Sound Food and Drink, nestled towards the bottom of Duke Street, has always seemed like an oasis of, well, sound food and drink – we’ll leave it up to you as to where the comma should go – in an increasingly towny Ropewalks area. And now there’s a Sound Basement to go with it.
It’s always been a chilled-out place to visit and a bar that could never be accused of taking itself too seriously, but while Food and Drink have always been a strong offering, its owners have significantly bolstered their Sound offering.
Although Sound Food and Drink have been putting on gigs since opening in 2012, with regular spots from local favourites such as The Lotharios and Loose Moose, they have recently opened up the basement as a live music venue in itself – staging live comedy, music, themed nights and even film nights.
“We just thought it was a nice space in this part of town and we wanted to put on some nice shows,” says Paul Coakley, one of the original founding members of Sound Food and Drink who opened a bar because “Glasto wasn’t on” back in 2012.
“We wanted to use it as a mix use art space; mainly for gigs but also some small scale theatre productions and comedy; that sort of thing. We thought it would add to our venue to become a sort of ‘creative hub’.”
“We’ve always had music in here,” he continues. “We’ve always had bands on, but it was usually a bit ad-hoc and we thought we’d get down stairs, make a bit of an event and also, probably the most important thing, have a dedicated space for the bands.”
“When you’re in a bar space it’s hard for you to get the money through to the band; it’s harder to charge in. Downstairs the bands can charge at the door themselves and get the money themselves. It felt like the right thing to do; a more ethical system.”
So far so good, but has this new part of the venue changed the dynamic at all?
“No, not at all. As I say we’ve always had performances on in here, we just have them downstairs now, so if anything the performances have been better.
“We still have our original crowd but definitely different events bring in different crowds as well. Dance and comedy events will bring people in that wouldn’t have come here before, and it’s great to see them coming in and enjoying the space.”
The Sound Basement has a heavy focus on helping out younger artists and local artists. Now with the basement providing a better space for gigs, and therefore touring acts, they’re determined to merge the two worlds.
“We’ve had a lot of smaller, more independent acts play here over the years and it’s perfect for that. Lots of local acts just starting out here then coming back.
“We do have touring acts that come through but we like to put them on with local acts. The best feeling in the world is when you’re a smaller act and you get a big audience. It’s just an incredible experience.”
In keeping with the local feeling, the venue has also been using a cryptocurrency, Colu, to try and keep the money made at the bar spiralling around different local businesses.
“We’ll take the money off the customers here and then we’ll use it at local stores to buy supplies,” explains Paul.
“It helps to keep the money around smaller local venues. It has a small user base at the moment anything that can help keep money in the community is a good thing.”
Finally, for a taste of what music inspires the venue and what to expect, we asked Paul what artists he’d love to see play at the Sound Basement.
“Millions, millions,” he laughs.
“If we could Neil Young here to play a little bit, Super Furry Animals maybe, get them on how about that? I’d love that.”
By Jamie Tichborne