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New Zealand Music Features

Slow Boat Records: Wellington’s Oldest Independent Record Store

Jeremy Taylor has been working at the iconic Slow Boat Records store in the capital for over 22 years. A shop that continues to hold its ground as one of the go-to spots in Aotearoa for music-lovers.
Slow Boat Records: Wellington’s Oldest Independent Record Store

by Solomon Powell

Solomon Powell is a journalist from Pōneke, New Zealand. After realizing there wasn't enough in-depth writing on local music, he started Noise Report, a publication dedicated to Wellington’s music scene. Over the coming weeks, content will begin magically appearing on the website:

Slow Boat Records, now located on Cuba Street in central Wellington, has been running since 1985. This makes it Wellington’s oldest independent record store. Reflecting on what has kept Slow Boat going, co-owner Jeremy Taylor is quick to cite the regularity of their customers. “There are people who come in at the same time, on the same day, every week, and have been doing so for umpteen years” he says. And while other record stores have diversified to stay in business, Jeremy says Slow Boat have always stuck to their guns. “We never thought that we should sell skateboards or jeans or trainers or anything” he says. “We've always been a music shop”. The age of the store becomes apparent to me when Jeremy, who has been working at Slow Boat since 2001, points out that some of the posters on the walls have been around longer than him. 

Indeed, there is an old school mentality about how the store operates. They still make sure to stock those records that Jeremy says “every young person should have the opportunity to discover. You know, Nirvana Nevermind, or Joni Mitchell Blue.” Upon entering the store, one of the first things you see is a wall of 50 CDs, displayed below a large banner reading “Slow Boat Essential Top 50 Albums”. Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys holds the number one spot.

Slow Boat Records: Wellington’s Oldest Independent Record Store
Slow Boat Records. Photo by Ben Howe.
However, Slow Boat are not behind on any trends. In recent years, the shop has become better known for hosting in-store gigs with local and overseas artists; Reb Fountain, Neil Finn, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile have graced the shop with intimate live performances.  “It's a very different experience from going to a concert with the stage and the light show and the big PA and everything” says Jeremy. 

Slow Boat also operate a small in-house record label, which Jeremy says they “bring into action every so often”. They have released vinyl copies of Buffalo by The Phoenix Foundation, and albums by Luke Buda, Eb & Sparrow, Teeth, Dennis O'Brien and Bleakwater. 

Slow Boat’s central location on Cuba street also makes them an obvious destination for vinyl enthusiasts who might be passing through Wellington. Jeremy recalls when Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin, came through their doors. “There were people just going, oh my god, it's Robert Plant. Some people approached him and he signed some things for people. But aside from being a massive 70s leather-trouser-wearing rock god, in his heart of hearts he's a music fan” says Jeremy. “And music’s a bit of a bit of a leveller like that”.

While 2022 marks Jeremy’s 22nd year working at the Slow Boat Records, and the shops 36th year in business, Jeremy still marvels at the fact people continue to flock through the doors. “People could just listen to music endlessly online, from the comfort of their own home” says Jeremy. “So I'm grateful that people still care about music enough to wanna frequent and support a shop like this”. 

Visit Slow Boat Records here. 


This story is part of a new series here on the Flying Nun blog, in which we focus on some stores in Aotearoa that keep the love of vinyl and music alive.  



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