Tapes N' Tapes Ride the Buzz

Experimental indie dudes rule SXSW

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When Minneapolis art rockers Tapes n' Tapes were getting started, they developed an unusual tactic for attracting fans. "Whenever there was a concert that was sold out at [the legendary club] First Avenue, we'd drive by really slow with five or six copies of our CD and just throw them out the car window at the line of people," says singer-guitarist Josh Grier, 26. "I don't know why we thought that was a good idea."

But in the four months since they put out their self-released debut, The Loon, they've become darlings of the blogosphere, racking up accolades from hot indie-music sites like Musicforrobots and Gorilla vs. Bear. Now the scruffy, milk-fed quartet -- who could pass for That '70s Show extras -- face other challenges: recovering from the nine-gig, four-day marathon they played at Austin's South by Southwest festival while touring the West Coast and negotiating a deal with an unspecified major label.

SOUND "We started recording with a four-track, setting it up with a kitchen timer after having a number of drinks," Grier says of the band's early days. "The rules were, you could only play things you'd never played before, and when the kitchen timer dinged, the song was over. After about two or three nights, we had tapes and tapes of songs." Loose, playful and cacophonous, The Loon has much of the DIY vibe of those first recordings: Songs like "Just Drums" feature slanted guitars and an off-kilter rhythmic scheme that recalls the Pixies and Violent Femmes (with a few quirky euphonium and whistle flourishes to add texture).

CABIN FEVER After forming in 2002, Tapes n' Tapes spent months casting around desperately for a gig. Luckily, a friend of keyboardist Matt Kretzmann, 25, got the band a slot during Minneapolis' Sound Unseen film festival, which cemented them in the local music scene as a good opening act for other bands. Eventually college radio stations and alt weeklies took heed, prompting the group to record its debut EP in 2004 -- which was cut in a cabin in Wisconsin with no running water. "It was pretty rustic," says Kretzmann, referring to both the accommodations and the resulting disc's sound.

IF YOU CAN MAKE IT HERE Despite a small hometown following, Tapes n' Tapes have yet to make their mark on the Minneapolis music scene. "We didn't even headline our own EP release party," says Grier. "We had to get someone else to headline the show!"

But when they visited New York in January for a string of club dates, the opposite was true: All three shows were sold out and packed to the gills. "It was weird to play hundreds of miles from our hometown and have the audience anticipate when we were gonna change within songs," says drummer Jeremy Hanson, 19. "They'd obviously listened to the record."

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