A Paean to the Cassette Tape

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Antiquated as they may seem, tapes were once both an important adjunct of teenage dating rituals and a staple of rock-show bootleg culture. On September 7, more than 50 bands—Flaming Lips, Animal Collective, and Haim among them—will revisit the medium with cassette-only releases for the inaugural Cassette Store Day. Here, some of the participants explain their adherence to the modest magnetic tape.

“They’re not the best way to listen to sound, but I like them as objects.” ”
—Stephen McRobbie of the Pastels

“A lot of those fledgling relationships that I cultivated as a 15-, 16-,17-year-old relied heavily on cassette tapes. You’re never going to have that sort of romance in a media-file upload or a zip file attached to an e-mail.””
—Gareth Paisey of Los Campesinos!

“Cassettes are the most populist audio format.” ”
—Mat Lewis of Grape Soda

“CDs scratch and skip. Vinyl you can only listen to in your living room. I’ve got a Fleetwood Mac tape that I’ve spilled a cup of coffee on, and the cassette is at least twenty years old.” ”
—Beckett Hills of Sur

“It’s cheap but not disposable.” ”
—Sam Ray of Teen Suicide

“Tape is an instrument, and some recordings just sound best on cassette.””
—Jason Sigal of Lame Drivers

“I made a tape that we used to listen to all the time that had segments from the Dr. Seuss cartoon How The Grinch Stole Christmas mixed with segments of my mother’s favorite Tom Jones records and new things like Stereolab, all just blended together.””
—Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips

“It’s become pretty trendy to have tapes as a format, even though they sound pretty bad. But I just like the idea of participating in something that is kind of pointless and fun.””
—Sean Forbes of Hard Skin

“Nothing beats the sound of an old tape in your car. They have this hands-on, clumsy quality. They sort of speak the truth to me.” ”
—Jonathan Clancy of His Clancyness

“You can throw them at people, and they don’t break.” ”
—Matt Flag of Fair Ohs

“What I deeply love about this format is that it invites you to listen to the record in its entire length.” ”
—Federico Oppi of Spakkiano

“I had a girl make me stuff one time, and it was like Mazzy Star, and sweet stuff like that. It was super-corny. I couldn’t believe she gave me something like that. And now we have two kids. She made me a mix tape, and I made her a baby.”
—Louiche Mayorga of Suicidal Tendencies

A Paean to the Cassette Tape