Work is underway at Kindercore Vinyl, Athens’ new and much-ballyhooed record-manufacturing facility. The state-of-the-art plant, which is currently pressing between 4,000–5,000 records each week, plans to ramp up production in the coming months, eventually churning out a whopping 3,000 albums per day.
But what does making records entail, exactly? Flagpole photographer Nicole Adamson recently spent part of a day at Kindercore HQ to get an intimate look at the process. [Gabe Vodicka]
First, Mat Lewis, Kindercore Vinyl’s operations manager, scoops PVC pellets—the main component of vinyl records—from a bin before starting up the press. Though PVC is the industry standard, one of Kindercore’s owners, bioengineer Dan Geller, is currently working to research and develop a renewable replacement.
Once poured into the machine, the pellets are superheated and molded into pucks, which will then be topped with labels. Above, a mold raises to reveal a puck of hot vinyl.
Labels bake in an oven before they are applied. They must be free of moisture; otherwise, they will tear and stick to the stamper when it is pressed. After the puck is created, a label is placed on top of it before it is stamped.
Next, stampers—metal disks that contain the grooves for each song—flatten the puck. Steam from the press softens the plastic as the stampers push an impression of the album’s master recording onto it. Finally, the disc is stiffened using cool water. “Learning how to dial in the perfect temperatures, timing and PSI has been really difficult,” says Chief Operations Officer Cash Carter, “but it’s also rewarding when the record comes out sounding good.”
After being stamped, the excess vinyl is trimmed off. Kindercore re-grinds the excess into pellets to be reused and re-melted for future records. Above, company president Ryan Lewis puts trimmed vinyl into the grinder. Of the PVC put into the press, 10 percent is re-ground vinyl, which helps conserve resources.
Pressed and trimmed records sit in stacks to cure for 24 hours. “We’re still in the learning process, and the curve has been really steep,” says Carter. “People, and I’m included, used to think that you put PVC pellets in one end and then you get trimmed and perfect-sounding records on the other, and that’s just not true. Any part of the process can make the record sound not good.”
After the records have finished curing, Kindercore inspects each one by hand before packaging them. Above, Carter inspects a record with Priscilla Lewis and her and Ryan’s daughter, Poppy, and Ryan test-spins an LP. “[Kindercore is unique because] we’ve all been involved in music on the other side of things before,” says Mat Lewis. “We’ve all ordered records before, played on records, produced records… we have that insight from the customer side of things.”
Finally, records are put in sleeves with inserts. Once the sleeves are stuffed, the albums are plastic-wrapped and ready to be shipped. “My favorite part is watching them… get shipped off to the customer,” says Carter. “There’s a sense of accomplishment… I just see records differently now. Some of these albums have been worked on for 10 years, so these are people’s hopes and dreams, and we get to facilitate that for them. Whenever the records leave, they sound good and they’re going to the customer, I know that that part of their dream has been fulfilled.”
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