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What's that hiss? Cassette Store Day returns to record shops

Alexander Charos made you a mixtape.

It's got fast songs, slow songs, sad songs, shaggy songs and everything in between. All are by Tampa Bay artists, and most were recorded at Charos' home studio in St. Petersburg.

But just as crucial to the "mix" is the "tape" — Viva La Records Mixtape Vol. 1 is an actual, physical cassette, and you can get it for free on Saturday at Daddy Kool Records as part of the third annual Cassette Store Day.

"I've loved tapes for a long time," said Charos, the singer of Alexander and the Grapes and head of the label Viva La Records. "I feel that a cassette is the best format for a mix. Me and my friends would make each other all the time back in high school. I approached this project like I was making a mixtape for my friends."

That sense of nostalgia for the '80s and '90s is part of why cassettes have made an unexpected comeback — especially among younger fans — over the past few years. While not yet as omnipresent as vinyl records, tapes have become hot enough that artists like Metallica, MGMT and N.W.A. have all dropped cassettes for the indie-store holiday known as Record Store Day. On Saturday, Green Day will reissue its landmark album Dookie on tape.

But that's only the beginning of cassettes' cultural moment. One of the top-selling albums of 2014 was Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1, a compilation based on the mixtape prized by the Marvel movie's hero, Peter Quill (it, too, received a cassette release last Black Friday). The acclaimed documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck takes its name from a mixtape Cobain made in high school.

All of this has turned cassettes into commodities. At National Audio Company in Springfield, Mo., the only large remaining cassette factory left in the United States, sales are up 20 percent over 2014, according to Bloomberg Business.

"This year we've definitely seen an increase in the amount of tapes we're selling," said Erin Stoy, marketing manager for the Sound Exchange, which has locations in Tampa, Brandon and Pinellas Park. "The market for them is relatively small, but certain genres of music, like metal, get cassette collectors very excited."

Stoy said the store has recently picked up a few big tape collections that it will be have on shelves just for Cassette Store Day, along with select national releases. In addition to Dookie, the national list includes tapes by Awolnation, the Gaslight Anthem, Method Man and Motorhead among others.

Along with sponsoring Charos' mixtape, Daddy Kool is releasing a limited run of Draft Beer Not Me by Florida punk band Belching Penguin. Charos will be at the store on Saturday handing out free copies of the tape (for those unfamiliar with such antiquated technology, it'll also be available via download at vivalarecords.bandcamp.com).

 

That night, Alexander and the Grapes and some of their mixtape collaborators will play a free release party at the Bends, 919 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

The mixtape is Viva La Records' fourth cassette release, but their first compilation. Charos said he hopes to do them more frequently, perhaps even quarterly.

"I had a lot of fun, and everyone who contributed is really talented," he said. "I'm stoked for people to hear them."

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

Cassette Store Day

For a list of releases and participating stores, see cassettestoreday.us.

What's that hiss? Cassette Store Day returns to record shops 10/16/15 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2015 5:33pm]
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