If COVID-19 has taught us anything it should be that change is necessary. In the wake left by two separate lockdowns, with rumours of a third coming, Bangkok has experienced a number of closures of longstanding music venues, restaurants, bars and other such nightlife-related establishments. Some were unable to weather the storm, while others were already on their last legs before the impacts of the coronavirus sealed their fates.
Emerging from the ashes of what's been lost, Bangkok has been experiencing a renaissance in its music and nightlife community. At first, we saw local record labels begin to thrive and emerge, with Siamese Twins Records and More Rice at the forefront, both pressing and distributing vinyl releases for their forward-thinking takes on underground electronic music. Then last month, the city welcomed two new club options for house and techno fans called V12 and VHS. If that wasn't enough, Bangkok has now been blessed with its first record store dedicated to the sub-genres of electronic music. More Rice Records soft opened last week and the owners couldn’t have timed this better if they tried.
Outside of being a business built on selling drinks and door tickets, nightclubs have always acted as a breeding ground for DJs and producers to meet, connect and share ideas with one another. But these spaces can also be polarizing, loud and even uncomfortable for those that don't partake in the other facets of nightlife culture such as drinking or dancing. More Rice Records looks to recreate this platform for connection outside of a club. Label boss Sarayu sums it up perfectly, "One of the main reasons for opening the store was to create a place where people can meet without actually having to be in a club. It’s where people can come to hang out in a friendly environment even if you’re not into records or digging."
If this is the environment More Rice Records has been striving to create, they hit the nail on the head.
Housed in 31 Soi Sawatdi, More Rice Records takes over the top floor of a two-storey complex and features an outdoor deck area, lounge, listening station, Void Acoustics sound system and Varia Instruments RDM Rotary mixer. Outside of their wide and well-curated selection of vinyl, they also sell all the bits and pieces you would think of such as needles, slip mats, static brushes, record bags, turntable weights, t-shirts and more.
Tucked away in a private room is a recording studio fitted with an extensive array of hardware, well suited for travelling artists to get some work done while on the road. DOTT and Sarayu from the More Rice label head up the project but have brought in local tastemaker and Unstๆ resident Ellie Khodayar to help curate the collection. As a result, More Rice stocks a wide-ranging but tastefully selected catalogue of house, techno, breakbeat, electro, techno, minimal and disco, amongst other dance floor rarities.
The listening station is directly in front of windows that overlook Chand on the floor below, a specialized candle shop owned and operated by Narisa Pokunchanan. A new cocktail bar called Proper also sits directly below More Rice Records and shares a wall/doorway with Chand. The bar is headed up by Arisa Nakkerd, former owner and operator of notorious hot spot Marcel, but also involves the More Rice and Chand team. What the space has ended up becoming is a building bearing a unique but authentic vibe to it, with the businesses sharing connections via space, structure, function and relationships — something it hopes to extend to its patrons.
The project started when COVID effectively shut down Narisa's hostel operation and DOTT and Narisa began discussing opening a business together. With experience in soap making, a passion for scented candles, and DOTT's family business being one of the largest candle factories in Thailand, the idea of Chand was born. Focussing on new products and packaging, Chand was designed to appeal to the new generation of candle users but help support the existing family business. As the project began to take shape, they realized the space was too big to solely house a candle shop. More Rice Records was a natural extension for DOTT, already being involved in the record label of the same name that presses vinyl. Realizing there would still be empty space, the idea to open a bar arose and Proper came to fruition. The result is a three business collective with more interconnections between the partners than you can imagine. Narisa sums it up best, "I see this as three groups of people, sharing similar passions, coming together to create what we love." A new community in the making, in the truest sense of the term.
The structure itself is impressive, too. The three businesses stand apart from each other while also sharing common features. The spaces are chic, charming and cosy with exposed wood beams, large windows allowing in natural light and spacious outdoor gathering areas. Candle shopping, cocktail sipping and crate digging can all be accomplished in a short amount of time without even breaking a sweat. A unique combination of attributes lends itself to the equally unique combination of its partners. The complex truly offers something for everyone. "I believe that there are lots of people who are like-minded," says Arisa. "Those who love life, art and culture. Who are open to see, to learn and to share."
Overall, the combination of More Rice Records, Chand and Proper offer Bangkok an exciting new cultural hub that comes as a well-timed and welcome addition to the city. The businesses are already drawing in a wide-ranging variety of clientele. Expect More Rice Records to convert many of these open-minded individuals into record lovers over the next year.
More Rice Records officially opened their doors this past week, with their grand opening planned for April 30. Details will follow in the coming weeks.
[photos via Rui Rodrigues]