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Sophia Wang, The Record Lady

My name is Sophia Wang, originally from Shanghai. I used to work for the live venue Yuyintang, doing bookings and promotion. Also I ran a gay club called 390 for two years. Now, I have two record stores called Uptown and play in an experimental drone band PengZhuang with my husband.


I’m from the Minhang area of Shanghai. Actually Minhang is huge! My parents live in the southwest part which is called “Old Minhang” area. That's where I grew up.

What to do in Minhang… There used to be a big bootleg DVD market close to my parents', but it's long gone now. Life is kind of boring in Minhang, actually. Basically, there’s no entertainment there; you can only find shopping malls. There's not even a single bar in the Old Minhang area. Last year, though, we finally found a fun place to go: a drive-in movie theater. Usually no one goes there, so you can pick your own movie if you want. That's the best thing to do in Minhang by far.
From my experience, it feels isolated when you live in Minhang. You probably can't have house parties there because no one wanna go that far!


My husband and I started the first Uptown record store in a basement space in late 2011. We had found out about a record recycling warehouse in Guangzhou, and we built up our stock over a few days, digging through mountains of used records. That's how we started our business. These past few years, though, we’ve been going to America and Japan to buy records, hand-selecting records one by one by ourselves from record stores, other collectors, and distributors. Records aren't illegal, but you can only bring in a very limited amount (like 20 records per mail delivery or per carry on luggage) which makes running a store difficult. I think that's the reason why there're only a few record stores in Shanghai.


In 2015, we opened our second record / bottle shop, Uptown RnB. It's a tiny but lovely place. We put two shelves of records in the store with craft beers to make it a cozy spot for music lovers. We also do some small events at RnB, like podcasts and record listening parties. Unlike Uptown Record Store, RnB is on the street level. It's easier to promote record culture to random people who walk in.

Besides the two record stores, we also have a zine / screen printing poster / music merchandise store called GIF Shop which is in the same location as the Uptown basement store.


What got me into vinyl… I always preferred physical copies of music. I grew up with 500+ cassettes and a big CD collection but started to get vinyls when I started my first band, Next Year's Love. Actually, my parents had a record player when I was a kid, playing a lot Chinese ‘80s pop. I was quite familiar with vinyl records in the first 10 years of my amazing young life. Unfortunately they didn't keep it, so I only got a chance to see records again when I was touring. I just love the feeling when I actually make an effort to put on a vinyl record and sit down to listen to it. Also the cover art of the vinyl records is another reason I love records.


What have I been listening too lately? The record I've been listening to a lot is “Action Moves Away From The Center”, which was released by a friend's band, Alpine Decline. All the tracks in the album are recorded as live performances on modular synthesizers. Besides that one, I'm listening to a lot of records released by a San Francisco label Dark Entries. This label mainly reissues those dark wave or post-punk bands in the ‘70s or ‘80s that never released their music on vinyl.


Chinese bands and musicians are pretty active these days, and there are more and more labels in China that help local bands release vinyl records. There're Genjing Records (Beijing), D Force (Beijing), Ran Music (Beijing), Qiii Snacks (Guangzhou), Wild Records (Wuhan), Shengjian Records (Shanghai), Boring Production (Shenzhen) and more. For Chinese releases, psychedelic band Chui Wan' s latest record "The Landscape the Tropics Never Had" and local producer Gooooose's "They" are my favorite two records last year.


My favorite places to hang out in Shanghai would be the park behind Yuyintang and the rock'n'roll bar Specters. My favorite restaurants are both on Dingxi road: the big fish place Yu Xiang Qing, and Yunnan restaurant Lotus Eatery.

For a secret little place, I recommend the xiao long bao place on Fahuazhen road called Fahua Tangbao.

Will I be in Shanghai forever? Hopefully, not! I really wanna live in Tokyo, but seems it's almost impossible for me. Probably, I will move to California with my husband in the future. Since we still wanna keep the business in Shanghai, ideally we just go back and forth between SH and Cali. 


Don't forget to support your local record dealer this Saturday! It's International Record Store Day! Uptown's got a big thing on with lots of China labels and distributors selling great music. Head down and buy some wax. Details here.


[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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