Rediscovering L.A. Through Music, and By Not Fitting In"There’s always a new corner to turn, a new street you haven’t been on and there’s so much diversity, it’s impossible to see and do everything."
After struggling for 14 years in a music-industry job that he admits felt soulless, Neil Schield boldly followed his high school dream and opened a record store — just when digital downloading had decimated the music industry and the economy was in a tailspin.
Nineteen months later, Origami Vinyl has far exceeded even his wildest expectations. Now, he says, "Every day is just a joy to come in to work and to meet people in the community and to meet bands that play here at the store and to do something in the music industry that's positive."
His 400-square-foot shoebox of a store has grown into ground zero for the music scene in hip and happening Echo Park, a gritty neighborhood on the edge of downtown Los Angeles. What started out as a way to support local music has turned Origami into a destination spot for many touring bands.
"When I first moved here, it was a little rough," Schield says. "But two things drew me in: First, Echo Park is close to downtown but still feels like a cool little neighborhood. Second, it's an enclave for artists and musicians. People here are doing their own thing in contrast to Hollywood, where people are trying to be actors and fit in."
Every Tuesday, Schield hosts a record club at fave local bar El Prado. "Eight people bring their favorite record and we play a side and buy them a beer," he laughs. As for the selection of music? "It can be totally random!"
Schield believes the music scene in L.A. is thriving and "its signature is coming from Echo Park. Smaller bands like No Age and Local Natives are starting to hit." To hear the latest indie music, Schield heads to neighborhood venues like the Echo or Silverlake Lounge.
Having grown up in a car family — he's a third-generation vintage sports car racer, and the family still owns his grandfather's 1965 Shelby GT 350 — Schield gets his best ideas while behind the wheel. "It's a great place to clear my head," he says. His favorite L.A. ride is Mulholland Drive to the coast. And Neil Young's "Harvest" provides the soundtrack — Schield was named for the musician, after all.
Although a So Cal native, what Schield says he likes most about Los Angeles is that he continues to discover new things about it. "I love that this place is so diverse culturally and so spread out geographically," he observes. "There's always a new corner to turn, a new street you haven't been on, and there's so much diversity. It's impossible to see and do everything."
To illustrate the city's potential for exploration, Schield cites his recent discovery of Cole's, one of the oldest bars in downtown L.A. and the self-proclaimed originator of the French dip sandwich.
"I went last week for the first time and it was phenomenal. You walk in, get a sandwich, sit in a booth and feel like you went back in time. That's why I love L.A.: Here's a place that totally fits what I like and yet I'd never been there before."
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