Local Current Blog

Tapes ‘n Tapes frontman Josh Grier on the band’s impending hiatus and his new solo project

Credit: Nate Ryan/MPR

Tapes ‘n Tapes are heading up to Fergus Falls next week to participate in the traveling Minnesota music showcase Caravan du Nord. It’ll be the first time they’ve played since last April’s set in Winona, Minnesota for the Mid West Music Fest, and the last time they’ll play together in quite some time.

The band isn’t breaking up, however. With no new album to promote or reason to get back in the tour van right now, they’ll be taking an informal hiatus to focus on other projects.

This morning, I sat down for coffee with frontman Josh Grier to find out more about what’s new in Tapes ‘n Tapes’ world, chat about his forthcoming solo project, Ginkgo, and get his thoughts on releasing music and staying relevant in today’s information-overloaded world.

Local Current: I’ve heard rumblings that next week’s Tapes ‘n Tapes show in Fergus Falls could be the last one in a long time. What’s up?

Josh Grier: This is the last thing we have scheduled, and it definitely will be the last thing we have for a while. We’re all just busy with a lot of other stuff. We all still watch football together on Sundays, but the band — we’ve been doing it for a long time, and we’re all at a point now where we all have our own lives. Erik [Appelwick]’s doing Vicious Vicious stuff and has a job, Matt [Kretzman]’s doing his thing, and Jeremy [Hanson]’s playing with everybody in town. We got the last record out and it was good, but the “cycle,” as it were, is over. It’s not like we don’t have any plans to do anything in the future, we just don’t have anything on the schedule. So it’s kind of like play this show, have a good time, and then we’ll see what happens when things happen. 

That’s kind of always been the way we operated, though. We’ve never said, “Oh, we have to do this, we have these hardcore goals for success, we need to do these things to keep on the path to get to where we want to be.” We always just were having a good time with it, and things seemed to work out well. So we just kept on doing it. Now we’re at a point where it’s like, well, that last record went well and it was fun touring, but we all have jobs and lives and things, and so we’re going to kind of do our thing for a while and we’ll see what happens.

Do you feel like, being in a touring band, you get locked into needing to have a new album out to make each lap around the country worthwhile?

Oh yeah, for sure. There’s definitely a cycle. You’ve got to record an album, you do press leading up to the release of the album, you release your album, then you go on tour once, maybe twice, then you repeat. Indefinitely. [laughs] Touring can be really hard on you. Not to sound like a fuddy duddy, but the older you get, the more you realize it’s like, alright, well, do I want to be in a van with these four dudes for the next two and half months, and then do it again in six months? And then just kind of keep on doing it? I think sometimes you’ve just gotta be like, alright, well, let’s not tour this year. There’s some bands that just have a following, that just constantly tour, and they don’t necessarily put out records. But that’s never really been our thing.

Tapes ‘n Tapes at First Avenue this past January

Tell me about your new project, Ginkgo. How did you know that these new tunes weren’t Tapes ‘n Tapes songs?

I’m not sure. I was writing songs, and I was like, oh, I think these are just weirder. With Tapes stuff, and when you’re in a band with people, you bring things in, you work things out with everybody, and there’s processes. I think when you’re in a band that’s been around for a while and has put out records, you’re just like, well, this is kind of how we do things. I’ve never felt like, “oh, this is the Tapes ‘n Tapes sound, we have to be a certain way,” but at the same time it’s like, if I’m doing something that’s totally random and different, I can just do whatever the hell I want and not be at all concerned about, oh, does this fit in? Who’s going to play this part? I don’t need to worry about it. I can just have fun with it and mess around.

Have you recorded anything yet?

Yep. It’s getting close, it’s getting close. I’m excited about it. Jeremy [Hanson] did a lot of the beat programming on it, and played some drums on it, but then I did everything else. I’m really excited for people to hear it, because it’s been a long time of me being down in my basement twiddling knobs and doing stuff. I don’t have any expectations. I don’t know what will happen with it. But it’s almost done. It’s always nice to go from the stage where it’s all in your head to the stage where it’s done and you can start doing other stuff.

Twiddling knobs and weirdness, huh? How else would you describe the sound?

I always hear people talk about how folks approach music and everybody’s like, “oh, well I had this inspiration for this record,” or “this is what I was going for”… For me, I always just have a song, I write it, and I’m like, oh, yeah! This is how this song is supposed to be. It’s just like, these are my songs. It’s how I wanted it to sound? I played guitar, I had some keyboard ideas, I did some stuff with it. [laughs]

When will we get to hear Gingko?

It’s getting really close. I’m getting all my websites and stuff up to go right now, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, all the stuff that’s so integral to making music. [laughs] I’ll have more in the near future, for people to hear and just more information about it. But yeah, I’m super psyched, because it’s very close to being done.

I feel like Tapes ‘n Tapes is such an interesting story because you came along at a time when music journalism shifted into the “blogosphere.” Do you have to consider, when taking a hiatus from the band or launching a solo project, how it will be churned through the information cycle?

You mean people taking my words out of context, or putting words in my mouth, or saying we did something we didn’t do? Yeah, that happens all the time. I mean, it’s obviously annoying, because you really want to be able to have people listen to what you’re saying as opposed to taking things and putting them in their own way, but at the same time, it’s a constant news cycle, and everybody’s always looking for a story. You can’t control what other people are going to say about you. I think the only thing you can do is put your information out there and hope people pay attention to that and believe it. 

Things have definitely changed a lot since I started making music in a band. When I started making music in a band — this is the old grandpa story — all of this internet stuff wasn’t very prevalent. So it was a lot harder to hear bands. It was harder for people to find music, and harder for you to get your music out to people. Now, that’s all changed, but it means it’s just a wash of information. One person picks up on one story, and then that can be your story, even though it’s not true. There’s only so much you can do to control that, so you’ve just kind of gotta roll with it and hope that people have some level of fact-checking, quality control that they’re using. And using their best judgment and actually paying attention to what you say.

But I think it falls a lot on the artist to make sure they’re putting things out there. If you don’t put much information out there, it’s easy for people to misconstrue your story and take it in their own way. But a lot of times you put a lot of information out there and nobody pays any attention to it, so… [laughs] What can you do? You can’t win.

What’s it like to now operate in a world where you can release your music online, instantaneously?

It’s definitely freeing. It’s a liberating experience. I mean, with the last Tapes record, we could have done that too, because we were releasing it ourselves. We made a decision about how we wanted to go about it. It’s nice, though. With this [Gingko] record, it’s just like, well I could put it on the internet in three days, and it’d be like, “Here! Everybody can have it!” But at the same time it’s like, well, you want to put a little bit of thought into it. For this record I’ve put a year and a half of writing, recording — and then you put it out there and somebody can dismiss it in 10 seconds. They can be like, “oh, well, I don’t like this one song that I downloaded for free and I’m not going to pay attention to it.” You want to put a little thought into how you’re going to put it out there, so maybe it has a chance of somebody giving it a second to listen to it and make their own opinion about it. But I think the fact you can put things out there in so many ways is really great. I think it’s good for everybody. People are figuring a lot of things out right now.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share for now?

If anybody takes anything away from this interview, it’s that Tapes isn’t going to be playing for a long time, but don’t read too much into that. We all have musical endeavors that we’re pursuing in the interim.

You’re not quitting music to start a hobby farm or something.

No, not at all. [laughs] None of us are quitting music, we’re all doing things that we enjoy. We just don’t quite know what our next step is going to be. Which is fine.