Mp3’s are killing it, and not in a good way. Think about it like this, when kids born in the next couple of years start getting in to music, stuff like Frankie from The Saturdays kraut-rock solo album, where are they going to go to get it? The internet, and that’s kind of lame. Independent record stores have been providing us with music that’s hard to find in other places for years and there’s nothing better than stumbling across a treasure in physical form. We went to chat to Banquet Records in Kingston for the first profile in many of Britain’s independent record shops.
How did Banquet Records begin and how long have you guys been running it all?
The shop in various ownerships has been here for over 30 years. Spawned from the once mighty chain of Beggars Banquet shops at the end of 2002 the parent group, The Beggars Group, decided to close the retail arm of its business and it was sold off / given away to the then manager. I was working here on and off and part time since leaving university in 1999 and ran the shop for the new owner. As it was one week from going bust, we bought it off him chucked all our cash, time and emotion into it and turned it round. We’ve owned it since February 2005.
Banquet records has put on some pretty awesome instore shows….what are the most memorable performances you can remember?
There’s different ways of judging this. Ranging from personal favourites (Young Knives, Jamie T), friends’ bands where it was just a joy to see them playing instore (Dartz with all those cowbells, Tubelord), bands who keep returning and are friends of the store (Frank Turner, King Blues) or events which were considerably too big for our little store (White Lies, Airtraffic.)
The best actual shows were probably from Foals or Cage The Elephant. The vibe for an instore is completely different from a show, sometimes that makes it a bit awkward but sometimes it makes it so much better. Laura Marling was amazingly beautiful, but Cage The Elephant was probably the best actual gig as there was a full bouncing party of kids whilst the singer was literally on the road outside as we gave him what was probably too long a mic lead.
What range of music do you guys sell in the shop?
We sell a lot of different types. Stuff we specialise in would be indie, punk/emo, drum&bass/dubstep, and house/electro. But we touch on lots more and are committed to hunt down whatever it is our customers are after.
Banquet records are behind popular indie/alternative club night, ‘New Slang’ how did that start up and where and when is it?
Since even before working at the shop I, with others, was involved in putting gigs on in and around Kingston. Mostly DIY punk shows but occasionally something bigger we knew what we were doing but as my aural tastes got more indie-based I wanted to put on bigger indie bands. The kinds of bands that were regularly playing instores and the like had no real venue to play in Kingston. At the time we were trying to find a venue for Say Anthing to play in Kingston. They would only play 500-cap venues so we talked to The Works about it. Altho that didn’t work out, we did look to put on Hundred Reasons there. That was cancelled due to illness but we put on (the relatively small at the time) Frank Turner there instead and had a club night after. It went well and we saw that indie kids could have a fun time in a venue traditionally used for cheese/r’n’b nights and the concept of New Slang, named after The Shins song, was born. Now every Thursday at McClusky’s we put on live bands and play our favourite songs… mostly from the worlds of indie / alternative bands. New Slang is very much an indie night. I see too many indie nights getting caught up with electro and now dubstep. Nothing against those music genres per se, but I want to go to indie nights that play indie and that’s how we want to keep it.
I was at the new slang easter special which saw performances from the likes of metronomy, south central, eddy temple morris and hot chip dj’s all in one night! It was an almighty night. What are your most memorable new slang nights?
Yeah, that was a good’un but something that cant really be replicated too often. My best memories are probably Young Knives (the first ‘big band’ and the first time we had a stage!!!), Futureheads (just a great day) and the euphoria of Friendly Fires. The skate night we do with Slam City Skates, New Slam, was also a highlight.
What kind of bands have played at new slang? Care to name drop……
There’s been LOADS. The biggies include Friendly Fires, Maccabees, Los Campesinos!, Foals, and this week we have Babyshambles!
is new slang your sole project or is banquet records behind any other nights?
We do a lot more than that. Other nights include New Noise (punk / emo), Repeater (drum n bass / dubstep), and DANCE (pop / Saturday night anthems). Basically Banquet has, for many years, understood that music isn’t just cds or records. We try to get behind music in all its forms. So, yes, that includes cds and vinyl, but it also includes digital (we see a lot of digital sales from our labels), going to gigs, going to club nights, playing guitars, printing flyers, doing PA hires.. and lots more.
What kind of gang do you have at the shop? Are you a close bunch? Any good storys from past days at the store?
Pretty much everyone who works here was a friend before they started working here.. We are generally a close bunch but obviously there’s certain stresses and things to deal with that im sure are there within every workforce. I live with Jane, who also used to work here when we were Beggars Banquet, who runs our mailorder, and Dave and Mike who’ve been here since day one are certainly amongst my best friends. There’s been a lot of goodies. Every day is a laugh really. Generally the work is fun, but there’s just so much of it. My real highlight is when Mike and I were DJing an event and Mike pressed stop on the wong record player and just as everyone turned round to look at the culprit he fell through the wall in some weird state of embarrassment. Looking back some of our instores were just chaos some of the ideas we had were just disastrous, but all in all we’re happy with where we are and every mistake we’ve made has taught us something else….
What are you and the rest of the guys at banquet records listening to at the moment?
We always have a healthy fight about what we should listen to. Everyone gets their say in the records of the month…. Check that out here.
You have a fair few up and coming artists behind you….any suggestions to be checked out?
I don’t know what you mean by behind us, but we have a lot of friends who are lucky to be involved with at an early stage… We’re surrounded by good and exciting new bands. It kills me when people say they’re struggling to find new stuff. Right now I’m personally excited by Pete And The Pirates, The Skints, Broadway Calls, Polar Bear Club, whatever comes from the ashes of Cherbourg, Tegan And Sara and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart . Up and coming bands to keep an eye on would be Tubelord, Tellison, Vaults, Man Like Me and Apples.
Is it true you guys have a banquet records football team?
Ha. We have a very weak 5-aside team. We all like a bit of footie here. Banquet sponsors our local team Kingstonian FC but as a team ourselves we’re not that great. We’re up for a game though. Get in touch!
words & photos Ed Schofield