By Mike O’Cull www.mikeocull.com
In case you haven’t heard, cassettes are back. Those happy little bundles of analog coolness have actually been on the rebound for the last few years, thanks in large part to younger music fans who seek a more physical experience than modern streaming culture can provide. Many bands in the indie sphere are currently releasing tapes and cassette-only labels have sprung up in many cities.
Dumpster Tapes is one such imprint right here in Chicago. Label partners Ed McMenamin and Alex Fryer have done well, by the standards of cassette culture, which flies way under the mainstream radar, and have put out more than a few titles that fall into the indie/garage/pop/psychedelic/punk region. The label was born in Chicago a little over five years ago when McMenamin and Fryer discovered they both had dreams of starting one.
“We decided that there was enough exciting stuff in Chicago at the time in music,” Fryer said, “and we had a wide array of friends who hadn’t released anything on a hard physical format so it would be a good time to jump into something.” The first release was a split tape featuring the bands Son of a Gun and Grosse Pointe and the partners have been steady rolling ever since. Over forty tapes have been launched out into the world so far and the label has maintained connections with the artists with which it has worked. Both are indicators of success in today’s ultra-transient music business.
“We both liked tapes,” McMenamin continues, “and we were both already listening to under-the-radar-type bands on cassette because it’s a great way for a new band to get their stuff out there.” After consulting a few friends who had previously done the cassette thing, they decided to make a go of it. Dumpster Tapes gives Ed and Alex a chance to get involved with artists they like and help them along.
When asked what was so attractive about the cassette format, McMenamin points to the sheer affordability of tapes for both the artist and the fan. Neither one has to invest major bucks to release or purchase a cassette and this, alone, has brought many bands into the world of tapes. “You also don’t want to discount the nostalgia factor, in a fun way, about tapes,” he goes on to say, “and, beyond that, especially with a home-dubbed tape with artwork done by people in the community, you get that hand-made object, a little piece of art.”
If this is getting you hot to go old school, International Cassette Store Day is Saturday, October 13th, 2018 and would be an outstanding time to jump back into the format. Dumpster Tapes will be part of an event on Cassette Store Day happening at Bric a Brac Records (3156 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago, IL 60647, 773-654-3915, www.bricabracrecords.com). It’s free, goes from noon until 7PM, and will feature live bands and other cassette labels from Chicago. Bands slated to play include Strawberry Jacuzzi, Wet Piss, The Medium, and Faux Furrs. An all-day tape fair sounds like fun, doesn’t it?