At home chez Alfred Anders celebrating five years of Crevette Records

At home chez Alfred Anders celebrating five years of Crevette Records

Fun fact! The Crevette logo was already tattooed on its founder’s arm long before the birth of the record shop exactly five years ago. When Pim Thomas first noticed the quirky little crustacean in the oeuvre of French tattoo artist Lea Nahon, he had it eternalized and requested to use her creation for a label he was about to start. The label didn’t happen - at least not at the time - but when plans to open a record shop unfolded four years later, the shrimp was back. This week Crevette Records is celebrating five years in business with four days of sales, in-store DJ sets, a concert night in Ancienne Belgique and a club night in C12.   

The perfect timing to pay Crevette head honcho Pim Thomas a visit in his loft apartment in Anderlecht. We sat down for coffee, played with his dog Freddy and cat Marcel and spent an hour or two discussing how our Brussels scene has changed over the past five years, the roots of his entrepreneurship and how he prepares for DJ gigs. 

We’re in your flat in Anderlecht here, I can see the Gare Midi in the distance. What brought you here?

We were flabbergasted upon our first visit, instantly convinced by the space. And it ticked all of our boxes, most importantly since it’s at walking distance from the shop. This is Kuregem, a rather unhip neighbourhood where historically the city’s textile industry was located. The building is a former shoelace factory. There are still a few wholesalers active actually. The area lacks trendy restaurants or bars, but makes up for it with a befriended nightshop, a bar around the corner selling Duvel at €2.5 euro and a durum place gifting our dog meatballs for his birthday.

Has Brussels always been your destination?

Definitely. My parents grew up here, while I was raised in the suburbs of Wemmel, close to the last metro stop on the line ‘Koning Boudewijn’. In my childhood we visited the city on a weekly basis, often going to flea markets, my parents favorite pastime. Or I dragged my mum to the skate shop ‘Right All Day’.

I once met your parents in the record shop, they are clearly very involved with Crevette. How is your relationship with them?

They have always supported me in my choices and let me be free, from an early age on, for which I’m very grateful. My father has always been an independent worker, so this definitely also pushed me towards entrepreneurship. Nowadays at least once a week they pass by the shop and lend a hand, bringing parcels to the mail office or taking up another task. Our stock is also partly stored at their house, next to tons of records in the basement of the shop and in two garages. 

Do they enjoy music as much as you do?

My father is a record collector himself, a vast collection is part of their living room. He is quite freaked out about nicely preserving his black gold, writing little intuitive notes such as “spacy jazz with trumpets” on every record. They also have an oldschool jukebox that plays a central role during our jukebox family parties, an object so big that it required breaking out some doors to enter it into our house. A certain DIY mentality is probably also what I inherited from my parents, that’s how we built the shop as well. Partly because it was the only way to financially make it work, but also because I get a kick out of seeing something grow from zero and I prefer pulling all the strings myself.      

Is this why you decided to also push Crevette as a distribution company?   

Yes it is. Not so long after the shop had opened, we got into the idea of also adding distribution to our activities. But it took quite a while to bring everything together, we only wanted to launch when we were fully prepared. The same goes for our webshop, another endeavor that took quite some time to develop. Looking back at five years of Crevette, I guess that’s the biggest learning, to take time to make something work, before you jump into the next idea. At the start of our distribution network we mostly focused on Belgian labels, later we added foreign ones as well. Nowadays we get several open applications and we now serve labels in France, Germany, Australia, USA, Japan and South Korea. We strive to have a clear identity as a distributor, which also took a while to explore. 

How do you describe Crevettes identity? 

I find it hard to put into words, it’s mostly a feeling, an intuition. One of our main goals is to highlight the local scene. There are so many interesting things happening here in Brussels and Belgium, but for some reason, we as Belgians find it hard to put ourselves in the spotlight. With Crevette we have a vehicle to offer to locals, to push them forward. I actually believe that prior to Covid, our Brussels scene was about to break through internationally. It felt as if we were jumping up and down on a diving board for quite some time already, about to give the last push to jump into the pool. Covid has paused this for a while, but luckily now things are set into motion again. I can easily notice it, from the global reach Kiosk Radio is gaining at the moment for example, or the number of clubbers occupying the clubs every weekend again now and at several simultaneously happening open air parties during summer. 

Can you compare this with the scene five years ago, when you started Crevette?

Actually many of the projects key to the growth of our Brussels electronic music scene, have all lifted off in the same period. Not long after we inaugurated Crevette, Kiosk Radio was launched and C12 opened doors. Both are now important institutions in the city with whom we hold strong relationships. These are the key elements for any good city: a proper radio station, spots to go digging for records and a decent club scene. We now finally have all of these in Brussels and this pays off. Many foreign DJs, for example, spend extra days in town, doing radio shows and spending long days in the shop. 

What do you think makes Crevette? 

I believe it has to do with our strict selection, each record is carefully deliberated, even those in the second hand ones offered by external sellers. Besides that we run quite an honest price policy. As we are ourselves strong critics of the unhealthy speculation that is often going around vinyl records, we keep prices deliberately normal, far away from the online global market. As such Crevette is still a place where you can really stumble upon surprises. A shop that lacks the surprise factor, in my opinion, isn't fun to visit. 

The second hand section in the shop is indeed quite spectacular. Where do these records come from?

A part of them is offered by external sellers, another part is what we buy ourselves all around the country. We actively search for people who sell their collections, often after the birth of a child when the records occupy too much space or when someone passes away and the relatives don’t have a connection to the music. Once we drove deep into Wallonia to inspect a collection and we ended up in an isolated castle, where we had to drag about 3000 records from the basement to our rental truck. It took us until 2am in the morning and just before leaving we discovered a bunch of sadomasochist tools and appliances. Up until today we use the code SM in the internal admin system of the shop.     

Do you remember what was on your mind while preparing the opening of Crevette five years ago?

My eureka moment came about a year and a half before the opening, when I realized the idea was real. First I needed to deal with the least sexy stuff, finding out whether my plan was financially doable. Later I began with the more creative jobs, contacting friends and partners to join, requesting distribution lists, listening for hours and hours and ordering records. No one ever told us how to launch a shop, what the margin on a sold record should be, how to manage a stock, and so on. We started as record collectors and learned by doing. I remember it took quite a long time to find a space of the right size. In the end we are blessed with this spot in the middle of the Marolles, but at the time the location didn’t really matter to me. I believe people will always make an effort for their record shop, just as I travel everywhere to go shopping.

After five years in the Marolles, how do you feel about this neighbourhood?

I’m proud that we have become part of it, we now know every flea market vendor, all bar staff and shop owners in the street personally. The Marolles mix utterly opposite sides of the city’s population. A Porsche can drive you by on the street while an old homeless lady with broken shoes and a caddy walks by, just when a drunk guy is thrown out of a bar at noon. My favorite place is Le Petit Lion, a local pub where everything is allowed, as long as it’s handled with respect, where people have worn their asses into the chairs. 

You often mention Crevette as a group, speaking in ‘we’. Who is Crevette apart from you?

There are many people in our community, this has always been part of our DNA. In the very beginning, I reached out to a few people to help me curate the record selections of the shop. Jakob Van Wassenhove was one of them and he is still an important player in our team, responsible for all things distribution and the webshop. Another key member is Michiel Claus aka DJ Walrus, who constructed all of our furniture and handles our second hand offer. Than there is Boudewijn Ericx who is more of an allround staff member, Diego aka DC Salas who is in charge of social media, Vitesse who does all the artwork and Cis who runs all PR on our in-house labels. There is a substantial group of DJs and friends around Crevette as well, such as Tele Talks, Rino and Aroh, the latter I met in the shop as he once spontaneously offered to lend a hand and became a good friend ever since. And last but not least I see all of our regular visitors also as an integral part of Crevette. They aren’t just customers, but friends, many of them visiting at least once a week. Many of them will be playing an in-store DJ set during our birthday weekend by the way.

Your performance at Horst Festival in September of this year was greatly appreciated by a huge audience and I see your name pop up on many line-ups. How important is DJing for you?

I really enjoy this part of my job as well. I can spend hours and hours listening to music here in the living room until late at night, taking time to understand the structure of each record I’m about to take with me to a gig. I usually prepare my bag for a DJ weekend already on Monday, the only closing day of the shop. This allows me to make changes throughout the whole week, I need these days for fresh ideas and new input. 

What’s happening in the next five years at Crevette?

Many of our recent ideas and projects are now in progress, so I believe we need to keep on fine tuning them, like for instance our distribution network. It’s very satisfying to get someone’s records to the other side of the world, we wish to continue doing this and evolve both in quantity and quality. We are also slowly investigating the need for a bigger warehouse space for our distribution activities. Many people often ask if the shop would move to a bigger location, but I don’t see this happening soon. I’m very happy with the current size, a bigger one can also scare people away due to an abundance of choice, in my opinion. Finally we wish to welcome more animals into our house. Freddy is an adopted greyhound from Spain, we are considering adopting another one. It’s my girlfriend who has always been into greyhounds, I’m now a big fan myself. They are a human’s best pal, don’t take much space and are calmer than our cat Marcel. It’s the ideal animal for an apartment, really. 

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