On the phone with 26-year-old lead singer and guitarist Josh Grier of Minneapolis-based indie rockers Tapes 'n Tapes, talking about their debut album The Loon, the conversation turns to food. "The name The Loon," Grier reveals, "refers to the deli that's right around the corner from here, the Saloon Deli. They make really good chicken gyros and burgers and stuff."
Though the state bird of Minnesota is the loon, the reference was inadvertent. "We realized that afterwards," he says.
Many things about this band are by default or just happen from messing around; their early songs were chance compositions made using a food-related gadget.
"Back in 2003, before we were really a band," Grier's story goes, "me and my roommate from Carleton College, Steve, had a couple of late nights with a four-track recorder and a couple of drinks and we would get an egg timer and set the timer and start playing an improvised song — and it couldn't be anything we'd ever played before and when the timer went off, the song was done. After about two or three nights of doing this we had tapes and tapes worth of songs. And I thought it would be cool to name the band Tapes 'n Tapes."
Tapes 'n Tapes shares Animal Collective's playfulness and experimental spirit; and Grier, like AC's Avey Tare, has a penchant for slightly nonsensical lyrics. What does "And when you rush I'll call your name like Harvard Square holds all inane," from their runaway single, "Insistor," mean?
"Hopefully it doesn't sound completely ridiculous. I definitely try to make things that can be interpreted in different ways by different people," says Grier. "Of the bands that I really like, for the most part the lyrics are always something that are open-ended. It's mostly the way in which lyrics are delivered that define what it means."
Grier's messy, mumbling folk-singer delivery is the rudder of each song, his voice — supple and edgy and at the same time full of exciting glissandos — hitting just the right spots in perfectly pitched yelps. Grier and company write rapturous hooks, and like many alt-rock outfits forgo the formality of bridges. Their songs employ haphazard chants, riffs, vamps and improvisational bursts of the jam-band variety, and they're adept at texturizing sound through the alternation of plugged and unplugged components and the interjection of odd percussive elements like sleigh bells, tambourines and triangles.
"It's just the instruments that we had at the time," says Grier.
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