YOU MIGHT have thought that the humble cassette-tape had gone the way of the 8-Track cartridge, a nostalgic relic from our Hi-Fidelity yesteryears. Josh Grier, however, begs to differ.
“Tapes are making a big resurgence,” he insists, over a Guinness in a Camden hostelry. “There are cassette-only labels, bands using cassette images for tee shirts and album covers - even kids who wear old cassettes as belt buckles!” And then there’s Tapes’n’Tapes, Grier’s bristling indie-pop quartet, tipped by some as the next Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, named in reference to “all these recording sessions we’d done on our 4-tracks, these piles of tapes’n’tapes’n’tapes of songs and ideas, cluttering up my apartment.”
The group formed in Minneapolis in 2003. “I always wanted to be in a band, it’s something I just couldn’t suppress,” laughs Grier. “Finally, when I graduated college, I thought, dammit, I’m going to start a band! And if it sucks, well, at least I tried.”
The first sessions began in Grier’s kitchen, using the oven-timer for a metronome. Grier and a buddy played shows backed by a CD-walkman playing drum tracks Josh had recorded (it even had a ‘blog’ on the group’s website), while housemate Matt Kretzmann, a trumpet and euphonium player, was taught to play the bass. “It was a challenge,” admits Matt, “But the fingering wasn’t actually all that different…”
Kretzmann later moved to keyboards while Jeremy Hanson (veteran of a blues covers band with his dad and brother since he was 8) took the drumstool. For their eponymous debut EP, self-released in 2004, Grier wrote and recorded a new song everyday. “Then I got carpal tunnel syndrome from playing my guitar too much,” he chuckles. “I have a lot of ideas that aren’t very good, left on the back-burner. There’s a lot of ‘filtering’ wheat from chaff.”
Bassist Erik Appelwick recorded their debut album, The Loon, last Summer. Unspooling with the literate pop savvy of Pavement and The Breeders‘ hazy invention, The Loon’s charms might never have escaped Minneapolis had the group’s manager Keri Wiese not leaked tracks to the online blogging community. The resulting buzz meant demand soon far outstripped the group’s fledgling Ibid Records imprint’s ability to supply; XL Records recently signed the group, and will be re-releasing The Loon worldwide in August.
“It all weirds me out more than I thought it would,” admits Grier. “The other day, we were filming a music-video on this huge soundstage, and I had to ask myself, ‘What do we think we’re doing??’ Our biggest ambition right now is just, to not fuck it all up, not make the ‘fatal wrong decision’. We just want to play the music we like, try out lots of new ideas, and,” stresses the man with tapes’n’tapes’tapes of discarded song ideas carpeting his floors, “Just not be redundant, you know?”
(c) Stevie Chick 2006