6.26.2006

My Interview With Tapes 'N Tapes



Here's the interview I did for MammothPress.com:

Some bands have all the fun, and Tapes ‘N Tapes is most certainly one such band. Through their incredible grassroots following and plenty of internet-related attention "The Brothers Tapes" have risen up from obscurity to become one of the most blogged about (and subsequently talked about) bands of the year. Connecting to their audiences with their quirky, anthemic songs, Tapes ‘N Tapes has been touring the country and selling out nearly half of their shows on their most recent tour. Stylistically, it’s impossible not to mention Pavement as a clear influence, but these boys have their own characteristics to bring to the table. With the occasional appearance of keyboards and horns, they bring a sound that’s all their own.

I sat down on the phone the other day with Matt Kretzman, the band’s keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist, to discuss the formation of the band, the "hype" that’s encircled them, the backlash to that "hype", their recent signing with XL Recordings, their hometown (Minneapolis), and their most recent tour with the Cold War Kids and Figurines.

Hey Matt. How’re you doing?

Good. How are you, Joe?

Doing alright. Are you guys on the road at the moment?

We’re actually in Seattle. Were just finishing up lunch, having a little sushi here. We’ve got a driving day, a couple days to get to Salt Lake [City]. So we’re enjoying the city a little bit.

You play keyboards, percussion, do some vocals and stuff like that for the band, but you didn’t always do that, right? I mean, you kind of switched around what you’ve played as the band changed its lineup, right?


Yeah. Initially, at the start of the band, Josh and his room mate Steve were both guitar players. I’ve played horn, basically my whole life–trombone, euphonium, and stuff. They were like, ‘Oh...You can play bass.’ So, to start the band we kind of scrounged up a bass, and they taught me how to play bass. I played along with...like Doolittle and stuff like that. That was kind of the initial incarnation of the band. It was us three and a CD player with drum tracks on it that Josh would make. Obviously that wasn’t the...uh [laughs]...the hottest rock line up. Eventually Steve went off to grad school, and we got a real drummer. Then I would kind of do bass and some keyboards. So it was a three piece for a while. Then I took a year and actually lived here in Seattle. Then it kind of made sense...I moved back in the late summer, a few months before the record came out. I always wanted to be there, you know. It was tough for me to move out here, but I just kind of needed a break for other reasons. So it just kind of made sense for me to rejoin the band and play keyboards, cause I was an adequate bass player, but not good, you know? [laughs] It made sense to just play the keys and do this other stuff because it enables us to really reproduce the records in the live setting a lot more faithfully than as a three-piece. In the three-piece we were always scrambling trying to figure out how to flush the songs out right. I think the band just works better as a four-piece for me too because I don’t have the responsibility of playing bass [laughs].

That’s good. I’ve played bass for nine years, and I’m not any better than when I started so I understand. At this point, though, am I right to say that there is only one song in the set that you guys actually need to use a CD player or pre-recorded track for, and that’s "Omaha"?

Yeah. We do it on an iPod now because we would run into problems occasionally with the CD player skipping. It was a really sh*tty little CD player. So we thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of stupid. Why don’t we just put it on the iPod?’ So we put the Omaha sample on the iPod. It kind of works out.

I know you don’t write the lyrics, Josh does, and I know that you guys don’t even know half the time why he writes what does. But I’m talking to you from Omaha so I have to ask, do you have any idea what the song "Omaha" is about?

Yeah. It’s a funny story actually. It was a couple of years ago Josh and the early drummer Carl were at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs show at First Ave. [a venue] in Minneapolis. I think it was an "all ages" show or something like that. There were these couple of kids there talking to each other and they were like, ‘Yeah...’ It was a couple of years ago when Bright Eyes and Saddle Creek were like the hot thing. You know Omaha was like on the map of indie rock, and these kids were like, ‘Oh Yeah Yeah Yeahs are from Omaha, and Bright Eyes...’ and then they basically listed off the entire Saddle Creek roster whether or not the bands were from Omaha or not. Josh and Carl thought it was really funny. So there is kind of an ironic story behind it.

I totally understand. There’s a lot of kids here that are into that. Speaking of which, what kind of audiences do you guys get at your shows? I mean, you’ve been a really big buzz band for a while now, and lot of people who tend to focus on buzz bands are the "cooler than thou" type. Have you encountered quite a lot of fans who are genuinely into your music on the tour?

Definitely. I’m sure there are people who just really read the blogs or something, or maybe there are critics and people who just want to see what its about. But we do genuinely have fans now. Especially like playing here in Seattle on KEXP has been really supportive. They play the record a lot, you know. And we sold out The Crocodile last night. People are into the band. I don’t think it’s a fad. It’s been a great tour. We’ve probably sold out like...half our shows.

Yeah, I’ve noticed!

There’s been no "stinker" in the bunch. It’s definitely something we’re cognizant of. The reason we tour is because we want to put the live show out there, and cultivate fans. You know? I think our live show is like the record and more because we’ve been playing the songs for a year now. A lot of them are way better, I think, now. Some of them were pretty fresh when the recording process was going on. There’s a little bit more to it now. It’s fun.

You guys have been writing some material along the road, maybe in between shows, right? That is...since you’ve cut the record, has there been any writing going on?

Yeah, there’s been a little bit. We’ve been so swamped with touring. We were in the UK for two weeks and then we went home for three days. That’s not really any time to go, "Hey let’s go write before we go tour for another three and a half weeks!" I think we’re realistic about it, but there’s definitely stuff we work on. Sometimes with sound checks we have time we can play around and stuff. But mostly I think we’re kind of setting our sights on...You know we’re going to tour, we’re going to have a couple weeks in July to work on some stuff, and hopefully when we go out with the Futureheads, and play some of these festivals later in the summer we’ll have a couple of new ones [songs] to try out. It is fun to test your new material a little bit and play with it a bit before you sit down to record it. It’s hard to write on the road, though. I mean, we tour in a small van, you know, and if anyone wanted to pull out an acoustic guitar [to write] I think they would get shot down pretty fast.

With the sheer amount of touring you guys are doing, like with playing so many shows all together at South by Southwest, do you attribute a lot of your success not so much to hype, but to hard work? Cause you guys are clearly one of the more hard-working bands out there touring right now.

That’s definitely been our philosophy. It’s a job, you know? I mean obviously it’s more than a job, but I mean we take it very seriously. We’re serious about music. With the "hype" thing it’s been kind of funny because up until a few weeks a go when we signed with XL we didn’t have a publicist or anything like that. Every single article or major indie "props" was all them asking us to do stuff, all the way from Rolling Stone all the way down to "x-blog". We’ve gotten a couple reviews lately that have been like, "They’re over-hyped," or whatever, and it’s kind of a weird thing for us [laughs] to get ragged on for, you know?

You don’t contribute to it at all.

All we wanna do is go out and play shows and do our thing.

You seem to take all that rather light-heartedly. Are there days when it’s frustrating to read in like, the New York Sun, that you’re not all your hyped up to be or is it pretty easy to brush off?

Well, it’s just not in our control. I mean, people are going to say whatever they want, and to some extent we expect some sort of backlash because we have gotten so much good press. It happens to any band, unless you’re like Radiohead or Wilco or something like that. [Laughs] Deservingly so they don’t get any bad press, period. Especially for a new band with a lot of good press it’s just going to happen. I’ve kind of stopped trying to read...I mean, we don’t have time to read them anyways. We’re on the road. We don’t scour the internet. It stings a little bit sometimes.

Your humility as a band seems pretty consistent in everything from how you guys write your songs to how you perform to how you guys do interviews and press stuff. Is that something that you guys focus on because you’re aware that you’re coming out as a new band and you’re not going to be all arrogant, or is that just who you guys are naturally?

Yeah, that’s just who we are. I guess we’re just typically Midwestern. Well, Josh is from Oregon, but it’s kind of an ethic. I think we would just be uncomfortable if we started to get fresh haircuts and buy really expensive fancy things...leather jackets, things like that, you know?

Speaking of all that you just described....Has the deal you guys just made with XL enabled you, at least in idea, to move away from having to work normal jobs at home? Or have you already started moving away from that? And I mean, you guys tour so much, has it been hard to keep the jobs you have back home?

Yeah it was hard for many months-many, many months! Actually, I had to resign. It was like a voluntary resignation thing, mutual I guess. I was doing housing development project management stuff for an affordable-housing developer in Minneapolis. Before we went to the UK I was like, "Here’s what the next...indefinitely looks like." They were like, "You should just do that." Cause it just doesn’t work to be gone for long periods of time and come back to just have no idea what’s going on. Josh is keeping his job. He has been at his company for a few years and has a really good relationship, and they’re okay with it. It’s funny when the band stuff is going really well, and they see how well the band is doing, you almost get a "carte blanche"-"This is cool to have someone working here." But when he’s home in between tours I think he’s going to try and get some work done. Eric’s pretty much been doing music almost full time with some part time jobs. Jeremy’s pretty much the same, you know. He’s off of school doing some part time work. That’s what most of us are doing.

What made you guys pick XL? You kind of had a cornucopia of labels you could pick from. What did they offer you guys that sweetened the deal over other labels?

I think it’s total artistic freedom. If you look at their roster, it’s such a diverse roster. Every artist is pretty unique or different from each other. So that was kind of the feeling for us. We knew we weren’t ready for a major label. We just thought, for development, it would be great to go with an indie label. And it’s worked out really well.

Eventually you’ll be done with all this touring, and you’ll get to go home and have a rest for a while before you go in to record. Do you guys have any anxieties about going through the recording process now that you’re signed to XL?

At least right now I don’t think there’s any anxiety about that. We’re just going to hunker down in my basement during the winter and just try to work on new stuff. I don’t know. You know Josh comes up with ideas and structures. Usually it’s pretty loose, and generally writing is a pretty organic process. I have full confidence that we will be able to come up with good stuff. We’re definitely looking forward to it, for sure.

What do you guys listen to in the van when you drive around?

We try to mix it up. It’s usually whatever is n the iPod. Sometimes we do "shuffle" or whatever. We’ll listen to full records on the iPod and try not to repeat things the whole time. I really like that new "Destroyer" record. I think that’s great. I like Animal Collective. They’re not really new, but I like them. We listen to those Wire re-issues that just came out. "Chair Missing", Josh has been a fan of that for a long time, and I’m a fan of "Pink Flag". But I hadn’t heard "Chair Missing" and I was pretty blown away by that. Jeremy will get the iPod and do the whole 80s mix thing. Space Jams, or some [Uncle] Tupelo, or Wilco (obviously we like a lot) and Radiohead. So it’s all over the place.

You’ve just said you tastes are pretty "all over the place", but do you have a lot of artists that you can all agree on?

I think there’s definitely a mutual appreciation of each others taste.

Does everybody in the band like Pavement?

We have a running joke with the iPod, because every article is like, "Pixies or Pavement-esque". So whenever we get into the car we’re like, "Ok, so are we going to listen to Pixies or Pavement right now? Which one? Which one?" [Laughs] We all love those bands. There’s no major dissent I guess.

Well, I could just see if somebody loved rap and country and everybody else hated it.

Jeremy likes "Rush" and Josh hates "Rush". So that’s one. Phil Collins? [Laughs]

Hey! Hey! I’m a big Phil Collins fan.

[Laughs]

It seemed like you guys were saying for a while that Minneapolis wasn’t responding the same way a place like, say, New York would to your music. Has that started to lift at all, or have I misinterpreted that? Obviously there were people that liked you, but haven’t you said it’s not the same as when you went and sold out the Bowery Ballroom [a venue in New York]?

I think it’s just a case of being one of many local bands in a city. I think it’s definitely turning. We’ve got a great right-up from a critic after our last local show at Seventh Street Entry. I guess the true test will be when we’re playing the main room at First Avenue in July with Plastic Consolations. We were actually just talking about this over lunch. It’s like 1600 people. So we’re going to find out what we’re made of in town, [Laughs] you know? But we just haven’t been in town either in the last six months or so. I mean, our CD release party in November was pretty packed. It’s not like people hate us. It’s just kind of like we’re one of many. The other thing is the band has just gotten a lot better. We’ve developed a lot, and we do kind of stand out now.

What are some of your band’s favorite Minneapolis bands?

Currently?

Well, currently or of all time. Whichever comes to mind. I’m just thinking, there are several different areas of the country at the moment that have a lot of really decent artists coming out of them, and Minneapolis is one of them.

There’s this band called Duplomacy. Their record should be coming out some time soon. It’s take forever to get it out, but I think they’re going to do really well. I mean, people are going to like it. It’s definitely more mellow, but it’s just great, great pop songs. It’ll go over really well. Of course, Plastic Consolations are a phenomenal live show. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to see them, but they’re amazing.

I haven’t, but I’m writing it down.

Yeah, like ridiculous guitar air-play...I’m trying to think...I’m a little out of touch myself.

It’s okay, don’t worry about it. What are your band’s favorite songs to perform? Are there times when you’re approaching a song on a given night, and suddenly the band is like, "Oh yes! We get to play this song," and everybody kind of loves it? Or is it just kind of all over the place whether somebody is really feeling that song or not at a given moment?

It’s still really fun even though we’ve been playing "The Loon" for quite a while now. It actually still feels like it’s really fresh. So playing it for new people keeps it interesting for us. I don’t know about the other guys. Personally, "Jakov’s" ["Jakov’s Suite"] is always fun to play. We usually play it towards the end of the set, and it’s like an ultimate release song. That one get’s pretty huge live. I would say that one especially.

The current tour you guys are on seems to be doing really well, with Cold War Kids and Figurines. What is this touring experience like? Is it what you were expecting it to be from a certain perspective or does it go beyond your expectations as far as turnout and everything else?

It’s been really awesome. I think it’s the Figurines first major U.S. tour. I think they were at South By Southwest this year, and came up the west coast a little bit. We’ve played with Cold War Kids at a couple shows in L.A. after South by Southwest. So we kind of knew those guys, but it’s been great. We’re all buddies now, and there’s a great mutual respect for each other musically. I think we’re all different enough. The crowds have been really receptive to all the bands, which is kind of all you can ask for, you know.

Who are your audiences? From what you can see up on the stage does there seem to be a certain age range, or a couple that have a strong presence?

I would say it’s probably the 20 to 30 range. Last night was all ages, so there were probably some younger folks there. There’ll be some "silver foxes" in the crowd every now and then. It’s a mix, but it goes above the 20-30 for sure. Primarily, though, it’s 20-30, for sure.

Thanks very much Matt.

You’re welcome.
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After the interview, I had the pleasure of attending the final show of the Tapes ‘N Tapes/Cold War Kids/Figurines tour here in Omaha, Nebraska. All three bands surpassed my expectations, and Tapes ‘N Tapes proved to this fan that they can live up to the hype. Be sure to catch them, if you can, on their upcoming tour with the Futureheads. Head over to TapesNTapes.com for show dates and locations.


Don't forget the contest we have running here to win a free signed 7" limited edition vinyl of the Tapes 'N Tapes Single "Insistor": click here to check it out.

Unrelated Downloads:
Radiohead vs Coldplay - High & Dry/The Scientist.mp3
Radiohead - How I Made My Millions.mp3
Radiohead - Killer Cars.mp3
Radiohead - How Can You Be Sure?.mp3
Radiohead - Maquiladora.mp3

+joe

Posted by SL @ 6:26 PM

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