Paris can be an intimidating city when it comes to navigating independent music, especially since there’s really no other city like it in France and “electro” tends to drown everything out. Wandering into the small boutique called Balades Sonores can be like opening the door into another hidden Paris. For one of the biggest cities in the world, it offers an unmatched intimacy and not just because the place is really tiny (in the typical Parisian style of ultra-small shops and elevators). Located in the area called Pigalle in the 9th district of Paris, it’s crammed full of music and oddities like crocheted pillows that look like vinyl records and T-shirts custom made by the shop’s house designer and artist, Chicamancha.
However, It’s not just a record store, and they like to refer to it as a collective. Balades Sonores has proven to be one of the most useful and quite indispensable resources for finding good independent music and events in Paris. At most concerts around Paris, you’ll usually find someone from Balades Sonores at the merch table with a box of records and a mailing list. They’ve formed close ties with venues and organizers in the city, including the Pitchfork Paris Festival, as well as a lot of other record labels, so they’re always on top of what’s up in town. The man responsible for the collective is Toma Changeur and he took the time to talk to THE BOMBER JACKET about their endeavor.
“Everything was born around the idea of creating more tools for defending an independent music scene and creating the maximum link possible between artists, the public and the professionals,” Changeur says. It all began as street marketing about ten years ago with simple promotion tactics like flyers and posters. The longest-running trend that the group has had is its monthly music selections. Each month they highlight four releases from local artists on their website and in their boutique. The idea was to create a sort of “alternative network,” Changeur explains.
Their website in general remains a great resource for exploring that network, through their album selections and their concert calendar that is always stocked with internationally touring artists and the best local shows. They even frequently have contests that you can enter online to win free tickets.
“We’ve had a lot of diverse periods of development, of doubts and hopes,” Changeur admits.
The record label began four or five years ago “with the hope of going a little bit further in our partnership with certain artists,” as Changeur says. “We don’t release an album without already having worked with the artist and having a history with them.” Their latest release was a split between La Féline and Chinese Army on Record Store Day as part of their collection called “Les Vinyles en Collocation” (roughly translated as “Vinyl Roommates”).
It seems as if the main focus of the label is the advancement of the artists. Changeur explains, “It needs to be understood that our label wants to be a trampoline, a step in the development of an artist.” Even when they move on, the label will still be involved by organizing concerts regularly and helping to promote them. “Nothing is automatic or pre-written,” Changeur says.
The other cool thing that the collective does is host a “showcase” every Thursday night at the record shop. People fill the little place up and huddle around one of the musicians that the label is promoting that month. Completely free, it’s a great way to get exposed to new local music every week. “We create a certain dynamic of discovery for the neighborhood,” Changeur says, “More and more people drop by after work.” They also have a history of hosting shows at venues across the city. More recently Changeur explains they have “slowed the pace a bit to focus on fewer dates and ‘better’ shows, including one every two to three months at Divan Du Monde.” Additionally, they also put on a festival called BitterSweet(paradise) in July, where around 60 artists play for 10 days, especially in alternative venues like art galleries and parks.
The collective also just opened a second location right around the block from the first. The focus of the “Galerie de Balades Sonores” is more on art, as part of the idea was to showcase the work of their house artist Chicamancha. “There, you’ll find their creations, engravings, clothes and also a selection of vinyl, books and objects,” Changeur explains. They also invite a different artist each month to exhibit their work, so it’s worth checking out regularly.
The Balades Sonores boutique is located by the metro stop Anvers on 1 Avenue Trudaine and the Galerie de Balades Sonores is on 2 rue Gérando.