A month and some change ago, a small corner of the web was alight with the news of "Cassette Store Day." It was something that, at the time, no one could be sure whether they were looking at a time-consuming troll or a promising, if mildly confusing, new event for the global music community. As details about the companion to Record Store Day have trickled out since that initial announcement, we've become more and more excited that it was the latter.
Much like its older, waxier, more established brother, Cassette Store Day revolves around limited runs of albums on a format du jour. A shortlist of notables (full list here and at the bottom of this piece) includes Justin Vernon's brand-new venture Volcano Choir, At The Drive-In, Fucked Up, Suicidal Tendencies and Gold Panda, among many others, as well as events in Portland, Argentina, Brooklyn, Finland, New Zealand… you get the idea. (It should be an encouraging sign to Cassette Store Day's organizers that this Saturday, Sept. 7, has almost as many events scheduled as it does tape releases.)
Adoption of the cassette began in earnest around 1971, when Henry Kloss' innovations brought LP-quality sound to the new format, which was still competing with eight tracks for stateside dominance at the time. Since then, the cassette has survived well past both its apex and apogee, falling into semi-obscurity as the CD and MP3 formats replaced it, but nonetheless remaining an important part of the music underground's sonic diet. However, in the last few years, a growing concern of labels has re-appropriated the format, utilizing its balance of tactile beauty, affordability and its players' ubiquity to push releases from places as varied as Leaving Records' avant-beatmakers, Moon Glyph's krauty and sun-dappled artists, Burger Records' scabby truants and, of course, the principals behind Cassette Store Day, each of whom -- Matt Flag, Jen Long and Steve Rose -- operate their own tape labels.
Shortly after the announcement of Cassette Store day, we asked co-founder Steve Rose a few questions about the origins of Cassette Store Day, the appeal of a medium, and what exactly a cassette store is.
Who is behind Cassette Store Day?
Essentially the people behind Cassette Store Day are Matt Flag, who runs a tape label called Suplex Cassettes and play's in a band called Fair Ohs; Jen Long who runs a tape label called Kissability and is a Radio 1 DJ, and myself (Steve Rose) who runs a tape and seven-inch label called SEXBEAT and work at independent label Transgressive Records. In addition to this, we've had help from a lot of other people who have helped make CSD possible.
Who came up with the idea?
I came up with the idea on Record Store Day this year, when instead of taking part in the festivities I was sitting at home putting cassette inlays into cases for my friends band Bad Sports, and figured that it was about time that cassettes had their own day.
Where are you based?
We're all based in the movable feast that is East London.
What do you expect to result from CSD?
We expect to each put out some fun releases along with all of our friends, drink a serious amount of Red Stripe and possibly quit our day jobs… joking.
Do you think cassettes will make as big a comeback as vinyl has in recent years?
I think that they're doing a pretty decent job as it is. Currently most of the cassette duplication plants that I know of are stretched to capacity with the amount of tapes that they have to make on a day-to-day basis, and I've seen several cassette documentaries being made (particularly looking forward to this one). The reception to CSD has also been overwhelming which seems to go hand-in-hand with the rising popularity of this accessible, affordable audio medium.
Top five favorite cassette releases of CSD 2013?
Obviously I'm looking forward to our releases -- Suplex doing a demo cassette from Proper Ornaments and a Fair Ohs double cassette, Kissability releasing the Los Campesinos! live album on tape and SEXBEAT reissuing Fucked Up's classic "Hidden World" on cassette. In addition to this I'm looking forward to finding out what it is exactly The Pastels are going to be releasing -- currently their label Domino doesn't even know what it's going to be [Domino announced The Pastels' plans this morning, Sep. 6] -- Wichita Recordings releasing UK oi band Hard Skin on cassette, Burger Records re-releasing the first Suicidal Tendencies LP and tons more which haven't been announced yet, so I can't really tell you about.
Why were you and your partners so drawn to cassettes? In an info-heavy world it seems that most people of a certain age -- the ones who have had one foot in the analog world and one foot in the digital for most of their lives -- are quick to take to tactile things in an almost desperate way. I count myself among them.
I guess partially because we've grown up with them through out our lives and partially because they are affordable and effective -- which makes them still an important medium. However, I'm not really sure if this is an object-light world? Consumerism is huge, as is popular culture and the consumerization of this; and everyone around me seems to be buying way more stuff than most people that I know [personally], who spend their money on buying and collecting music. In addition to this, I would say that I am in no way desperate to take to tactile things; I'm as quick to take to something like Netflix as I am to be seeking out something more analogue. This day/event is more about celebrating the continued existence and usefulness of a predominantly overlooked -- yet still current -- format, rather than fetishizing something obsolete.
Do you think the resurgence in physical formats like vinyl and cassettes is sustainable, long-term?
I'm pretty certain that physical formats are going to be around for the foreseeable future.
Why is that?
The cassette is still a very current format in DIY and underground scenes due to it's affordability and ease.
I also think physical formats will stick around in music as when you are a fan you want more than a digital file. You want something you can interact with that holds a greater worth and reward.
What about the practicalities of manufacturing? Isn't it the case that blank tapes intended for consumers aren't being produced anymore? What's it cost to print a run of 300 cassettes? For a lot of new artists the cost of a vinyl run can be prohibitive.
Cassettes are very cost effective to make, and you can turn them around in no time at all, which is one of the things that sets them aside from their vinyl counterparts. Despite there being less duplication plants offering tape duplication, and less and less assets around to use for this, this is a reflection of the current popularity of cassettes, and cassette labels, rather than just an overall shortage.
So, what is a cassette store?
We just adapted the name from Record Store Day. When you go in to a record store they generally tend to sell a wide variety of things from CDs to merch to books to cassettes, if we're being fastidious about this. Really, we kept the store part as we wanted the day to be more about shops and less about online.
Cassette Store Day 2013's full release schedule
Fucked Up – "Hidden World" (SEXBEAT)
Los Campesinos! - "A Good Night For a Fist Fight Live Album" (Kissability)
The Proper Ornaments – "Demos" (Suplex Cassettes)
Fair Ohs – "Jams Volume 2" (Suplex Cassettes)
Lets Wrestle – "Demo’s" (Suplex Cassettes)
At The Drive-In – "Acrobatic Tenement" (Transgressive)
At The Drive-In – "Relationship Of Command" (Transgressive)
Pulled Apart By Horses – "Pulled Apart By Horses" (Transgressive)
Pulled Apart By Horses – "Tough Love" (Transgressive)
The Flaming Lips – "The Terror" (Bella Union)
Suicidal Tendencies – "Debut" (Burger)
Twink – "Think Pink" (Burger)
Molly Nilsson – "The Travels" (Night People)
The Pastels – TBA (Domino)
Deerhunter - "Monomania" (4AD)
Hard Skin – "On The Balls" (Wichita)
Hard Skin – "Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear" (Wichita)
Spectrals - "Sob Story" (Wichita)
Waxahatchee - "Cerulean Salt" (Wichita)
Gold Panda - "Half Of Where You Live" (Wichita)
V/A – "Faux Discx Compilation" (Faux Discx)
Haim – "Forever EP" (Polydor)
Efterklang – "Tripper" (Blood & Biscuits)
Mum – "Smilewound" (Blood & Biscuits)
Dolphinz – "Pagan Dating" (Tye Die Tapes)
V/A - "Bleed In Gold - The First Three Years Of Art Is Hard" (Art Is Hard)
Fear of Men – "Early Fragments" (Kanine)
The Blow – "The Blow" (Kanine Records)
Bleeding Rainbow - "Yeah Right" (Kanine Records)
Eternal Summers - "Correct Behavior" (Kanine Records)
Teen Suicide – "Waste Yrself" (Birdtapes)
V/A – "Heart Throb Compilation" (Heart Throb)
Animal Collective – "Sung Tongs" (Fat Cat)
His Clancyness – "Covering Up" (Fat Cat)
JJ Doom – "Keys To The Kuffs Butter Edition" (Lex)
Younghusband – "Silver Sisters" (Sonic Cathedral)
Guided By Voices – "English Little League" (Fire / Bad Paintings)
Refrigerator – "Live At The American Legion Hall" (Shrimper)
Xiu Xiu – "Women As Lovers" (Bad Paintings)
Rolo Tomassi – "Astraea" (DLPR)
Volcano Choir – "Repave" (Jagjaguwar)
V/A – "Compilation" (Hate Hate Hate)
Potty Mouth – "The Spins" (Marshall Teller)
Helm - "Orange Tanks" (Where To Now?)
The Casket Girls – S/T (Graveface)
Peter Broderick – "Float 2013" (Erased Tapes)
Bright Light Bright Light – "Make Me Believe In Hope" (Self Raising Records)
Playlounge / YRRS / Birdskulls – "Sick of Hits Vol. 1" (Reeks of Effort)
Sur – "Dog Daze EP" (Mirror Universe)
Spakkiano – "Spakkiano" (Mirror Universe)
Lame Drivers – "Live & Rare" (Mirror Universe)
Laraaji – "Cosmic Tape Experiments 1979 – 1987" (All Saints)
Grape Soda - "Form A Sign" (Hope For the Tape Deck)
Gold-Bears - "Are You Falling In Love?" (Hope For the Tape Deck)
Expwy - "Deep Joy" (Kinnta Records)