Spotlight on Warbler Records

Warbler+Records+is+a+hole-in-the-wall-style+record+shop+on+De+La+Guerra+Street.

Caleb Crother

Warbler Records is a hole-in-the-wall-style record shop on De La Guerra Street.

Nick Jensen, Staff Writer

Although cities often contain popular attractions, they are also characterized by unique local shops. In Santa Barbara, most people know the Wharf, State Street and the Mesa, but the city is also populated with other distinct spots, like special coffee shops and bookstores. One of these gems is Warbler Records, a hole-in-the-wall-style record shop on De La Guerra Street.

Warbler Records is relatively new to the Santa Barbara community. While sorting through vinyls, the owner Kurt Leghler explained in an interview that the store opened a decade ago after he and his wife moved to the area from Oregon. After working in a handful of record stores, Leghler recounted that they hoped to start their own business. Moving from Portland, the couple set up shop in Santa Barbara, which was in desperate need of a local record store.

Vinyl and physical forms of media produce a ‘revelatory experience.’”

— KURT LEGHLER

Their website celebrates the fact that the records are handpicked by the owners and that the store is “committed to offering an eclectic and uncommon selection,” which is consistent with Leghler’s overall music tastes. When asked what his favorite record or style of music is, Leghler humorously answered,“I don’t know, but I’m sure I haven’t heard it yet.” The passionate owner said that the best part is “discovering new, overlooked things,” and that there are many opportunities to get “hooked on the obscure.”

In our Spotify-dominated age, Leghler argued that vinyl offers a huge difference to other digital media. A physical medium provides listeners with both an enhanced “analog quality,” as well as a “tactile” aspect. The sound carries a slightly more authentic feel, and there is a physical side to the whole experience that cannot be matched by digital forms. 

Compared to other ways of experiencing music, vinyl also leads to an “amazing voyage of discovery.” Leghler noticed that we tend to “fetishize [the] media our parents used” — we are drawn to what has come before us as we pursue something new. No matter the cause of this appeal, vinyl and physical forms of media produce a “revelatory experience,” according to Leghler.

In past years, Warbler Records has hosted dinners and movie nights, where they show cheesy horror flicks like “Shock Them Dead.” They are an integral part of the community, but because of COVID-19, they are also “bracing for a hard winter.” Like many local businesses, the store is hurting from the decrease in tourists and other customers. However, they are continuing operations part-time and regularly sell on Discogs, the online vinyl marketplace.

Warbler Records is dedicated to keeping the “music subculture alive,” whether by providing an in-store experience or through online sales. During this pandemic, Leghler encourages the community to “keep listening to weird music.”

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