Tapes 'n Tapes create buzz beyond free downloads


June 2, 2006


The Minneapolis buzz band Tapes 'n Tapes has more in common with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah than a mutual fondness for the angular sounds of the early Talking Heads, or the fact that both groups have been lauded by that influential indie-rock arbiter of all that is hip, Pitchforkmedia.com. Like the New York-based art-rockers, Tapes 'n Tapes built a sizable and growing national audience seemingly overnight, based largely on the power of distributing its music for free on the Internet.

"Actually, most of the credit for that goes to our manager Keri [Wiese]," guitarist-vocalist Josh Grier says. "Before we put our EP out, we were like, 'OK, we're going to release this to college radio and do a promotional push,' but we never had a publicist or anything. So Keri said, 'Hey, I'll do your publicity. I have a plan; this is what I'll do,' and we were like, 'Hey, sure, that sounds great!' We're all pretty into music and hanging out on the blogs, so we had a good idea of which people might like it. Keri sent it out to about 10 people when we released it in town, and within three days, it was out of our control and taking off from there."

Grier started the band shortly after graduating from college and moving to Minneapolis in 2003. The name came from the realization that he could use his computer and a four-track recorder to produce "tapes 'n' tapes of stupid-a-- ----," and the group released its first self-titled EP a few months after forming. It recorded its debut album "The Loon" as a trio last June, before the lineup solidified with Grier, drummer Jeremy Hanson, keyboardist Matt Kretzmann and bassist Erik Appelwick.

The 11 songs display an array of influences in addition to the stripped-down rhythmic intensity of the New Wave era. Grier's stream-of-consciousness vocals have also drawn comparisons to the Pixies, while the occasional explosions of guitar noise have some critics invoking My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur, Jr. "At least for me, it's nice because you can't peg it as, 'Oh, they're ripping off one band,'" Grier says. "When we're playing and writing, there are moments when it's conscious: 'Oh man, this sounds a lot like this band!' But whenever it's like that, we go, 'Let's change it, because as much as possible, we don't want to have it sound like anything else."

Thanks to weird but melodic tracks such as "The Iliad," "Crazy Eights" and "Jakov's Suite," it didn't take long for Tapes 'n Tapes to win a dedicated following in its hometown. But from the start, the group set its sights beyond the borders of the sometimes provincial Twin Cities music scene.

"Even from the get-go, when we recorded our EP on our own in a cabin in the woods, we were like, 'Well, if we recorded it and we're going to release, it we might as well go on tour. So we went for a monthlong tour out West when we really had no business going. But it was fun, and the mentality has always been, 'If you're going to be in a band and really do it, you have to A.) Do it your own way, and B.) Not wait around for anything.' We did two or three tours before we even released 'The Loon,' and since then, we've pretty much been on the road all the time."

In between trips, the musicians spent much of their time filling orders from the Web for its D.I.Y. recordings. "Every other day, it was a run to the post office with 80 packages," Grier says, laughing. "That's the one thing we're the most happy about not having to do anymore!" Tapes 'n Tapes recently signed with XL Recordings, which will reissue "The Loon" on July 25. "It's one of those things where when you hear about bands getting signed, you think it happens overnight, but it takes forever. It's like, 'Oh, the lawyers have to talk for two months.' Meanwhile, you're like, 'Can we tell anybody about this?' And we were staying up until 1 a.m. every night trying to fill all those orders. It will be nice to actually have a life again for a little bit!"

The downtime won't last long: The same week that XL reissues "The Loon," Tapes 'n Tapes returns to Chicago to perform as one of the headliners on July 30, the second day of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park. And it leaves for its first tour of the U.K. shortly thereafter.

"We're all excited and a little bit nervous about going overseas for the first time," Grier says. "And the Pitchfork festival -- we all flew out for it last year, and it was ridiculous; I was like, 'Oh, my God, we have to go see Les Savy Fav!' We were there for both days, so for this year, for us to play it, it's like, 'Holy crap!' We could never have imagined that last year when we were standing in the crowd."


Following in the footsteps of local ork-popsters/ornate folk-rockers the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and Head of Femur, the 1900s are a big band (featuring guitarist-vocalist Edward Anderson, keyboardist Mike Jasinski, drummer Tim Minnick, bassist Charlie Ransford and female vocalists Caroline Donovan and Jeanine O'Toole) that has crafted a surprisingly fragile and breathtakingly beautiful sound on its six-song debut "Plume Delivery." It was released last week on Champaign-Urbana's pop-worshipping Parasol Records.

Though "Whole the Law" veers a bit too close to the ultra-twee sounds of early Belle & Sebastian, other songs such as "Bring the Good Boys Home" and "Flight of the Monowings" present a fresh, hook- and harmony-laden take on '60s influences, such as the Zombies, the Incredible String Band, Donovan and the Velvet Underground circa its quiet third album. The sultry vocals that power the epic "Patron Saint of the Mediocre" are to die for. Thanks to its tireless gigging around town in recent months, the band has also earned a growing reputation for the strength of its live shows, which find the musicians jumping from instrument to instrument between every tune.

The 1900s celebrate the release of the "Plume Delivery" EP Saturday night at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport. The show starts at 10 p.m. with Devin Davis and Gentlemen Caller, and the cover is $8; for more information, call (773) 525-2508 or visit www.the-1900s.com.