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The Outsiders: an interview with Josh Grier of Tapes ‘n Tapes

Nearly three years after releasing the band’s last album, 2008′s Walk it Off (XL Recordings), Tapes ‘n Tapes have returned with Outside. Dropping the 12 track album on their own Ibid Records imprint, Outside retains a distinctive Tapes ‘n Tapes flavor while also exhibiting a bit of musical maturity along the way. Speaking to lead vocalist and guitarist Josh Grier via email recently, he touched on this growth, expressing his focus to develop a new sense of patience within his music as he gets older. Through our conversation he also touched on the band’s decision to return to self-releasing their music, Tapes ‘n Tapes’ disinterest in releasing EPs, and the group’s consensus on working in side-projects. Outside is available in stores everywhere today, and thanks to Minneapolis’ Aesthetic Apparatus, a limited run of screen prints are being offered as a free gift to those who purchase the album from this list of shops.

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Chris DeLine: It’s been a little over a year since you played that trio of shows in the Twin Cities at clubs which sort of fall outside the norm (I guess that’s how I’d describe them). What was at the heart of wanting to play the smaller (or in the case of the Music Box, the unique) venues and what is the one thing you really took away from that experience?

Josh Grier: The idea of doing a “tour of the twin cities” was something we had talked about for a years. There are so many venues in town that we love to play at, we thought it would be fun to hop around town one weekend and play a few smaller shows. There’s also a rhythm that we always find after playing shows for a few days in a row. We never seem to be at home (in MSP) when that happens, so we wanted to change that. Being able to have that tour experience, while remaining at home in the Twin Cities, was awesome.

We hadn’t ever played an all-acoustic set, so when we decided that would be part of the “tour” we wanted to find a unique venue for the show. The Music Box was just starting to host concerts (after only hosting plays for years), so we had never played there. When we checked it out, it had a great vibe, and amazing acoustics, so it seemed perfect for the acoustic show.

CD: It wasn’t long before those shows that you debuted the backyard performance of “SWM” on MTV.com. While it’s slowly closing in on three years since Walk It Off was released, how many of the songs on Outside were recently written? How many go back as far as 2009 or before?

JG: Some go way back and some are more recent. I’d say it’s about 50-50. We write a lot when we are on tour, and a few of the songs on Outside were written on the tours supporting Walk It Off. Then we took some time off to relax and live a normal life for a bit. The rest of the songs were written more recently and then we recorded in March (2010).

CD: Has the band ever really considered dropping back and releasing an EP in place of a full-length album? It has to be a bit of an odd experience, releasing “new” material that is anything but new to you. Or at least I’d imagine it to be.

JG: There have been times when we’ve talked about doing another EP, but we haven’t ever seriously considered it. I think we would all just rather take a little extra time and put out an LP. If we have collection of 6-8 songs that we want to release, we might as well take a little more time and get 10-12 songs for a full album. It’s really just a personal preference.

The lag time between writing/recording songs and releasing them does get a little long sometimes. Unless you have enough resources to allow for a super quick turnaround time on your releases, it’s just part of the record making process.

CD: Speaking of EPs, this is the first album to be released on your Ibid Records—the first since your 2004 debut EP. Did your contract end with XL, did you try to shop the record around, or right from the beginning did you know that you wanted to self-release the new album?

JG: We did initially release The Loon on ibid Records, as well, before XL licensed it from us. Our contract ended with XL because we had fulfilled our commitment. We had a pretty good idea that we were going to release the record on our own from the start. We talked to a few people before we finalized that decision just to see what our options were, but we didn’t do much “shopping around.” Really, the only reason for us to work with a label was for distribution, but we were able to get great distribution on our own.

CD: Is “Outside” a remark on being outside, sort of on your own, once again?

JG: Yeah, that was part of it. There’s also some themes of wanderlust, so it seemed to fit the vibe of a lot of what was going on throughout the record.

CD: Something that I hear throughout the album is that it sounds like the band is becoming increasingly patient. “Badaboom” unravels slowly, which increases the feeling of emotion that resonates when the track lets loose. What sort of growth do you feel you see in the band since the last album?

JG: That’s good to hear, because I am trying. I’m a pretty impatient person, so I think that affects how I write songs, and how I listen to music, in general. Hopefully, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve chilled out a little. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s not a bad thing to let an idea build for a few minutes over the course of the song.

CD: I still hear a lot of the sort of bubbling energy that was felt with The Loon; “Freak Out” is probably my favorite example of that. When did you write that song and what is it about the track that led the band to release it as the first single?

JG: I think we started working on “Freak Out” in late 2009. It went through a couple of incarnations before it became the song that is on the record. Honestly, picking singles is a weird process. It just seemed like the most logical choice to be the first single. Also, a lot of our friends that listened to the record very early on liked that song best. It’s hard to argue with your friends.

CD: The tour you have coming up is really substantial (30+ dates!)… I know it’s always one step at a time, but has there been any thought as to what the band might be involved in come festival season?

JG: We would love play in some festivals this summer. We’ll see what works out.

CD: This is kind of an oddball, but I was just thinking about Vicious Vicious and Halloween, Alaska and I was curious if you had considered working on music aside form Tapes ‘n Tapes? In the past the band has seemed pretty open to pursuing other projects—has there ever been any sort of discussion around this?

JG: We definitely are all free to work on other projects outside of Tapes ‘n Tapes. Some of the other guys in the band do. I’m totally open to it, and probably have fake bands started with about 15 other people in Minneapolis, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I’m not working my full time job anymore, so maybe I can start Galatic Spatula or Beyond Jazz sometime in the near future.

Tapes ‘n Tapes “Freak Out”
Tapes ‘n Tapes “Hang Them All”


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