Tapes ’N Tapes’ Josh Grier on tape
The guitarist and vocalist on duct tape, scotch tape, VHS tapes, and the cassette resurgence
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One would think a band called Tapes ’N Tapes would get a lot of questions about, well, tapes, but apparently that’s not the case. Instead, these local blog darlings do most of their talking about their music, including answering various questions about Outside, their latest record. The A.V. Club couldn’t let that lack of tape-related questioning stand, so we cornered guitarist Josh Grier before the band’s show Sunday at Turf Club with blog fodder Howler, to talk about cassettes, duct tape, and Pee-wee Herman.
The A.V. Club: Why are you called Tapes ’N Tapes?
Josh Grier: Basically, before the band started, a buddy and I had a few late night recording sessions where we’d improvise songs. We’d have some beers, set a kitchen timer, and record. When that timer went off, the song was over. It was just a boundary so we wouldn’t jam for hours and hours on end.
So, we did that for a couple of evenings and we made tapes and tapes of demos. I thought Tapes ’N Tapes would be a funny band name, so I bought a URL, made a fake band website, and told my buddy that now that we had a website, we were a band.
AVC: You did put out a cassette of Outside, right?
JG: We did 250 handmade tapes. Each one of us made custom artwork for about 75 of the tapes, and then we signed them.
AVC: What do you think of the recent resurgence of cassette tapes?
JG: I think it’s good. I grew up listening to tapes. I had a Walkman, and I’d walk to school listening to my favorite tape. It’s a nice portable format, and there’s something endearing about a tape that’s so worn out that it gets corroded.
I also think there’s something about getting a mix tape that’s way different than getting a mix CD. They’re just great.
AVC: What was on your favorite tape?
JG: When I was really little, like grade school, my favorite tapes were The Beatles’ White Album and Beatles ’65. I had some old Bob Dylan stuff, too. Those were my go-to jams.
AVC: Have you ever gotten or given a mix tape that you’ve been especially into?
JG: I’ve gotten a few really good mix tapes. I haven’t gotten one in a long time, but when I was in high school, me and my friends would make each other tapes. It was something to do and they were always great. One day, someone would just be like, “Hey I made you and five other people this tape of songs I’ve been listening to. Check it out.” It was a wonderful middle-of-April surprise.
AVC: Do you still have your tapes? I have mine in a drawer, but I don’t have a tape player to listen to them on.
JG: I totally have mine in a drawer, too. I know exactly where they are. I have a couple of drawers filled with tapes, actually. There are mixtapes and bootleg concert tapes, stuff like that. I just couldn’t bring myself to part with them.
I do have a cassette player, though. I don’t use it very much.
AVC: Did you own a lot of VHS tapes when you were little? What was your favorite?
JG: When I was a kid, one of my favorites was UHF, the “Weird Al” movie. I would watch it over and over again. It’s a pretty classic movie, and it’s definitely one of those where the longer you watch it, you get those white lines on the screen, and it enhances the B movie aesthetic of the whole thing. It’s better on a worn out VHS tape. That’s the highest form of that movie.
AVC: Do you ever think it’s ironic that you’re a band that’s named for a sort of outdated format, but you guys really broke on the Internet?
JG: I guess that’s the dichotomy of analog and digital. When we started out, it was right around when people really started using the Internet to get music, so that’s kind of funny. I guess I never really put too much thought into it, though.
AVC: You’re on tour right now. Do you have duct tape in the van?
JG: Yes, we have duct tape, scotch tape, gaffer’s tape, colored gaffer’s tape. That stuff’s the most fun to play with, by the way, the colored tape. It’s about a quarter of an inch thick and it comes in 10 different colors. You can tape on things if you get bored on the road and it comes off easily. It’s good for artwork.
AVC: Have you guys ever used duct tape to fix one of your instruments on tour?
JG: I’ve used duct tape and gaffer’s tape for a lot of things, totally. Recently, I made the poor decision of using duct tape to hang posters on the wall in my basement and, surprisingly, it doesn’t hold very well to paint. I have all these sticky marks all over my wall because they all fell down. So it’s all grimy now and my wife is like, “Really, you thought this was a good idea?” I mean, it seemed like a better idea than holes in the wall, but now we have both. Tape can be really tantalizing to use, though. It’s right there and it’s so easy.
AVC: Do you remember when Pee-wee Herman would use scotch tape on his face to make his nose like a pig’s and other crazy things? Did you ever do that?
JG: Yeah! I remember that! He would tape his eyes in certain ways. I definitely did that when I was a kid. Boredom will lead to a lot of things, and tape can do all sorts of things. Luckily, I never rolled with a crew of people that would duct tape people to doors or poles or anything, but I knew people who did that kind of stuff.
AVC: Thanks for talking to us and have a safe trip. If you get bored, use that scotch tape on your face. You’ll be the most popular guy in the van.
JG: Hopefully we won’t have to tape up any tires. There are lots of blown-out tires where we are right now. I guess we could also rip our arm hair off with tape. That would be a good way to stay awake. I’m going to spend the rest of the ride thinking about all the things I can do with tape.