Culture: Rocking all over the world; Music Simon Harper discovers why the internet has been good to Tapes 'n Tapes.
Word of mouth has always been a great tool - nothing gives quite the same glow of satisfaction as recommending one of your favourite records, books or films to a friend, and for the artist in question that increase in units shifted can make a huge difference.
That effect has only been enhanced online, and the presence of MP3 blogs and MySpace has been instrumental in launching several guitar bands to almost instant success.
"It's just like real life, when you go to a music store and talk to your friends to find out what is new or really good. Or when you pick up a magazine and read the reviews to get a good idea of what a new record may sound like," says Jeremy Hanson, the drummer with Tapes 'n Tapes, one of the most notable recipients of the blog effect.
"Anyone can start a blog, but it is just about how many people agree with you. A music blog is by someone that listens to music and writes about it, and some of these people have more friends than others. These friends are made because they have the same taste or trust this person's taste. We got lucky and some people agreed with our music, wrote about it and they had some friends that liked it too."
While he might appear to be playing down the impact the internet has had on popularising his own band, it's clear that the quartet from Minneapolis have benefited greatly from it. Along with the likes of Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Vampire Weekend, Tapes 'n Tapes first came to prominence after rave reviews at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and the patronage of influential websites such as indie rock bible Pitchfork. The buzz surrounding their debut album, The Loon, was palpable but if anything its followup - Walk It Off, released last month on XL - is even better, more than justifying the online hype machine.
"We set out to make another Tapes 'n Tapes record, captured in more of a live manner than that of The Loon. We have gotten better playing together as a band and that live sound needed to be recorded with truth and distributed to music listeners," reasons Jeremy.
Working with Dave Fridmann appears to have been an inspired choice for the four-piece. It's perhaps due to the acclaimed producer - best known for his work with cosmic explorers like Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips, as well as Scottish bands Mogwai and The Delgados - that their latest album sounds so accomplished, having seemingly focused their coruscating sound into a more coherent record.
"It was amazing working with Dave Fridmann. He is a genius. We came into the studio with the songs already written and played them for him together in one room... the same room that we then recorded those songs together in. He was able to make it sound like that, but better, louder, and crunchier, as if you were at a loud rock show. The Loon sounded like we recorded in a much smaller basement studio."
Taut yet buzzing with a quirky energy, Walk It Off is certainly one of the more memorable indie rock albums of recent years, from the lurching opener Le Ruse through to the spacey, horn-fuelled excursion titled George Michael.
Filled with hooks and lean, twisted guitar riffs, it showcases some intriguing edges to their songwriting, not least the rolling groove heard coursing through the rhythms on Anvil.
"I try to write drum parts that are not only rhythmical but melodic at the same time. I think that it is really easy to play the drums, but to challenge a song with a drum line or phrase is super fun.
"Jazz music is really inspiring for me," he reveals. "Every time I go out to hear some jazz in Saint Paul or Minneapolis, it makes me want to play and get better so bad. I have been going to see a group called Happy Apple for years and they have made me feel this way every single time."
Indeed, the band have found their home state to be a source of inspiration, according to Jeremy, who also makes steel sculptures and collaborates with girlfriend Torey Bonar on several art pieces, as well as dabbling in circuit-bending. "I love Minnesota and I think there are a bunch of very talented musicians who come from Minnesota. I'm a fan of all of our extreme seasons. The seasons have to have some effect on the music that we write."
Having already enjoyed previous outings on this side of the Atlantic, Jeremy admits that the band have found British audiences to be very receptive. "They get into it," he grins. "I guess that means that people all around the world can get down to the same music. It's rock music. I guess it translates well."
With their current UK tour stopping in Birmingham later this week, fans of wiry guitar bands can look forward to a pulsating show and, as the band's drummer hints, they've identified a formula which promises to be a lot of fun.
"Birmingham can expect a rock and roll show, filled with songs that sound like our records, and records for sale that sound like our rock and roll show... a big kick drum, funky bass, rock guitar, heavy keys and real talk.
"We do like to tour. We feel that we are lucky when we get the opportunity to tour. Therefore, we take advantage of it and tour as much as we can.
However, I wouldn't consider Tapes 'n Tapes to be more of a live band than a studio band, or vice versa. I think that we are a band that writes songs, and for more people to hear those songs, it helps to record them in a similar sonic realm."
All this suggests that they've still got plenty of room for development, but following their progress should at least make for an interesting journey.
Tapes 'n Tapes perform at Birmingham Bar-fly on Friday May 30.
Tapes 'n Tapes are promising a rock and roll show filled with songs in Birmingham on Friday
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||May 26, 2008|
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