Photo by Sarah Golder.
Walking into Josey Records, junior Max Bunte is on the hunt. He starts with the rock section, meticulously flipping through each bin of vinyl and CDs. One by one, section by section, he checks every album, waiting anxiously for something to catch his eye and become the newest addition to his collection. After a couple hours, he’s finally found it — “Skylarking” by XTC and an album by Big Pink.
Bunte has been collecting CDs and vinyl since he was in sixth grade, when he bought his first album — The Beatles Greatest Hits. Using money he earned from mowing lawns and other odd jobs, his passion for collecting albums began.
Today his collection has grown to around 600 CDs and 100 vinyl albums, all held on a 5-foot high wooden bookcase with four shelves built last year by Bunte and his dad. 70 new albums have found a home on the wooden shelves this year alone. Every album is alphabetized — a system Bunte created last year and took four hours to complete.
“I do it by artist name, and if it’s a solo artist then it’s by last name,” Bunte said. “Then if I have more than one from a particular artist, I do it by when it was released.”
Max’s dad, Scott Bunte, has a substantial album collection of his own. Complete with six shelves of CDs and vinyl in their basement, it was Scott’s collection that originally inspired Bunte to build a collection of his own.
Whether it’s perusing records stores for hours together or trading albums from their collections, their shared love of music and collecting has brought Max and his dad closer over the years.
“It was a reflection of me growing up,” Scott said. “He started plugging into these bands that hadn’t been popular for 20 years, and loved them. I figured out that this was something that he and I will be able to share.”
The two often talk about music-related news or history. According to Scott, they pick each other’s minds for new information, teaching one another about new bands they discovered or sharing opinions on artists, music genres and albums.
“It’s a special bond that we have, just listening to music, talking about music,” Bunte said. “Some of my favorite conversations with my dad are talks about music.”
While his dad’s collection is mainly vinyl, Bunte decided to focus more on CDs — a medium he believes is easier to take care of and has better sound quality compared to vinyl, which can be easily scratched or warped.
“In my opinion [CDs have] the best sound [or] audio fidelity than like a vinyl,” Bunte said. “A lot of people prefer the warm vinyl sound, but[…]I like to hear every instrument, like every [piece of audio] in the music.”
CDs, vinyl and tapes all fall under the category of physical music media — a medium that Bunte believes is under appreciated in today’s world of digital streaming.
“I just feel like you appreciate [the music] more cause it’s like a tangible thing that you can touch and feel,” Bunte said. “It’s an active experience just [playing] it — like you open it up, you read it, instead of just having it on in the background.”
Although Bunte’s wooden bookshelf is predominantly stuffed with rock albums from the 60s and 70s, it also includes more unique styles of music like Japanese metal rock or reggae. Last month’s genre of interest was “weirdo, trippy rock,” according to Bunte, and punk, while this month’s phase has been mostly music from Africa.
“He’s got a ton of really one-off albums that I really would never have heard of anywhere else if he hadn’t got them,” Bunte’s close friend sophomore Christian Alldredge said. “He has an impeccable music taste.”
Before ever stepping into a record store, Bunte does his research. From Googling popular albums in specific genres of interest to scrolling through online music forums to see what other music lovers recommend, he usually spends at least 30 minutes a day searching for potential additions to his mental log of albums he might want to buy. He’s learned that randomly selecting a CD is far too risky.
Then he heads to one of his favorite stores: Josey Records, Mills Records, Brothers Music, Half Price Books or his personal favorite — Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence. Normally, he picks the store he hasn’t been to for the longest. And when he arrives, heads straight to the punk or rock bins.
He usually loops around the store a couple times to cover all territory. From jazz to the world music section — no bin is left out.
“Part of the fun and part of the experience is going to record stores and looking for like two hours,” Bunte said. “[It’s] the thrill of the hunt.”
Although he has a mental log of albums he’s looking for, he also loves occasionally going in blind — searching for something not on the list, with no particular expectations.
“With vinyl, in my experience, I’ve been able to take more risks, just going into the store not knowing what you’re going to find and buying something that you might not know what it is and sounds like at all but you can just take a risk and try it out,” Bunte said.
But if he is looking for a very specific album that he knows he probably won’t find in a store, he tries to order it online.
Bunte hopes to continue expanding his collection and start collecting vinyl pieces of his own. But for now, there’s a more urgent task ahead — building a bigger shelf.