Picture the scene: it’s New York in the eighties. This isn’t Madison Avenue; there are no three-piece suits to be seen. It’s downtown, maybe the East Village. To your left is a Katz’ Deli. To your right is a Grey’s Papaya. But you’re not looking to either side. You’re looking straight ahead, because in front of you is a world of stories and songs and experiences. It’s The Ramones or Iggy Pop or the Violent Femmes. It’s a place where nothing else matters except what the cover art looks like or which band is playing in the back tonight. You’re walking into the record store and it will be hours before you’re seen again.
Those hours have turned into decades and a lot has changed. Video stores have been turned into Starbucks. Dive bars have been turned into churches. Buildings burn, people die, but music…well, music remains and because of this, so too does Sonic Rainbow.
Sonic Rainbow has been a fixture in Casper, Wyoming for more than 20 years. It has withstood the test of time and has remained in its central location since it first relocated there on Aug. 1, 1995. When the owner of Sonic Rainbow, Jude Corino, first opened his record store in the early 90s, he couldn’t have predicted what the music landscape would look like in 2017. The internet was virtually non-existent and ‘digital’ was a dirty word. There was no iTunes, no Amazon and certainly no Spotify. The radio was for people who liked music, but the record store was for people who needed it.
It still is.
For those people Sonic Rainbow is something of a sanctuary. Brandon Schulte, the general manager of the store, believes the reason stores such as Sonic Rainbow are still around is solely because of the love people have for music.
“The business landscape for independent music retail changed a lot in the last ten years,” he started. “And the reason independent stores are still around and still thriving is because of the passion of the people who run the independent stores. That means they’ll keep music an interpersonal thing, rather than just a totally detached experienced.”
We live in a world full of ‘detached experiences.’ When we want food, we order delivery. When we want to rent a movie, we go on Netflix. When we want to shop, we sit in front of a computer screen. Because of this, mom and pop diners barely exist, video stores are obsolete, and even shopping malls are slowly shutting their doors. But, for some reason, record stores remain.
From the outside looking in, one might say that a place like Sonic Rainbow shouldn’t work in Casper. What those people don’t know however, is that there is a growing culture in Casper. The people who make up this culture, and there are a lot of them, will support the arts. They will shop local. They frequent farmers markets and they will continue to go to the record store because, as Schulte pointed out, “vinyl just sounds better.”
It’s not just the sound quality of records that keep people coming back to Sonic Rainbow. A big part of why people come back, according to Schulte, is because of the genuine human interaction.
“It’s that kind of human interaction that people seem to enjoy,” he said. “It’s that interpersonal feeling of actually going to a place; actually flipping through stacks of things and deciding what you want to spend your hard-earned money on.”
Luckily for those patrons, there are a lot of options to spend that hard-earned money on. In addition to vinyl records, there are also CD’s, t-shirts, cassette tapes and more. Sonic Rainbow also serves as a stage for local musicians to play shows and develop their craft.
It is a multi-purpose venue, but at its heart is simply a passion for music and a passion for people. It’s that passion for people that most appealed to Schulte when he came on board in 2013. He had previously worked in music retail and had a band of his own, so when he approached Jude Corino about possibly working for him, Corino hired him almost immediately. For four years, Schulte has more or less been the mustachioed- face of Sonic Rainbow. People recognize him on stage or on the street or in the store, and they want to ‘talk music’ with him. Sonic Rainbow allows him the opportunity to do that.
“There are a lot of people who are music lovers who are not simply content to hear the songs; they need to talk about them,” Schulte said.
Sonic Rainbow exists for those people, and it exists for anyone who believes music is about more than just listening; it’s about experiencing. It’s about touching the records and feeling the vinyl. It’s interacting with others and possibly discovering a band you may never have otherwise heard of. It’s Iggy Pop, Violent Femmes, the Gorillaz or Of Monsters and Men. It’s this attitude that music is stronger than race or religion or politics or any number of things designed to separate. Music brings people together, and that’s what Sonic Rainbow strives to represent.
“I hope that our legacy is that we were a place that stuck it out for a long time,” Schulte said. “We try to keep independent and, specifically with Sonic Rainbow, kind of underground musical ideas afloat.”
The biggest idea that Sonic Rainbow tries to convey, and one that most record stores share, is that music can move you. It can shape you. It can transform you from whoever you are into a kid standing in the East Village in 1985. There is a whole world in front of you to discover. All you have to do is walk in.
So walk in.