In the run up to Cassette Store Day in October, Getintothis’ Andy Holland talks to Hail Hail Records’ Sam Banks about his love of the music tape.
Much has been written about the current upsurge in vinyl sales. Record collectors go warm and fuzzy over the format, even if some critics are dismissive; arguing that CD is more faithful to how the artists intended their music to be heard. Some of them even go as far to say that many of those who buy vinyl rarely actually play it, and may not even possess a record player.
Whatever the truth, CD could never beat the presentation of a 12’’ LP record, with its often imaginative artwork, or capture the magic of the 7’’ single. Vinyl always seemed to make popular music an event, and perhaps that’s why it has never really gone away.
More surprising, however, is the re-emergence of the humble cassette-tape. It was always something of the poor relation, but in the pre-digital music world it was the first format that really democratised music-making. Even musicians who couldn’t afford one of those legendary four-track tape machines could get in on the act by getting hold of a double cassette player and attempt some rather crude, hissy overdubbing. Plus we could use a double-cassette deck to make multiple copies of our own cassette releases, and ‘mix-tapes’. Just ask anybody who was in band during the 1980s and 1990s and they’ll all tell you that their early demos were put together that way. The whole lo-fi movement came about as a consequence of cassettes.
Back then, loads of tiny independent labels established themselves by putting out limited-run cassette tapes. One of the most legendary of these – thanks in no small part to Kurt Cobain – was the US label, K Records, who famously released cassettes by Beat Happening!, and numerous other artists including a pre-major label Beck.
Digital recording has become so pervasive nowadays that it might have seemed rather inconceivable that cassette based record labels would return, but it seems that they have. Hail Hail Records is the brainchild of Sam Banks, who was inspired by working with his friend (and founder of EDILS Records) Philip Rourke, as well as the his own love of the DIY aesthetic.
‘[Philip] has worked tirelessly for years, something I hugely admire,’ Sam comments, ‘He has certainly done a lot to help not only the local music community, by bringing some pretty sweet bands to the DIY community of Liverpool, but on a broader perspective, releasing records from the US, Europe and New Zealand.’
Hail Hail Records is based in Liverpool, and has already released surf-rock shoegazers Echo Beach’s debut EP, and post-punkers Oh Well, Goodbye.
The label isn’t restricting itself to local artists though, having already put out cassettes by US artists; Justin Cheromiah, High Sunn, and Pallow. The label’s latest releases include the slacker rock vibes of Southampton based Psychic Shakes with his debut outing Psychic, and new to the roster is Tyler Burkhart, with his washed out guitar and melancholy melodies on his latest record Sweet Spell.
‘Individuality is the key,’ explains Sam, ‘whilst scouting for bands, be it at live shows or online for days on end, I’m drawn in by how bands present themselves. Yes, the music is unquestionable, pivotal in fact, but that isn’t everything I’m looking for.’
Hail Hail are set to be seeing out the year with limited edition cassette releases from Pope and Slow Bloom, so keep your eyes peeled for announcements and pre orders.
In fact, it’s too easy to lose track of independent labels in the vast seas of the digital age, but they are the ones helping the artists grow, to give fans, like you and me, the opportunity to discover new music. And Sam Banks is a music fan, after all, so he wants in on the trend towards vinyl, ‘We aim to distribute vinyl by the turn of the year, but also maintain our limited edition cassette tapes. We love them. We hope you do too. There also will be more live shows under the Hail Hail brand. We’ll grow, I’m sure of it.’