By now, a group practicing the Do-It-Yourself ethic follows a well-worn trail. Though going it alone booking your own shows, recording in friends' basements, selling your own merch, designing your Web site is still a rough uphill climb, there are mechanisms (especially in indie rock) that can snatch you out of the basement.
Such has been the case with Minnesota indie rockers Tapes 'n Tapes. The group released their debut album, The Loon, on a small budget last November and saw the thing blast off.
"It was probably the cheapest record ever made," says 19-year-old drummer Jeremy Hanson. "But we really wanted to make it as good as we could with what we had. So it was the first full-length for the band, and our expectations and hopes were just that we could put it out, and maybe more people would hear it than heard the EP. And, like, maybe have a good amount sold at our CD release party, and, you know, maybe get it into more of the local stores. But that was really it.
"And those were high expectations. We were excited. It was like, "If we could do that, it would be awesome.'"
Expectations were exceeded just days after The Loon was released, when big media outlets started sniffing around Tapes 'n Tapes' blog. Internet tastemakers Pitchfork Media gave the album a high 8.3 rating, praising the band for finding a way to channel the jingly jangles of Pavement and the weird pop abrasions of The Pixies without sounding confused or derivative. More mainstream rags like Rolling Stone and the New York Times followed suit, impressed by the album's balance of backdoor hooks and stylistic eclecticism. Listening to the garage-blues-meets-punk-meets-The-Beach-Boys of "Crazy Eights," and the woozy twilight pop balladry of "Manitoba," you begin to hear what the fuss is about.
After wowing just about everyone else in the indie universe with multiple blistering sets at this year's South by Southwest, the band scored a record deal with XL and their first extensive headlining tour.
The name Tapes 'n Tapes which is the first serious project for most in the group comes from proper DIY beginnings. Hanson says the moniker refers to a game that primary songwriter Josh Grier and his roommate used to play, where they'd compete to see how many songs they could record while a kitchen timer counted down. "And, by the end," says Hanson, "they had tapes and tapes of these songs."
From recording tunes in the privacy of their own apartment to selling out consecutive nights at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, Tapes 'n Tapes are rolling with their unexpected momentum. But, Hanson admits, it still feels quite surreal.
"It happened really fast," he says of the past year's successes. "We were really surprised."
Tapes 'n Tapes, with the Figurines and Cold War Kids
Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver
Thursday, June 22, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10, all ages; available at the door. Call 303/291-1007 for more info