Rewind: Tapes play to new generation
In the past few years, lovers and collectors of music have made clear their fascination with the recovery and redistribution of decades-old audio mediums.
The vinyl market saw a resurgence circa 2010 when both independent and major record labels began pressing records again due to demand, according to The Independent.
Hattiesburg residents are no exception – especially evident in T-Bones Records’ popularity – but vinyl is not the only medium finding new life.
According to local punker Hampton Martin, if CDs are the Terminator, then audio cassettes are Kyle Reese: They have “seen better days but can still put up a fight with the best.”
“The only good thing that came out of CDs was the Compact Disc logo,” Martin said. “Holding a CD in your hand just feels cheap, just another thing to misplace and lose. But tapes, there’s a physicality there – weight and feeling.”
Tapes are not loved by a few but by many. Martin’s tape sales reflect that.
“Between all my bands, I’ve probably sold over 500 tapes at this point,” Martin said. “I could never sell anywhere near that much with [CDs]. It’s 2016. If people want your music, they will get it off the internet. Bandcamp and peer-to-peer sharing programs have made music CDs and ripping the audio obsolete.”
Martin said tapes are innovative and come out on top in the end.
“It’s just so much more fun playing a tape – the physicality of flipping sides, pressing play on that old-a** tape deck you found at your mom’s house that still sounds good as new,” Martin said. “The warmth of tones that comes from a tape is like no other medium.”
Ri Wardlow, half of Hattiesburg lo-fi duo Jizz Kitten, said producing and selling tapes makes the distribution process intimate.
“From the amount of work you put into recording the tape, to the art you add, to the cover of the tape and even the warmer sound you get from the cassette – I think it’s a very nostalgic, personal feeling compared to how a lot of the music we obtain is digital and less intimate,” Wardlow said. “It almost reflects a simpler time when people made more of an effort to try to connect with one another.”
Wardlow said one of the reasons for using cassettes again is to achieve a comforting sense of “what things used to be like.”
“I feel like since we grew up in the age that technology really peaked and took over as the norm, a lot of us feel like we would have been happier if things hadn’t become so impersonal and mainstreamed,” Wardlow said.
Musician and former Hattiesburg resident Kris Kolakowski said tapes “add natural compression and saturation to recordings, giving things a bit of warmth.”
“Lots of producers bounce tracks to cassette and then back into software to give them a bit of depth and character,” Kolakowski said. “You’d be surprised at some of the prices that secondhand cassette mixers reach.”
According to Martin, cassettes offer versatility to recording artists.
“You can buy old used tapes and just record over them,” Martin said. “There’s a home-brew quality that gives life to the artist’s work in a cassette tape. Any idiot with a computer can make a CD. But it takes a crafty idiot to make a tape.”