Considered to be one of the best pubs and coolest places in Bucharest, J’ai Bistrot would have awaited us with its beautiful terrace opened, offering us a place to chill and relax, to have a great meal with friends or by ourselves and even a place to work remotely from. Moreover, we would have been able to enjoy great music played by well-known DJs, but also by friends, in special dedicated evenings and nights and, a concert (silent or not) in the garden or inside, downstairs. The covid-19 pandemic is stopping us from doing all that, but J’ai Bistrot’s owners decided to continue to offer us the music we love and are used to, by launching J’ai Bistrot Radio. In this context, BR talked with Razvan Comache, partner, and found out more about the idea behind it and what to expect.
By Romanita Oprea
What made you decide to launch J’ai Bistrot Radio?
First of all, the timing. Along with this pandemic and with J’ai Bistrot’s closing, I found myself having a lot of spare time. And that because many of the things I was taking care of in the bar, the restaurant, the terrace, the garden, different things that were coming up all the time, constantly, never ending, were not there anymore.
Secondly, it’s a fact that actually comes first, we, the J’ai people, have always been somehow connected and involved in music. We wake up with music, we shower with music, we eat listening to music, we drive listening to music, we work listening to music, we relax enjoying music and we sleep with the music on, therefore it was a natural step to do something with all that music, when we entered in lock-down.
And there are also some reminiscences. Around 2005 when I was with a large group of awesome friends in the team organizing Stufstock, the Vama Veche festival, I created the first online radio. But it was mostly a mish-mash of a radio, with a streaming server improvised at home in Bucharest, with the laptop carried with me in Vama Veche, with an extremely slow internet stick, with a mobile hard disk full of music and some streaming scripts, with the “studio” at Expirat on the beach, at Frontiera, at the place I was staying, putting music from the bands in the festival and other music that I loved. With no words, no shows. Just as simple as that. It was great and I had, if I remember good, a maximum of 300 unique listeners at the same time. I remember that I had to call at a certain time my home internet provider to raise my bandwidth a little bit, because it no longer resisted and I promised to pay double the subscription when I will get back to Bucharest.
It was a cool play that I did again from time to time, without any stake, just to know that I am putting music from somewhere, from a laptop, and some people from the other side of their computers are listening what someone, somewhere, with no name or face is playing.
Afterwards, when we opened J’ai Bistrot Bucharest, the music was once again one of the ingredients that we all cared very much for. And because we have friends that either did it or were listening to it, or were composing it or playing it, we created, naturally, a type of “concept”, to call it pretentiously, “Prietenii pun muzica la J’ai” (Friends put music at J’ai). In other words, we called them to be our Friday and Saturday night DJs. They loved it, we loved what was happening and we kept on inviting people to put music and we realized most of them were DJs for the first time in their lives, in a public space. For the first time “professionally”. And they were trying to enter the DJ role as best as possible, as in their daily lives they were architects, advertising people, marketers, chefs, etc, anything else, but DJs. And that was putting them in an interesting situation: to get out of their daily comfort zone and to get up on “stage”. To be the one playing that great song that will make people jump or be the one that plays that song that has no connection with the previous one and destroys the mood or the dance or whatever. Or to change tracks at the middle, by mistake. Things like that give a party a familiar feeling. Priceless, easy, cool. Just like that. That type of feeling that we want each person that comes at J’ai to have: the house, our living room, that is open to everybody, that we created just as we liked it to be, to make us feel good there and everyone that shares our feeling to be welcomed anytime.
So what made us do it now? It’s right moment for it to exist. Now we felt it’s the time to create it.
How will it work exactly and were can people listen to it?
One can listen to it on the website: jaibistrot.ro We will probably do a dedicated app, but for the moment the website is the only place where it can be found.
How it will work? I don’t know yet. We are gathering a collection of music that I am putting on and spin it to sound just the way I feel at the moment.
It is clear that we don’t aim to be a competition for the classic radios, for the simple reason that we are driven by different goals.
This radio is for us a toy. We can very well keep it 100 years or get bored of it the next week and transform it in something else, for us and for the people and friends that are listening or will come again at J’ai when we will be again allowed to.
Who will be the hosts and the DJs? What was the criteria for choosing them?
To continue the idea from the first question, I would like that, at some point, to have some shows with names with themes, with style of music, with everything that is needed, but there is still a long road until that time.
We have some friends who played music several times at J’ai so far and that have shown their interest and who were very enthusiastic about it, even online. We will not have stars. Or, at least, the classical type of stars that do shows. Probably, in time we will gather around a group of close and dear people for us. I think that will be the only criteria.
Were you inspired by other international or local brands in the HoReCa industry?
I am an alternative guy. First a grunger and then alternative lover. And the music I am listening to in general is the one from radio stations outside Romania, from UK and USA, mainly, because they are the ones setting the trends. Or I enter the specialty websites and the Facebook groups.
I know there were one or two clubs and pubs in Bucharest that tried to have an online radio station, but, honestly, I don’t know if they are still on or not. And, anyway, they weren’t our musical style.
What should everyone know about J’ai Bistrot Radio?
More like what “everybody should listen”.
Lots of alternative and grunge. From Pearl Jam and Nirvana to REM and Swans, Pixies or Weezer, Beach Boys, Sonic Youth, from The Smiths to Offspring or Atari Teenage Riot, Joy Division and New Order, Siouxsie and the Banshees, from NIN to Radiohead and Johhny Cash, Alice in Chains or Avenged Sevenfold, Gorillaz or Beck, Arcade Fire or Talking Head and from Iggy Pop up to Sigur Ros, Nick Cave, Tool, Deftones, Cake or Tame Impala, Jesus and Mary Chain. Without forgetting to put Pearl Jam top of the list, obviously.
Can new bands send their songs to you? What are the chances their songs would be played?
Of course. I have been always looking for new music. Shazam is my best friend when I listen to online radios. With one condition: to sound good, man. To have that personal vibe and touch. To make me, when I listen to them in the background, stop and ask myself “whooo are these people?!?!”
All jokes, aside, of course, there will also be Romanian bands in the playlist, because we have here enough really good bands with quality albums. Moreover, I hope that some of the money given towards the copyright collecting organizations will also reach their pockets, because we very well know how poorly is the collecting in Romania and most of all how preferential are those copyright royalties distributed in Romania.
What genres of music should we expect and why?
Besides what I answered earlier, I would add the new sound of the recent years, the “new indie/folk/pop/rock/psychedelic/post punk revival/alternative country/roots/whatever” that I love very much, such as Fleet Foxes, of Monsters and Men or Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver or Beirut, Midlake or The White Buffalo.
How severely has the covid-19 pandemic impacted J’ai Bistrot Bucharest?
Sincerely, I don’t even want to think about it. Bad, very bad. 90 percent of the people working for us are in technical unemployment and some of the kitchen is operational and we are trying to deliver food towards the delivery companies that have huge commissions. But, alongside my partners, Alina Grama, Corina Gliga and Alina Konig we decided to be operational as long as we can and how we can, with all the necessary measures in place, in order to help our employees with anything that will be possible.
What are your main measures for keeping things alive and kicking?
We don’t have hopes that the state will be our salvation, we are trying to estimate our own exit scenario from this reality with dystopian notes and to see how we can adapt or transform or reinvent ourselves even in the first episode of the new series to come. But we will be somehow be forced to re-evaluate ourselves, to reconsider who we are, what we cherish more and, probably, in the long term change into a better version of ourselves.
And as it is very clear that the politicians and the ones we chose to lead us failed badly, it can be a good occasion to open our eyes and mouths and make ourselves heard, seen and especially present in the handling of the shared resources.