Since 2010, Turntable Kitchen has been carving out its own little niche in the music world, combining food, music, cooking, and records into a thoroughly unique website and vinyl subscription service.
Recently, Turntable Kitchen launched a new monthly vinyl series called Sounds Delicious, which recruits well-known artists and asks them to record full-length cover versions of albums they love. Those reinterpreted classics then get pressed on vinyl and sold in small batches of 1,000 copies each. The first installment in the series saw electropop band Yumi Zouma re-imagining the Oasis classic (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? The second month of the series will see Jonathan Rado (of the band Foxygen) taking on the stratospheric heights of Bruce Springsteen’s foremost masterpiece, Born to Run. You can hear Rado’s cover of “Thunder Road” here.
We talked with Matthew Hickey, the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen, to learn more about Sounds Delicious and what listeners can expect from this exciting, unique vinyl subscription series.
Modern Vinyl: Do you want to start just by telling me a little bit about how Sounds Delicious, the series, came together? When did you envision it? What were your goals? What has it been so far? And where do you hope to take it?
Matthew Hickey: I can’t really point to one moment and say, “That’s where the idea came from.” It was a lot of different things coming together. On the one hand, I’ve always had this fascination with covers. I can think back to being a teenager and traveling to Hong Kong with my family. We went to this market and they were selling these bootleg CDs. I remember flipping through all these Metallica and Nirvana CDs, and they were all bootleg recordings of live shows that were put on CD. The ones that stuck out to me were the ones where you would have Nirvana doing a cover song or something like that. Something you couldn’t normally find.
That’s when I really started getting into the idea of covers, and that’s kind of grown over time. On Turntable Kitchen, we did a series we called “Serve Three Ways,” where we’d find three different bands covering the same song. What I liked about that was the idea that there was this shared appreciation for artists. You might find a cover where it’s like…Mastodon, Grizzly Bear, and Sugar Ray all covering the same song. These are three really different bands, and yet they were all inspired by this other songwriter that came before them. I don’t think there’s such a cover that exists, but you do find stuff like that all the time. It kind of blows me away. And I also like to see how bands take another song and interpret it through their own lens.
So that was where our fascination with covers came from. In terms of the subscription aspect of it — Sounds Delicious and getting bands to do full-length covers of albums — we’ve been fans of the [idea of the] subscription service for a long time. I was originally inspired by Sub Pop’s single series that they did back in the day. I always thought that was cool: getting a rare piece of wax in the mail that you might not be able to get anywhere else.
At Turntable Kitchen, we’d been doing our pairings box for a long time, and we wanted to find a way to transition from just doing 7-inch singles to doing full-length albums. So, in a way, the idea of doing covers — which I’d already had an appreciation for — and [the idea of] expanding into full-lengths came to me over a series of time. Again, I can’t point to a moment where it all clicked, but I mentioned [getting bands to do covers of full albums] to my wife at some point, and she was like, “Oh, I think that would be awesome.”
So we started trying to figure out ways to make it work. We started testing the waters to see which bands might be interested. Whether labels would be okay with their artists participating in the series. And in our experience thus far, everyone’s had a great reaction to it. When we told labels about it, they were like, “Oh, that sounds so cool! Yeah, we’d love to have our artists involved.” Most bands, as long as they have the time to do it, have been really excited to get involved. Obviously, when they’re touring or recording, they don’t necessarily have time to participate. But when they do, they’re just like, “This is awesome, let’s do it.”
It took a long time to get off the ground. The Kickstarter [for the Sounds Delicious series] was last summer. But really, the work began probably the winter before that, in terms of just getting people on board. We wanted to have a a core lineup put together before we launched so we’d have a sense of who was going to be involved. And then we had to work out deals with everyone, like the labels, to get their approvals and stuff. It took a little bit of time, but we’re finally now shipping our first record, so that’s super exciting.
MV: So is ‘Born to Run’ the first one, or was the Oasis one the first one?
MH: The Oasis one was the first one. Yeah, Yumi Zouma doing a full-length cover of Oasis’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was our first release.
MV: And that is shipping now, you said?
MH: Yeah, we’ve shipped probably 96% of them. We have a small number I have to still get out, but we’ve officially sold out of that one. The only real catch has been that we held aside about 50 records. We’re going to participate in a pop-up record shop in Seattle the day after Record Store Day and we had committed to bringing copies with us. So we put about 50 aside and whatever we don’t sell there we’ll throw up on our site afterwards and give people a second chance at them.
MV: And then you just announced the Springsteen one, right?
MH: Yep. That’ll be our second release. And yeah, we’re really excited about that one. We just premiered the first single with Pitchfork last week.
MV: I listened to a bit of the “Morning Glory” one and then I listened to “Thunder Road,” and what struck me was that Yumi Zouma had a very different twist on the Oasis record, but then on the other side, “Thunder Road” was a very faithful re-imagining of that song. Is it an intention to get bands to cover both sides of the equation, or does that just happen naturally depending on who the artist is and what they choose to cover?
MH: I’ve really encouraged the artists to try to nail their flag to the mast. I really want them to make these their own. But with that said, I don’t want to get involved in the creative process. I trust the artists to do this. We don’t give them assignments. We’re not like, “Okay, I want you to cover this record.” We want them to pick a record that is meaningful to them, and in some cases, that means an artist really wants to be faithful to it. That’s the way they approach the music in a way that means something to them. And then in other cases, I think they really want to reimagine it through their own lens. We don’t really view either way better or worse, it’s really just up to the artists to do what they want. It’s definitely very organic, and it’s unique from artist to artist.
MV: Well, especially with something like “Born to Run,” you have big shoes to fill. That’s sort of viewed as sacred territory. I mean, when you have people playing parts that were played by Clarence Clemons and Roy Bittan and all those guys…I’d imagine that’s tough.
MH: Yeah, I was impressed that [Jonathan Rado of Foxygen] wanted to tackle that. Like you said, there’s big shoes to fill. And in the case of the Boss, some of his lyrics are…the way they’re written, in the wrong hands, they’re going to sound cheesy, you know? But I think Rado really nailed it. I think he has his own unique voice, and I don’t think it’s like you’re listening to the Boss, but it also sounds respectful and it doesn’t sound cheesy, in my mind. I think he really found a great middle ground.
MV: And that was sort of an interesting thing with his “Thunder Road” cover, is that, vocally, he doesn’t sound that much like Springsteen, but whoever he got to play on the record, it sounded like they really went in and figured out those parts. Because pretty much all the parts from the original were there.
MH: I think that’s also a testament to the fact that, if we had gone to Jonathan Rado and said, “Hey, we want you to cover this record,” and say the record didn’t have a lot of meaning to him. But in this case, he picked a record that he just loves. So he hears all that stuff in his head and he wants to recreate all of it, I think.
MV: I’m interested to hear his version of “Jungleland,” because that one doesn’t get covered a lot…for obvious reasons.
MH: Sure! And that was the other reason we went for full-length cover albums. We had a few artists we talked to early on in the process who were like “I’ll do an album of covers for you,” but they weren’t sure how they felt about doing a full album by one artist. But what really appealed to me was that idea that the songs that don’t get covered as often, [the artists] have to cover those as well. And, for me at least, when I listen to the Yumi Zouma one, they obviously nailed like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova,” but really my favorite tracks, candidly, off their record are not songs that were the megahits by Oasis. I love their take on “She’s Electric,” I like their version of “Morning Glory”…even the untitled tracks. Like, I can’t hear the Oasis versions [of those tracks] in my head. They were completely forgettable, for me. I’m sure there are some Oasis fans who would probably skewer me for saying that, but…
MV: No, I think I deleted those from iTunes for a long time. And I recently ripped the album again, so I have those back. But it’s interesting hearing that, and I do want to check out the rest of the Yumi Zouma version. Actually, that’s another question I have: are these released on streaming services anywhere? Is there anywhere you can hear the whole thing if you missed out on the vinyl?
MH: No, no. That was part of the deal: that these would be vinyl only. So, other than that tracks we’ve released as singles, these will be living exclusively on vinyl. You won’t find them on Spotify or anything like that. Now, long-term, it’s kind of up to the individual artists how they want to approach the stuff. But, at least for the foreseeable future, all this stuff is going to be only on wax, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
MV: You said you guys did 7-inches before you started this, right?
MH: Yeah, and we still do the 7-inch series, actually. I just sent the plant our 68th release. Turntable Kitchen really started as a way for my wife and I to share with one another our unique passions. When I met her, she was really into food, really into cooking. And I was really into music. So one of our favorite hobbies was that I would come over to her house when we were dating and I’d bring a record, and we would cook together in the kitchen and talk about the music we were listening to while we ate and while we were preparing the meal. And she had a food website, where she would talk about food that she had discovered in San Francisco and was into, and then she would try to recreate some of the recipes and things like that. And at one point, she said “Why don’t you write about the records you’re selecting for our meals for my website?”
So we started doing that, and then at some point, we found we had more attention than we’d anticipated for what we were doing. We were mostly doing it just for fun and not with the expectation that anyone would read what we were doing. But then we got a write-up in The New York Times, and Good Magazine wrote about us, and we started getting more attention than we’d foreseen.
So we started having conversations about what more we could be doing with this, and we asked ourselves “Hey, if you could do anything, what would you want to do?” [My wife] thought “You know, I’d like to do a cookbook,” and I thought I’d like to have a record label. So we thought, well why don’t we join that together and create a subscription service in which we send everyone a vinyl record that we curate every month — and it would be an exclusive release to our site — plus a selection of recipes that she would create and a special ingredient [subscribers] could use to create the recipes.
And so we started doing that, and we’ve been doing that now for five years. We’ve done releases with Local Natives, MØ, GEMS, Gallant, Mikal Cronin, lots of cool folks. And we’ve done one every month now for a long time. We’re still trucking on that. We’ve expanded it now, though, so in addition to the recipes collection, we also have one that’s coffee and vinyl, so people can get a pound of coffee from Seattle’s Slate Coffee, plus a vinyl record.
MV: What’s on deck for the Sounds Delicious series? What are the next few cover albums?
MH: If I’m honest, we don’t have a set-in-stone release schedule at the moment. We do intend to do one every month, and we’re on course for that, but in terms of who’s gonna go next, I’m only about 99% sure. We have a couple of options, and it’s a just a matter of which we fire off first. But, with that said, for some of the next few releases, we have Mutual Benefit: he’s going to be covering Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day. Ben Gibbard’s doing Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque; that one will be coming up soon. Those are two of the ones that I expect to launch in the next couple months.
MV: Is there any artist who is particularly high on your wish list for getting involved in this?
MH: Oh man…to be honest, my wish list would be a long wish list. The National are one of my favorite bands. I’d love to get them involved. I feel like that’s probably not gonna happen anytime soon. But then you never know, so…
MV: They have to finish their album first, and then maybe.
MH: Exactly. Exactly. But I don’t know. There’s a lot of…Neko Case, I’d love to get involved. And people like that. But again, it’s often a matter of just finding these artists when they’re at a point where they have the time to get involved. And that can be tricky. There’s also a number of albums that I really want to hear somebody cover that nobody’s selected yet…
MV: Yeah, I was going to ask about that too.
MH: I really want to have someone pick one of Portishead’s albums. I don’t know why, but I have this like…obsession with it almost. I think somebody would just nail it covering Portishead. My wife keeps telling me — this is really her wish list — but she really wants someone to cover Johnny Cash. And I have a feeling that will have to come up at some point. I’d love to hear somebody cover the Cure; they’re one of those bands that meant a lot to me in high school, and I think [that] could be really fun for somebody to tackle.
MV: Well, after the “Thunder Road” thing went up on Pitchfork, I got into a conversation on my Twitter feed about “Born to Run,” and artists we’d like to hear cover certain records. And I know you said that you don’t get involved with the recording process at all, and that you don’t assign anything, but I wondered, if you had to pick one artist covering one album, what would that be?
MH: Oh man. Man, that’s hard to answer on the spot. I may have to put some thought into that and get back to you with an answer. There’s so many options out there! My head swirls.
MV: Yes, limitless options!
MH: Yeah, I’ll email you a response to that one. Something will probably pop into my head in five minutes. Like, “Radiohead covering…” I’m curious, what were some of the responses other folks gave.
*Note: Matthew later sent the following email responding to the question posed above:
So sorry for the slow reply here. To be honest, I’ve been dragging my feet because I’ve spent a silly amount of time mulling this over and still can’t settle on one album. I’m still convinced the album I’d most like to have an artist cover would be Portishead’s Dummy but I can’t figure out who’d be my choice to cover it. Here are a few other ideas that spring to mind:
MV: Well, now that I think about it, I don’t think it went very far beyond Bruce. Just a lot of the people that follow me talk about Bruce a lot, because I talk about Bruce a lot, and the artists who have been influenced by him. But the ones that I would be interested in hearing cover “Born to Run” were like, Butch Walker and Frank Turner and Jason Isbell and his band. And The Gaslight Anthem. And those are some of my favorite artists, so frankly, I’d probably be fine hearing them cover a lot of things. But, I think all four of those are very sort of Springsteen-indebted anyway, so…
MH: You know, that’s probably an easier way for me to tackle that other question. Maybe I just have to think of a record that means a lot to me and who I would want to cover it.
MV: Right, right! And that’s sort of why it was interesting for me to see the “Born to Run” thing, because “Born to Run” is my favorite album. And then I was sort of going through other artists that I really like who I could see covering that and doing a good job.
MH: You know, it’s funny, too — and I’ll throw this out there; I’m almost hesitant to because I don’t want you to feel too excited — but we had an artist who at this point it’s not clear if they’ll be participating or not, just because of time commitments and whatnot. But they also wanted to cover Born to Run. So we had two people who were going to be doing that in our first year. And now it seems unlikely that that will happen, but I thought “Man, that’s going to be interesting, because people are going to be automatically comparing the two.”
MV: Right. And especially because there are songs on there that you can definitely reinterpret, and then there are songs that maybe you don’t want to because they’re so iconic.
MH: Exactly. But yeah, it was kind of shocking. I was impressed that one record — of all the countless records in the universe that people could choose — I had two people zeroing in on one record. And then on the other hand, it’s not surprising, because it’s such an iconic record.
MV: In the past ten years or so, I feel like that one has gained esteem and been an influential record for a lot of songwriters and stuff.
MH: I think you’re right.
MV: Because whenever Rolling Stone did their “Top 500 Albums,” it was in the top 20, but not the top ten. I feel like, if they did that now…
MH: It would definitely be in the top ten. Yeah, that’s gotta be true.
A subscription to Sounds Delicious costs $25 a month, plus shipping. To subscribe, click here. Subscriptions are available in one, three, six, and twelve-month incarnations. Since the Yumi Zouma version of Morning Glory is sold out, new orders will start with Jonathan Rado’s “Born to Run” cover album.