The Friendliest Records In Town
Tell Me About It: Friendly Records | Bristol
Friendly Records describes itself simply: It’s an independent record shop based in Bedminster, Bristol. But, speaking to founder Tom Friend, it fast becomes clear that Bristol’s darling indie store has the scope to be so so much more.
I caught up with Tom at Farm Fest, standing outside the Friendly Records tent on the Saturday. The day before had seen winds racing up from the coast to batter the hill top festival site, and it seemed like the Friendly Records tent might not be structurally viable. However, despite a blustery start, the team pulled together and launched their slice of festival ground into a brilliant weekend of events. Throughout the 3 days, Friendly Records hosted craft workshops, acoustic performances (with a special solo performance from Katy J Pearson), and in-house DJs playing tunes until the early hours of the morning.
“It’s been really nice,” Says Tom with a nod, “it’s been the first time in a long time just having music played at us at volume. You know, there’s always obviously concerns about what's going on but this has been planned really well. It's a brilliant local festival. Too windy yesterday but we dealt with it. Dunkirk spirit!”
With record shops often being cliquey places for newcomers, he has a welcoming aura to him, and it’s refreshing to hear someone champion creating inclusive spaces for all music lovers. “For me, the most important thing with the shop was to try and make it accessible to everybody. Record shops can be frightening places for some people. We tried to make it as friendly as we can in name and in approach. If you come into the shop you shouldn't feel intimidated. The staff were always great with newcomers [in] my favourite record shops growing up. Like ‘Revolver ‘in Bristol; as a kid, scary, really scary shop but once you got to know people there it was different. When I moved to West London, Rough Trade [was] the same. Brilliant! This was before the internet. Now everyone searches for stuff online, but I’d go into Rough Trade and there’d be a pile of records ready for me to listen to and they’d make me a cup of tea and you could sit at the counter and listen to records and smoke cigarettes and drink tea. It was good. We try to do the same thing, you get to know customers' tastes so when they come in you say ‘ah I think you might like this.’”
Recently, Friendly Records have launched a record label to be run alongside their flagship shop. “Before opening the shop...I worked for record labels so I always wanted to start a label and we wanted it to be shop based.” Following their ethos to be as varied as possible in store, the releases they have lined up span everything from jazz to heavy ambient rock to classic folk. “It is genreless for sure. For me it's [instinctual]. It's about…” Tom pauses, considering his next words carefully. “You know when you hear something that you like? And you recommend it to friends and you can’t put your finger on why you like it necessarily? It's that. It has to be [music] that we really like and hoping that other people like it too. “
Not content to simply be purveyors of recorded music, Friendly Records has deep ties with the live music scene in Bristol, and promotes some of the best and most intimate shows in Bristol. “We’ve got two really amazing shows with IDLES at The Louisiana at the end of the month which is going to be amazing. I think we [sold out] two nights, which is 280 tickets, in about three minutes or something which is ridiculous. We’ve got a show with Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals. He’s playing mid-August at The Louisiana, which sold out in minutes.” What’s special about the shows is the intimacy that they allow, even with massive acts. “These people don’t normally play 140 capacity venues, certainly not IDLES. The IDLES thing is nuts. We could have done them bigger, we looked at bigger venues, but [IDLES] were really into doing them there at The Louis. I don’t really know what's going to happen. Well I kind of do, it's going to be carnage!”
With a multiple venue festival in South Bristol also in the works, it’s no surprise that the Friendly Records team are excited for the coming year. It’s clear that they cherish the return of in-store shows and events in the shop, with Farm Fest being a taste of the year to come.
If you’re in Bristol and want to check out the friendliest record store in town, you can visit Friendly Records at 59 North St, Bedminster, Bristol, or check out their expansive online offering here.