Ah, real record shops. Lingering over a purchase. Discovery and rediscovery. Physical objects that linger with the lust of the abstract. We chat to Molly from Banquet, in Kingston, a multitalented bunch who as well as running the record store sourcing new and alternative music, as well as promoters of weekly club night New Slang, and showcase venue for new and established acts to play live, such as The Maccabees, Chapel Club, The Futureheads and She & Him. Let’s start at the beginning…
Why did you decide to take over the store?
Well, the Beggars Banquet chain of shops had gone bust and the Kingston branch was about to go the same way. Jon Tolley took over the shop, along with all the sizeable debts with help from Mike Smith and other good friends. They had all worked and been around Banquet for years before it went bust, and their love of the shop and of music spurred them to make the decision to take over the shop.
You’ve done a lot – expanded the shop, running a label, club nights and events? What skills does each require? They all require different skills but we have a big team of people behind Banquet these days so easier than it used to be. The club nights are forever getting more recognition and often getting big name bands down each week. New Slang every Thursday, our alternative and indie night has grown massively over 3 years. Recently having Vampire Weekend, Foals and The Futureheads play is just great for us.
Is there a High Fidelity element?
There is a High Fidelity element in that Banquet is a fun and rad place to work, but in equal measure a LOT of hard work goes into what we do. Everyone is welcome, we get such a diverse range of customers, from kids buying their first record and finding out we’re putting on a free in store of their favourite band, to your older customer wondering if we’ve got any Smiths vinyls in stock. Tons of Banquet customers are regulars, so you get to know people’s music tastes quite quickly. It’s great for a personal touch when they come into the shop, recommending them new releases and gigs that we may be putting on etc.
Who is your favourite band that you’ve had in store?
Personally, my in stores have to be The Futureheads and Los Campesinos. The Futureheads are great at what they do, they are so funny and watchable as well as bloody talented. I just remember laughing constantly (for all the right reasons) throughout the two in stores they have played for us. Los Camp are a fave band of mine, so to see them do a stripped down, acoustic in store and still be brilliant is a sign of a great band in my eyes.
You started in 2005…did you think that 5 years on all music would be digital, with possibly no need for a music store?
Definitely not. Granted, a lot of music is available online now from iTunes etc, but there is still a big demand for physical releases. And Banquet offers so much more than just selling you the record (such as gigs and in stores) that I think we’ll be around for a long time to come! What makes a physical record special? For starters, you can hold a physical release in your hand, you’ve got the artwork, something to keep for the rest of your life. Downloads can be lost so easily such as if your lap-op crashes or gets stolen. So many people collect physical releases, especially vinyl, that downloads just cannot compete with that aspect. The whole shopping experience when buying a physical release makes it special too, hunting through rows of releases to find the gem you are after, it’s a satisfying feeling!
Our website has recently been renovated to be what we feel is one of the best music store websites around. It’s soon to be undergoing more changes for the even better! We plan to put on more all ages shows. We’ve done a few of these before (most recently with Cancer Bats and All Time Low) they give kids an opportunity to see bands they love in a safe environment in their local town. We also plan to get more UK exclusives from American bands, and being on good terms with agents for all these bands means that this is possible for us. Banquet is constantly expanding and evolving.
new slang revellers
One thing that has struck us, is that as wonderful as Banquet is, it is rather a lone ranger in the West London musical landscape. If you know any brilliant bands, venues, nights or shops over West side, do let us know by firstname.lastname@example.org