Let's Go to the Tape How to reel in listeners in the digital age.

D.C. “mystic country” act the Cassettes has served up psych-tinged twang-punk for nearly a decade. But despite its name, the Cassettes’ recordings have always been CD-only. That is, until this year, when the band released Countach—a bona fide cassette tape that comes packaged with a toy car and horse. Frontman Shelby Cinca elaborates on what’s involved in manufacturing a kickass tape.

“We were hassled quite a bit for years at the merch table by snarky individuals asking why we didn’t have cassettes for sale. So we figured it was time to do that. Plus, we feel like it’s a much better cultural object than a boring CD that ends up in a closet after being ripped to a MacBook or [is] used as a coaster for a soy latte.”

Countach is inspired by major-label cassettes of the ’80s. The imagery itself is influenced by a lot of different sources like Bob Seger, Van Halen, the Melvins, and odd records found in dusty record bins at Orpheus Records.…Purposefully copying questionable design from generic ’80s rock cassettes is actually difficult, because you have to make bad choices on purpose.”

“Conveniently, [Springfield, Va.–based] Lion Recording Services—the same manufacturer that made my cassette-only Frodus album from 1994, is still in business!”

“Tape has a pleasing natural compression, and it also forces the sequence on the listener. I think the album flows better on the tape than on MP3 version, and we customized the track listing accordingly with cross-fades, and even a bonus track. Actually, it kind of feels like a show.”

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“We know that not everyone has a cassette player, so we include a high-quality download card called the Countach Club Card, where the end user can input a one-time code on our Web site (thecassettes.com/countachclub) to download the songs and bonus content.”

“Fun fact: You can open a cassette case until the cover area is 45 degrees to the back area with the two spool pegs and use it as a great business-card holder for your desk.”

“We picked a horse, because the last song on the album, ‘Oxford,’ has the lyrics ‘Gonna ride that horse, gonna ride it hard, gonna ride that horse through the preacher’s yard’ and is very much about a journey on a steed. Originally we wanted to package the tape with toy Lamborghini Countaches. The price point was too high for those, even at wholesale rates, so we went for a random assortment of cars instead.…The artwork and even the music I would say is inspired by connecting to our ‘inner children’ to kind of make the album we would have wanted to make when we were 12.”

Music 2008 Contents
In Record Time
If full-length albums are dead, why do so many people still want them?
A Rap Old Age
Is hip-hop growing up or having its Yacht Rock moment?
Bargain Binge
Labels cut back in 2008, but that's only good news for mainstream hip-hop.
Let's Go to the Tape
How to reel in listeners in the digital age.
Beats Working
Local DJs on why D.C.'s dance scene flourished in 2008
Decks Support
For those putting their turntables to good use, local vinyl retailers reveal their bestselling LPs of the year.
Goin' Viral
A close reading of the year's most...distinctive music videos
Top Ten Albums of 2008

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