Bellingham’s Local Music Library: 8,636 songs, and growing

New local music library’s collection – compiled by Eric Holl – includes 538 artists and bands, and 980 albums!

Reward your ears and dive into a massive collection of Bellingham’s recorded music at the new Bellingham Local Music Library, debuting at the Make.Shift Block Party on Aug. 2.

Compiled by local resident and music collector extraordinaire Eric Holl, the project began a decade ago when he started borrowing his friends’ music. He archived every track he could get his hands on in order to keep them well after (if) their bands broke up. Currently, the ever-expanding collection consists of 538 artists and bands, 980 albums, and a whopping 8,636 songs—adding up to 22 full days of nonstop listening to music without repeating any songs.

Eric Holl is ready for the library’s debut on Aug. 2, at Make.Shift’s annual Block Party. Any local music makers – past or present – are welcome to be included in the collection.  PHOTO BY SARAH DAY

Eric Holl is ready for the library’s debut on Aug. 2, at Make.Shift’s annual Block Party. Any local music makers – past or present – are welcome to be included in the collection. PHOTO BY SARAH DAY

erichollsignWHATSUPweb Sarah Day

“One thing I’ve noticed about Bellingham, especially as a college town, is that there’s so much fluidness to the music scene. We could see 20 new bands start up within the year’s time frame and then eight months later, half of them won’t even be around,” Holl said. “Maybe if someone’s lucky, one of those copies might end up in a used bin in a record store someday. Eventually, I had this fear that this music wouldn’t be available to get a hold of.”

Holl attended the first meetings for Make.Shift and quickly became inspired to create and share a local music library for all of Bellingham’s residents to be proud of. Immediately, Holl spread the word to save as many Bellingham and Whatcom County based band music as possible. Whether the songs were in vinyl, tape, CD, or any other formatting, Holl sorted through piles of mail and traveled to countless residences in order collect them. Within the past six months, Holl has visited every record store from Bellingham to Olympia, scouring the aisles for a hidden track while spending hundreds of dollars from his own pocket in pursuit of an intriguing discovery.

Holl’s favorite hidden gems worth listening to include Death Cab For Cutie’s first live show that was recorded acoustically in a living room, a 90s group comprised of mothers (aptly dubbed Motherload), 70s Christian folk records, a handful of Bellingham compilation cassettes from the 80s, Clay Nörwegian, Dust Blair, X-15, and a vast amount of recorded but never before released music.

As Holl explores Bellingham’s rich variety of musical talent he is constantly impressed with the dynamic interconnection and camaraderie between the many musicians, a value that is reminiscent of Bellingham’s encouraging community. This project serves as an opportunity for individuals of all musical tastes to find new aspects of music that may appeal to them. It is a valuable tool to unearth an aspect of our town’s colorful history, and to take pride in recognizing musical expression that sprouted from the same stomping grounds that we experience every day.

“I’ve been really surprised by how good stuff is,” Holl said. “I’ll come across a band that I’ve never actually heard, but I’ll be blown away by it.”

This love affair with stumbling upon memorable, local music stemmed from when Holl attended Fairhaven Middle School. “Crayon was the first Bellingham band I ever heard. When I was 14, a friend of mine brought their CD called North of Nowhere, a compilation of 19 bands from Bellingham. My only source of music at the time was songs from singers like Paula Abdul on pop radio. To hear that there were 19 bands in Bellingham, I was blown away! Hearing somebody sing out of key, whiney, and singing with emotion was definitely not something I was used to hearing. It stuck with me!”

Little did Holl know that years later he was lucky enough to encounter an ex-member of the band, Sean Tollefson, who needed help recovering tracks. This fanboy experience ended up benefitting Holl with a ton of unearthed music.

Brick Factory is probably my favorite album, and because of this project I finally got to interact with my childhood favorite band,” Holl said.

The biggest struggle was trying to find out how it was going to work. A physical library wasn’t plausible, and after going through many options, Holl came up with software that expertly displays the information with fluid scroll speeds. The library is inside the Make.Shift building and is available for anyone to enjoy. This formatted version is ideal to pop up in other locations as well, like at Bellingham’s museums, bars, and more, should the opportunity arise.

Holl advises that visitors to the music library should plan on taking their time while thumbing through the thousands of tracks, as it is easy to get overwhelmed. Take the adventurous route while choosing a recording, or recall an old favorite band that often performed at your favorite bar.

“We’ve narrowed it down to the most simplistic, user-friendly, copyright friendly way for the community to listen to its history. It is really important to me that the history of the music in this town is preserved. If that means that I stay up late for eight months in front of a computer, so be it! I’m obsessed with music as it is, so it’s been a really fun project.”

Published in the August 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine