In the beginning, there’s the sound. And then there’s the beautiful object itself.
Flores, a renowned DJ with international name recognition, has been collecting since his teenage years, when he would go with his dad, a mobile DJ, to buy records across the city.
“When you put on an album, you’re listening to the story of the artist, as opposed to listening to just one chapter. And each album has its own character,” says Flores.
That’s the feeling shared by some of the city’s most dedicated vinyl-lovers. Their self-proclaimed obsessions have led them to collecting discs, turntables, amps, and speakers — and because they want to spread the love, they’ve opened up cafés, listening rooms, and bars all over town.
“When you put on an album, you’re listening to the story of the artist, as opposed to listening to just one chapter. And each album has its own character.”
Turning it up
“Vinyl is an article that, at its roots, is beautiful,” says Pascal-Angelo Fioramore of Bar Le Record on St-Hubert in Villeray.
“You’ve got the cover, the liner notes, and the photographs; people feel it’s something that they’ve chosen and belongs to them. It’s emotional, even sentimental,” says Fioramore, who started off as a DJ.
Fioramore’s bar, with a two-turntable setup and a vinyl-only DJ policy, is one of several in the city where listeners can go to enjoy a drink, a bite, and dance to the warm sound of vinyl.
“It’s definitely a bar, not a quiet listening space,” the former DJ says. “We wanted to have a sound system that was really good, to respect the music and hang out in a place where the sound envelops you.”
“The sound is the fabric of the room”
Kris Guilty, owner of La Rama record shop on Bernard, and Hideyuki Imaizumi originally had the idea of setting up a Japanese style kissa-jazz type listening room when they opened the downstairs vinyl bar Sans Soleil that's found below the Chinatown restaurant Fleurs et Cadeaux in 2020.
As time went on, the space evolved into a seven-night-a-week club(ish) spot where diners can start their evenings with sake and sushi before moving on to a SRO (standing room only) experience that goes until the wee hours.
“The sound is the fabric of the room,” says Guilty.
Guilty and his co-owners including Imaizumi, Dave Schmidt, and Seb Langlois still have that kissa-jazz idea in mind, but for now they’re focused on providing DJ residencies to those who share their sensibility.
Guilty’s obsession, like Fioramore’s and Flores’, started in his teenage years when he discovered the thrill of poring through the vinyl bins in shops on Stanley Street and St-Denis. He’s now got a collection that counts in the thousands, and is the custodian of the 600-pound Klipsch speakers that flank the turntables at Sans Soleil, committed to the sound of vinyl—where silence is also part of the experience.
“The analogy for me is fast food and fast music... The way we consume music now through certain media is like eating fast food, and that’s not as satisfying.”
The owners of Barcola Bistro Audio in Mile End, Danielle Robichaud and her husband Fabrizio Caprioli also became enamoured with vinyl in their youth in Moncton, New Brunswick, and Trieste, Italy, respectively.
Their restaurant and record shop epitomizes the importance of taking time to appreciate things: both the slow food Fabrizio prepares, and the album sides Robichaud plays as she mixes drinks during service. The walls of the bistro are covered with vintage and contemporary jazz and classical albums, also for sale.
Caprioli has been pushing himself well beyond collecting and selling records in their locale. He’s now building amps, designing speakers, repairing turntables— having four of his own at home—in addition to building a private listening room on Chabanel.
“The analogy for me is fast food and fast music,” says Robichaud, “The way we consume music now through certain media is like eating fast food, and that’s not as satisfying.” That’s a far cry from her discovery on disc of singers like Blossom Dearie, Billie Holiday, and her first crush, Ella Fitzgerald.
"I’ll be listening to albums until the day I die."
Younger club owners like Francis di Stasio might not have the years of touching vinyl behind them, but his own appreciation for the medium is driving his playing vinyl at his bar, VinoDisco, next to the Le Central food court at St-Laurent and Ste-Catherine in Montreal's Red Light District.
“Millennials and younger generations didn’t grow up with vinyl as a music format, so there’s still an aspect of novelty for them, and it feels exotic,” di Stasio says. “We want our DJs to dig deep into their record boxes, allowing patrons to hear all kinds of stuff they may or may not have heard before.”
Guilty, of Sans Soleil, alludes to the trend factor, too: “Every condo mockup you see has someone sitting on their couch, smiling and putting on a record.”
Fioramore agrees that people buy vinyl for décor, a cool look—not always understanding that the albums on the wall of Le Record can actually be played.
For these bar owners and DJs, vinyl isn’t a mood board: It’s who they are.
“I didn’t start this bar because it was in style,” Bar Le Record’s Fioramore says. “We have a collection here. I’ll be listening to albums until the day I die.”