Our second article looks at Banquet Records and Dada...

After yesterday’s stirring speech about the importance of supporting your local music retailer, here is a closer look at two of the south’s finest wheeler-dealers.

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Chris Cummins on Banquet Records, Kingston

Shopping in independent record stores used to be a daunting prospect for even the most musically savvy of us. Renowned for aloof staff emitting a condescending air of musical superiority, whilst blissfully ignoring you, asking for your new favourite band’s seven-inch was about as easy as asking your parents if they would let you bunk off school to go to and seem them live. Kingston’s Banquet Records clearly want to break away from the tradition, and have been steadily reinventing the record store.

The premise outlined in their advertising strap line is simple: ‘More than your local record store’. And it is incredibly apt. Not just content with supplying Kingston’s art school students and music aficionados with their favourites, Banquet Records has firmly placed itself at the heart of this vibrant town’s music scene. Their regular club night pulls in a crowd of over five hundred people and has showcased the likes of Friendly Fires, Foals, and The Maccabees. However it’s not just indie they promote; they also regularly run nights such as New Noise which caters for punk and emo fans, and a drum & bass night which recently hosted the legend Andy C. Further to their promoting, they even have their own record label which has released albums by Mike TV and Tellison.

Upon entering the store not only are you greeted by friendly smiles, but also a collage of who’s who in the world of indie. Upon closer inspection, you quickly realise that in fact the walls are adorned with promotional posters of past in-store gigs, which include Jamie T, The Rifles and Late of The Pier. The choice of records on offer is impressive, and is definitely more than enough to lure you away from your local HMV. On display they have an incredibly rare, import-only Frank Turner vinyl and, my personal favourite, a Moneraths ‘Craven Colours’ EP, which comes in a hand-knitted sleeve.

With so much going on, it’s hard to see why anyone would opt for the cold and faceless internet over such a vibrant and welcoming store.

Banquet Records online

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Stephen Harris on Dada, Chiswick

Dada is an oasis in the otherwise indie-free desert of west London. Until five months ago, if you went any further out than Notting Hill you’d find nothing but HMVs in the capital’s affluent western boroughs. Luckily, someone saw a gap in the market and set up this smart, modern boutique.

If there’s a problem with opening a record shop in this part of London, it’s that compared with Camden or Shoreditch it’s just not very cool. Most of the upmarket shoppers of Chiswick High Road aren’t looking for obscure back catalogues or foreign imports. But the people at Dada have turned that to their advantage.

“We try to get a balance between the mainstream and the more specialist stuff,” says Lee, one of Dada’s very friendly staff. “People can come in to buy Mama Mia or to get the latest Silver Jews album. There are a lot of offices near here and people who travel with work often come in to buy world music.”

The shop also does a fine trade in DVDs. “Most independent record shops won’t sell films, often because the staff don’t know a lot about them,” says Lee. “But DVDs help keep us going.”

Setting up as the recession was taking hold was a bold move, but the shop’s formula seems to have paid off and trade has been good since it opened last October. Part of its success seems to be in the Fopp-style discounts, with shelves devoted to credit crunch-busting £5 and £6 albums. In fact, if Dada possesses a suspicious familiarity, it’s because the racks were actually rescued from the former independent chain when most of Fopp’s stores closed last year.

Those who like their indies to be dark and musty are unlikely to be impressed with Dada’s neatly swept floorboards. But while it may be clean and bright, the shop still has character, and you certainly can’t argue with the prices. Plus, it’s so refreshing to be met by staff who are willing to ramble on enthusiastically about Nick Cave but who won’t sneer when you buy the latest Kings of Leon album.

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Coming next time as we count down to Record Store Day: words from The Race and Underground Railroad on their favourite music shops.


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