Get Hip Recordings owner, Gregg Kostelich shares the story behind one of Pittsburgh’s oldest record labels and its newest record store
By: Josh McCann
Gregg Kostelich sits in the backroom of his new record store, carefully placing vinyl records into the album sleeves by hand, inspecting each one with a delicate stare, ensuring that none of them have fallen victim to a series of scratches. He doesn’t have to do this. But he does anyway. He’s possessed by a commitment, an allegiance to the music – it’s vital to him that the customers experience and appreciate the art for all its worth.
“We have a variety [of music] from big band to rockabilly. We sold a Benny Goodman record last week,” Kostelich said. “We have a little microcosm of what it should be because that’s what we do here. I believe in trying to sell every type of music.”
Jennifer Baron, founder of the band The Garment District, talked about how she loves the phenomenal selection, and how she can find one of her favorite records of all-time, The Golden Dawn’s “Power Plant” at the store.
“It’s amazing to find these kinds of records. I’m incredibly impressed with the selection,” Baron said. “It’s part of that collective, communal experience of going to a record store where you can always find something you’ve been looking for or you’ll discover something new, that’s the kind of store that it is.”
Kostelich’s love for music all began at an early age, specifically after watching a performance that would inspire millions of people and help change rock ’n’ roll forever.
“I begged for a guitar after seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan stage,” Kostelich said. “And then [after] seeing The Who and The Rolling Stones at seven-years-old. That had an impact on me.”
After being inspired by such legendary rock performers, he began honing his craft.
“I got a silvertone Bobkat guitar,” Kostelich said. “I was always in my room playing guitar. I just thought that’s what you do.”
Kostelich’s dedication and practice paid off, in 1983 he formed The Cynics. The four-piece band had an identifiable garage-punk edge that could be heard through their sound and lyrics.
“I went through a phase of rock. Then different punk bands,” Kostelich said. “One of the first lineups was ‘Blue Train Station,’ our first record. We were fired up, drinking, [and] partying.”
The band’s debut LP was a huge success. It led to a number of tour performances overseas, where the band began a long-lasting relationship with a passionate fan base.
“For thirty years I made a living playing in Europe because of the great fans there,” Kostelich said. “The minute I hit the first fuzz box in Spain, it was a detonator! They were waiting for years to hear the fuzz. I said, ‘I like this place.’”
During the 80’s, in an age where major labels dominated the music industry, it was considered uncommon to put out your own record. Unlike today, the do-it-yourself approach for bands wasn’t popular. Ignoring the status quo, Kostelich decided to forge his own route and take matters into his own hands. What followed was the idea of releasing a Cynics record without the help of a label.
“There were a lot of hardcore bands that inspired me to do it,” Kostelich said. “We were trying to do some label deals. I just felt they weren’t living it, weren’t breathing it on a daily basis. So, I said that I might as well do it myself.”
After working with Californian Dionysus label on their first two singles, Kostelich created Get Hip Recordings and began releasing all of The Cynics albums and singles with the Pittsburgh-based label. From there, the Get Hip name grew as more bands began signing and releasing material with the label. When asked about how many records he helped produced, Kostelich remained humbled.
“There’s a lot of records that I never put my name on.”
And now Kostelich has opened another chapter in his musical legacy. His new record store features an eclectic array of musical genres and merchandise, while also showcasing a number of events throughout the year – promotions that are typically reserved for the retail holiday, Record Store Day. This upcoming Black Friday weekend includes a rock ‘n’ roll photo exhibit from acclaimed rock photographer Theresa Kereakes, along with live in-store performances from a number of Get Hip artists.
Lead singer of The Nox Boys, Zach Keim works the counter at the store and shares a passion for music much like Kostelich. He navigates the store with the enthusiasm of a fan and the attentiveness of an employee, stopping to admire a rare Black Keys record from Europe that contained an interview with the band. Keim first met Kostelich in 2013. After a Cynics concert, Keim gave lead singer Micheal Kastelic a demo of The Nox Boys, which Kastelic later passed on to Kostelich. Shortly thereafter The Nox Boys officially signed with Get Hip Recordings. Since Keim has worked the past year and a half in the sales department at Get Hip.
“I like talking to people, listening to music, turning people onto to good music and making my own. I just love music. That’s all I want to do is music,” said Keim.
Aside from Kostelich’s Get Hip label, The Cynics themselves have made a positive impact on a number of Pittsburgh artists.
Baron discussed how The Cynics played an early influence in her musical career.
“I grew up going to see The Cynics at the Electric Banana,” Baron said. “I’ve had ‘Blue Train Station’ on vinyl since high school.”
Ed Masley has been a longtime friend of Kostelich. His band, The Breakup Society, has released a number of records under the Get Hip label and recently shared his thoughts on working with both Kostelich and the label.
“I think Greg is a great guy. He’s enthusiastic about music. He supports you that way,” said Masley during a phone interview. “He makes you feel good about the music you are producing. He’s very honest, yet supportive. I loved working with him.”
Masley, whose band is now based out of Phoenix, talked about the memories he had from his days back in Pittsburgh with Kostelich.
“One thing I miss is going to the Get Hip warehouse when I was living in Pittsburgh, and wandering through all that music. He’d [Kostelich] always be up there listening to vinyl on his turntable. The room was always alive with music.”
Get Hip’s influence trickles into all corners of the globe. Anina Gonzalez Mosquera, lead singer for the band BOBKAT ’65 met Kostelich in her hometown of Gijon, Spain after The Cynics recorded a show there. That conversation led to the three-piece garage rock act (based out of Asturias, Spain) to sign and release their debut record, “This Lonely Road” with Get Hip this past summer.
“We’ve enjoyed it very much,” Mosquera said in regards to working with the label. “We are going to record two new songs in December and hopefully tour the USA in 2018.”
To Baron, Get Hip is a special asset for the music community.
“Get Hip is one of the most important music distributors in the world. It’s not just garage rock. They have a whole range. I’ve always considered them to be a hidden gem of Pittsburgh.”
Between The Cynics influence and the success of Get Hip Recordings, Baron believes the new store can be a powerful resource in the community.
“It’s becoming more of a destination, connecting more of the Northside. What’s great about it is coming together, discovering new music,” she said. “You always discover something new. It’s a very social experience.”
The Get Hip Record Store is located on the second floor of 1800 Columbus Avenue at the R.J. Casey Industrial Park in Chateau (near Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff and Bicycle Heaven). Hours of operation are Mon. thru Sat. 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sun. 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.