at the nearby Brewer’s Pantry. Along with instrument sales and music lessons, the store can also rent almost any instrument to an eager learner. “I want the store to be very young-person centric,” said Gillespie. “I have fond memories of going to the Science Centre as a kid, and I wanted that same atmosphere, where people could interact with things that they weren’t familiar with.”

For his part, Gillespie said he remembers fondly the excitement of being in those prepubescent years, joining bands and discovering new music. Now, he gets to relive that excitement by making the store an exciting place for preteens and teens, “inspiring them into a pathway that they may not have thought of.”

Fun fact: the store is located in the old post office, which still includes many historic features. The staff cannot manage to open the basement vault, but have heard many stories from former post office workers that the building may be haunted. Gillespie had not seen anything at press time, but vowed to remain on the lookout.

Next time you’re in the market for vinyl, looking to rent an instrument, or just in the mood to browse, there are plenty of options out there besides the internet. Your own backyard contains a wide variety of music stores, each with their own unique offerings. Even if you’re not on the hunt for anything in particular, consider stopping in next time you’re in the area!