Average Joes | Tapes ‘N Tapes

2006’s biggest Internet buzz band is refreshingly…normal. Hell, they’re from Minneapolis. It doesn’t get much more normal than that.

 

You’ve probably heard of Tapes ‘n Tapes before, most likely on a music blog or a Web site. Maybe you downloaded their most buzzed-about track, “Insistor”; maybe not. Perhaps you dismissed them as another overrated product of the hype machine that is the music press. But where 2004’s the Arcade Fire were made up of artsy Canadian fucks, and 2005’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were made up of artsy New York City fucks, 2006’s biggest Internet buzz band is refreshingly…normal. Hell, they’re from Minneapolis. It doesn’t get much more normal than that.

On paper, Tapes ‘n Tapes’ debut album The Loon sounds like everything else that’s out there right now. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Pavement and Pixies comparisons don’t exactly excite me the 50th time around. But as my wise Latin teacher would say, “What you do, you do well,” and there’s no other way to say it: These guys do music well. Bright and urgent guitars mix with frontman Josh Grier’s wonderfully terrible voice for an upbeat sound that belies a sense of melancholy hidden just beneath the surface.

As I mention my observations to Grier about the album, he describes the environment that The Loon was born out of. “A lot of the songs were written while I was living in a dirty studio apartment by myself. I’d never lived on my own before.” He pauses. “You might find some darker places there.”

Poorly lit areas aside, The Loon is also home to some deliciously obtuse lyrics. “It’s weird,” he admits. “I think, unless there’s a particular point to the song, like I’m trying to tell a story, the words usually just serve as sounds. Then I’ll try to match words to sounds and try to make it so that it lyrically doesn’t detract from the song.”

When I ask Grier about the line, “I’ve been a better lover than your mother,” taken from the excellent “Cowbell,” he laughs. “We were playing and it just came out, and we were like, oh man let’s keep that; it’s pretty dirty.”

But while music is important and all, let’s be honest here: There are more factors than just sound in determining the next big thing. What makes Tapes ‘n Tapes so appealing is their normalcy. These are not Lower East Side hipsters, make no mistake. An inquiry about the band’s current tour leads us to a recounting of Grier’s brush with two drug users, and he does so with such glee and bewilderment that it’s downright endearing. “I was out in the van. After five minutes, I hear this noise and were these two dudes smoking crack outside!” He chuckles before adding, “We don’t see that a lot.”

So when I ask about Grier’s musical tastes during his formative years, it’s fitting, somehow, that his favorite artist as a child was Bruce Springsteen, the ultimate everyman. “When I was about four or five, my parents had to teach me how to use a record player because I wanted to listen to Born in the USA over and over again.”

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