Resting quietly in historic downtown El Paso but away from the towering high-rise buildings, Sound Decay is the the newest record store in town for music lovers of all tastes and ages.
Its unusual aesthetic sets it apart from not just other record stores but businesses entirely. Brothers Danny Alcantar, 30, and Abel Salazar, 44, set up shop in a small and nonchalant house on 1314 Magoffin Avenue, walking distance away from the historical Magoffin Home.
“We liked the fact that it’s near downtown. A lot of people forget about the Magoffin House and the street like, it’s not exactly out of the way, but in a weird way it is,” said Danny.
Unlike most other record stores in El Paso, Sound Decay isn’t situated by heavy foot traffic, areas or businesses. Only a banner distinguished the store from the neighboring building, Maternidad La Luz birth center.
“During the pandemic, we flirted with the idea of opening up a record store someday. We just didn’t know when that was gonna happen. But the opportunity just fell in my lap and presented itself,” Salazar said. “My cousin, who actually–rest in peace–he passed away in March, was a big influence on us. He was also an entrepreneur, introduced me to the landlord and the rest is history.”
DJ’s themselves, both Alcantar and Salazar have been collecting records for decades. Danny can recollect buying his first record in 2003 by I Hate Myself, an emo band that disbanded in 2005. While Abel started his collection with a Joan Jett, 45” record that rapidly blossomed into a large library.
And that’s the story of how Sound Decay came to be.
No place like Sound Decay
The brothers saw a market missing in El Paso, where just maybe a niche genre, especially one where obscure punk and metal records could fill. So, they went online, stocking up on as many records as possible.
Self-described “music heads”, Alcantar and Salazar saw a need for more access to some of their favorite music genres, like Goth and Dark wave, Italo Disco, and some more obscure and underground Punk and Soul selections.
But, the drive behind opening the store was the creation of a safe space for music fans of all tastes and backgrounds. After visiting, patronizing, and working at various record stores in town and across the country, Alcantar and Salazar united to merge influences from places such as End of an Ear in Austin, TX or Amoeba Records, a franchise with multiple locations but originated in Berkeley CA.
“We want to be able to be a place that can provide that for new collectors, young people. Not just young people but people of all ages. We want to be able to provide a place where you can just go in there and find something, something that’s going to change your life in some way or another,” Abel said.
With an overflowing record collection that the brothers estimated to be nearly 5,000 albums, the plans for a record store began.
“So it took like four or five months, really just buying a bunch of stuff, pulling stuff from our personal collections, some stuff that we could get rid of, or doubles. That was probably the hardest part: just finding out who’s going to be reliable for you,” Alcantar said. ”You can’t find a lot of this stuff. It was just a lot of networking, a lot of emails, a lot of just waiting. It was a process, but we’re here now.”
One vital element to the store’s atmosphere is the listening station. While there is a record player crooning tunes to the entire store, a separate record player sits in the middle of the store with headphones, where customers can listen to any opened or used record to see whether they like the music or not.
Alcantar explained that having a listening station is of the utmost importance in their store.
“We want people to– even if they don’t recognize it, want people to like, listen to it and be like, Okay, this is something new that we discovered,” Alcantar said.
That isn’t the only influence from other record store cultures seen in the store, however. The store is wall-to-wall covered with posters and album art of a wide variety of artists.
“It’s cool to see these record stores share their personal collections. For example, like the posters on the wall. Those are original posters, and it’s really neat to see that stuff to go to a record store and be part of the experience,” Salazar mentioned.
Alcantar estimated that around 60% of the art hanging on display in Sound Decay came from their personal collection. Posters ranging from the original punk rock band Los Saicos to Bob Dylan, Bad Brains and The Who.
Original LP jackets hang on one archway including a My Bloody Valentine album as well as a repressing of an album from The Velvet Underground. On the opposite side of the archway, brightly colored flyers of bands like The Misfits are lined up like papel picado.
“We want to bring communities together and scenes together, integrate different styles. Just a place where even music lovers of all types can just get whatever and no one’s gonna judge you for it. It’s going to be a place where you’re going to walk in and you’re going to leave and you’re going to leave happy with something,” Salazar said with a chuckle.
By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca