An Síbín | photo by Lauren Rosier for WXPN
Get Lost in An Sibin: The vinyl lounge at Lancaster’s Tellus360 is a prime space for music discovery
Since launching in 2010, Tellus360 has been making a name for itself as an Irish pub and multi-purpose music and arts space in a state of constant growth and evolution.
Located in the heart of Lancaster City on King Street, Tellus360 began as a retail store for owner Joe DeVoy’s reclaimed wood furniture. But, he tells us, after experiencing how strongly the community hungered for a space that hosted daily cultural events, it expanded. Today, Tellus is not only an Irish pub, but also a prominent music venue…and now a record lounge.
Though Tellus360 has been open for several years, the Irish pub recently opened the speakeasy-like An Síbín (pronounced sh’been), a vinyl lounge with drinks, books, record players and occasional intimate performances. I recently had the opportunity to meet with events and marketing manager Bill Speakman, as well as vinyl curator Max Kornhauser to talk about An Síbín and visit the new space.
They note that bar manager, Kevin O’Mahony, initially came up with the idea of An Síbín; the origins of the name trace back to Ireland, where it was a term for an illicit bar or club where alcoholic beverages were sold without a license. (To be clear, though, Tellus360 does have a license). “The ‘speakeasy’ idea felt appropriate,” Speakman said.
With multiple venues in the building, the idea was to create something different. “It’s a space that creates an ambiguous sense of time and place. Maybe you’re in Ireland, maybe you’re not,” Speakman explained. “The lounge doesn’t have any windows, so it is easy for visitors to lose track of time, and give in to the experience.”
At any given moment, there can be a lot going on at Tellus360, and “we wanted to create a space for our regulars to go that would be a quiet, relaxing place to enjoy conversation and music in a tucked-away spot from any of the hustle and bustle that may be happening elsewhere on a Saturday night,” Speakman continued.
The venue is a low-tech zone with lots of vinyl records, books, and games (from chess to Connect Four). Even the bar is cash only. “Our hope is that people will unplug from technology and engage with each other,” Speakman stated. “So far that’s been happening and for those who frequent the Síbín, it seems something special is really starting to develop.”
Perhaps one of the most exciting stories that surrounds the Síbín is the story behind the vinyl record collection. Before moving to Lancaster and taking up work as a dishwasher at Tellus, Kornhauser had been teaching English in Turkey for several years. That’s where he met his now-wife, Sena, and was able to experience various music culture around the world.
Though vinyl has become trendy as of late, the upswing in vinyl sales can sometimes be a myth, Kornhauser said. “The younger generation is purchasing more vinyl than a decade ago, but most are represses, and are usually for decoration or ornamentation,” he noted. “When represses are released, this prevents new artists from being able to put their albums on vinyl. So the numbers are a bit misleading.”
Even so, with new trends brings new interest surrounding the experience of listening to vinyl records. “The renewed interest in vinyl is great,” Kornhauser admitted. “I see this firsthand when DJing or talking with guests in Síbín.” Vinyl records offers a shared, inter-generational interest that people can connect with. “Many times younger listeners don’t know how great older music is and older listeners have forgotten what they owned. Or [they] went digital and got rid of their collections, and are now having a great time reminiscing. It’s a shared experience that, despite coming at it from different directions, is able to be jointly ventured into.”
This past Record Store Day at An Síbín, “we were giving away the doubles and other albums we weren’t using for the collection,” Kornhauser explained. “There were people my parents’ age, my age, and technically my non-existent children’s age, all digging together and all finding something of interest.”
Going out and physically shopping for vinyl records is an experience incomparable to quickly purchasing a digital version of an album on iTunes or elsewhere. When shopping for records for An Síbín, Kornhauser loves the dig. “There is nothing like popping into a record store with an album or artist on your mind, and after flipping through the selections, walking out with a stack of wax you had never heard of before,” he admitted. “Digging also provides you with great stories: Personally, I found two albums worth €200 (or so) at a bus station in Belgrade while two very excited fellows next to me were browsing the used adult magazine section. That experience can never happen online.”
Luckily, he’s been able to stay away from the Internet, but realizes as the library continues to grow, it may be an outlet he’ll have to turn to. So far, they’ve been able to develop a decent collection that spans many genres, including general rock and folk, but Kornhauser’s travels have been able to discover some incredible finds such as ex-Yugo — a term for music of the former Yugoslavia. The lounge includes all genres; progressive rock, jazz, and electronica are the most sought after, Kornhauser says. The collection also covers anything from Balkan folk to metal, some Flamenco collections he picked up while in Cartagena, Spain, and even a small sample of Turkish music acquired during his time spent in Istanbul.
Thanks to donations from the Franklin & Marshall College library, An Síbín also has an awesome classical, theatre / opera, and spoken word / poetry selection. If you’re a jazz or reggae fan, they have that, too. In the long-term, Kornhauser hopes to expand the international collection, so that the public can experience it as well.
Coming from nine years in Turkey and watching its constantly changing political narrative, “these albums, no matter how political or potentially offensive, cannot be changed,” he explained. “And we, in a sense, become a guardian of history and preserver of humanity. The world is always spinning and we should be too.”