After storming this year's SXSW festival, and signing to major label XL, Minneapolis' Tapes 'n Tapes' debut album The Loon has finally been released in the UK. As the band prepare for another UK tour, Chimpomatic talked to Matt Kretzmann about their new-found success - as well as Minneapolis's most famous miniature rock-star.
Chimpomatic: Tell us a little bit of the story of Tapes ‘n Tapes. How and when did you meet, and what got you started forming a band and writing music?
Matt Kretzmann: Josh and his college friend Steve moved up to Minneapolis after college. I had met Steve the previous year studying abroad in Norway. We became good friends talking about music and many other topics. They had done some band stuff in college and Josh wanted to get it going again. Josh and Steve began to do some late night recording sessions with a four-track and a kitchen timer. There were rules to the game. You couldn't play anything you'd played before, you couldn't steal other people's riffs, and when the timer "dinged" the song was over. These songs weren't exactly "hits" per se, but they kind of got the ball rolling as far as starting the band. Josh and Steve convinced me (a trombone and euphonium player) to learn how to play bass, since they didn't know many other musicians in town at the time. We were all buddies and it was cool that they lived only about six blocks from my apartment. This was the winter of 2003. I played along with Pixies' "Doolittle" about twenty times and then just learned by ear. For drums, Josh made beats with a bad computer program and we played along with the cd player. This incarnation of the band lasted approximately two and a half shows. Steve went off to grad school the following summer so Josh and I recruited a real drummer and eventually began to tap into the Minneapolis music scene opening for other bands and trying to get better. Since then the band has had some line-up changes and now we're a four-piece and I no longer play bass (cause I wasn't very good at it).
Chimpomatic: How did it all come together that you went to SXSW, and what happened after that?
Matt Kretzmann: We applied to go to SXSW in the fall even before we released the record ourselves. We got accepted in December or January. When we started getting more attention from the blogs we booked some more of those day parties, which is why we ended up having about 9 performances while we were there. Since then (and before then) our main goal has been to work hard and get out on the road as much as possible. In May, we finalized the deal with XL. That relieved some pressure on us (especially our manager Keri) on dealing with distributing the record and working on publicity. We've been touring for most of the year, and will likely be touring for most of the rest of the year.
Chimpomatic: 2006 is shaping up to be a busy year. What else is in store for Tapes ‘n Tapes?
Matt Kretzmann: Tours 'n Tours! It's looking like we will finally have time to slow down and working on writing and recording around the first of the year.
Chimpomatic: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Matt Kretzmann: Tough question, there's been so many this year and we continue to be amazed. Earlier this year it might have been selling out some shows at small clubs in New York or getting to go to SXSW. Recently, we've already done our first tour of the UK, had a great first headlining tour, and played on the Letterman show this week. Speaking for myself though (and some of the guys might agree), selling out (the legendary) First Avenue in Minneapolis last Saturday was probably one of the most euphoric musical experiences of my life. It's our hometown and that club is kind of the rock mecca (outside Minneapolis as well).
Chimpomatic: British music tastes are very sporadic and often trend led - veering from Rock, through the dance music heavy late 90’s era when no-one in England wanted to play guitar. Now it’s all about guitars again. Have you got any past bands hanging in the closet, or were you always about guitar music?
Matt Kretzmann: Josh and Steve wrote one hip hop jam back during those earlier four-track sessions. It was kind of a joke, but it was actually a fan favorite for a while -- we continued to play it live at about every show. One time, we got to open for The Streets when they came through Minneapolis. We didn't play it at that show.
Chimpomatic: American music has always maintained a more focused course, and kept a consistent thread of honesty with bands like the Black Flag, Pixies, Fugazi, Guided By Voices. Who are the bands that influenced you?
Matt Kretzmann: Actually all those bands you mention have been influential for us (especially the last three). Our influences are really all over the place though. I studied some jazz in college and continue to listen to that a lot. Josh spent a solid year during university listen to a lot of Brit pop (stuff like Pulp, Blur, Supergrass). Jeremy grew up on the blues and classic rock. Erik is into a lot of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Buddy Miles. Josh and I are also really in to Wire, which strikes me as a band that fits the description about as being focused and in keeping with a consistent thread of honesty.
Chimpomatic: I got into a huge variety of music by reading the thanks you notes on the Minutemen’s ‘Ballot Result’ album sleeve. Following the links through Creedence, Richard Hell, Wire, Television and dozens of bands it would have taken me years to come across otherwise. What are some of the bands that you would associate yourselves with in terms of ethic and mentality?
Matt Kretzmann: We've actually been talking about the Minutemen a lot lately. The whole "we jam econo" ethic. We certainly have more of a pop or indie rock sound than punk, but I think we relate to the punk ethic in a lot of ways. Touring in a minimal way. Doing a lot with a little or making the most with what you have.
Chimpomatic: Are there a lot more good new bands from Minneapolis?
Matt Kretzmann: Definitely. It's always been a really good scene with a lot of people making good diverse music. We haven't been around much lately, but certainly bands like the Plastic onstellations, Dosh, Duplomacy, Fog, and probably many others I'm forgetting right now are bands that we really like and cover a wide sonic spectrum. If there's one criticism of the scene it's that because it is such a nuturing scene, a lot of times, people don't get out of town enough to try to push their music.
Chimpomatic: Who are some of the other new bands that you have come across on your touring?
Matt Kretzmann: Our tour with the Cold War Kids and Figurines was great! We also played with a band out of Missouri called "Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin" that was a good time.
Chimpomatic: You’re back in London for another show in August. How has then reception been in the UK, and how does that compare to the US?
Matt Kretzmann: We're definitely excited to be coming back already! Our tour in May was great -- most of the shows were sold out at the smaller clubs that we played. Our US tour in June was great as well though with most of those shows sold out too. I guess I can't complain about either! We feel really fortunate to have gotten a really good reception wherever we've gone (so far).
Chimpomatic: Is Reading going to be the biggest gig so far?
Matt Kretzmann: It could very well be. We just played the Siren Festival in Brooklyn, NY for about 5-10,000 people so that was pretty crazy too. I'll have to get back to you on that one!
Chimpomatic: Who are you looking forward to playing alongside at your upcoming festival shows?
Matt Kretzmann: For sure the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Broken Social Scene, Devendra Banhart, Silver Jews, Jens Lekman, Spoon, Modest Mouse. Oh! We're playing with Snoop Dogg and Kanye West at Street Scene in San Diego!!
Chimpomatic: You made your own success by recording, promoting and even posting your own music. Has it been a relief to leave the day jobs and have some help running the band, or will you continue to be as hands on as possible?
Matt Kretzmann: Josh actually is still holding on to his day job. Miraculously. But yes, for the most part, it has been a relief to have good support from the label to do the business side of things, but we continue to be very hands on with all aspects of the band. It's a good situation for us though because now we definitely have more time to work on the music.
Chimpomatic: Are you still planning to be driving ‘muffin’ the van this time next year, or do you think you’ll soon be stepping up to a Lear Jet?
Matt Kretzmann: Ol' "Muffin" is near and dear to our hearts. We really don't mind the van. Sometime the drives get a little brutal but we tough it out. We're pretty low maintenance.
Chimpomatic: Bands with a debut album inevitably play a lot of that album on tour, but as the newer albums take precedence, older songs get dropped. Insistor is the obvious classic on first listen, but after more plays the tracks like Omaha and Manitoba seem more involved. What are the strongest songs on The Loon, and what kind of direction will you be taking with future material?
Matt Kretzmann: I couldn't really say what the strongest songs are on the record. We're probably all a little to close to it to make that kind of call. I do think the reason "The Loon" has done well is because it is a strong album with good songs front to back so we're happy with it in that sense. As far as new material goes, we have a couple things in the works now, but it's difficult to say what it will sound like. We've always kind of just done whatever we want though, whatever we think sounds good, so it will probably be more of that.
Chimpomatic: The B-side seems to have been killed by the download single – with hardly any bands bothering any more. It’s good to see that ‘Insistor’ featured a non album track on the B-Side. You recorded The Loon nearly a year ago now - even though it’s not even out in the UK yet. Do you have a backlog of new material in development?
Matt Kretzmann: We honestly haven't had enough time to have loads of new material in development, but like I said, we'll hopefully be able to slow down and work once winter comes. We have some stuff, but we don't feel pressed to force it if it's not ready.
Chimpomatic: Tell us a little bit of the story behind “The Iliad”. I can’t take Homer seriously since “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Matt Kretzmann: I guess I don't know -- maybe Josh was reading that at the time!
Some pop quiz questions:
Chimpomatic: What are some of your top 5 songs or albums?
John Coltrane - Giant Steps
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Summerteeth a close second)
Wire - Chairs Missing
The Wrens - The Meadowlands
Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
Chimpomatic: What would a guided tour of Minneapolis involve?
Matt Kretzmann: First Avenue of course! There's lots of other great stuff though too. We'd probably ride bikes.
Chimpomatic: Husker Du or Prince?
Matt Kretzmann: Unfair question. but, if pressed, PRINCE. undeniable genius.
Chimpomatic: Sean Connery or Roger Moore?
Matt Kretzmann: Connery.
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