As many of you music junkies might know, cassettes, like vinyl, as a medium for releasing music, has not faded away completely despite the advancement and the never ending evolution of technology. Many labels still release cassettes as their ONLY format today, and it’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.
I had a chance to chat with Alex, the founder of Fox Pop Recording Co. Fox Pop is a relatively new label based in Grand Rapids, and solely releasing cassettes and packing a punch at the same time.
Me: How did the Fox Pop Recording Company come to be?
Alex: Well, when I was sixteen years old, I was in the suburbs and it was really boring. I got a huge record collection and I liked making mix tapes a lot. So I decided that I wanted to make some tapes for my friends. Turned out like a club; we did it locally, just some kids in my high school. It was called the Fox Pop Tape Club. And what I would do is I would just make mix tapes and, you know, give it to people. I bought the records, made a tape, taped it. That drifted to me talking to my friend from Tasmania, which was Andy Brazendale, and I just released a tape of his… and after that, I talked to Von Hemmling. And I released the Von Hemmling tape and it just kept going from there.
–Both cassettes are still available on the label’s home page.–
Me: What have been your inspirations?
Alex: I just really enjoy tapes. I really enjoy uniqueness of them. I like doing the artwork and layout. Like a lot of the layouts for Fox Pop stuff. It’s a lot of copy and paste kind of stuff—like just cutting and gluing stuff together and scanning it. I guess it’s just a good way for me to bring use for that and just share music with friends, I guess the biggest influence.
Me: What are your goals for the label?
Alex: There is a little interest for another Fox Pop Tape Club, but this is a little different. Remember back in the 70s you could get like Columbia (Records) subscriptions and then they would send you a record every month, depending on what they are, like 7” or whatever? Like there are a lot of singles clubs. But, they’d send you tapes back in the day, so you’d get the singles, but just a cassette; like they’d be on a short amount of tape. Anyways, so I’m doing something sort of like that. There’s going to be a hundred subscriptions available for members; you’ll get ten-fifteen minute tapes and each tape will have a different artist on each side—so a total of twenty artists and all of the tapes are going to have hand sewn pouches and little one and a half inch buttons to go with it each subscription.
So that is in the works right now. Some contributing bands I have music from are Robert Church and the Holy Community—I’m really interested in them, they’re kind of like dreamy poppy Swedish music- The Hairs, which is Kevin from The Lil’ Hospital—it’s his band from Brooklyn—and there’s other crazy stuff coming up. That’s the future of Fox Pop.
Me: As far as genre goes, are you sticking more towards, like the dream-pop stuff that has been featured on your label before or are you looking for anything at this point?
Alex: A lot of it is kind of based around that dream poppy thing. But, you know, that Little Fyodor tape was obviously a deviation from what most of Fox Pop stuff sounds like. You know, there’s key garage rock stuff that’s going to be involved on the tape club stuff as well. But yeah, we’ll pretty much feature the sound of psychedelic garage stuff and dream pop stuff.
Me: Awesome. We need more of that out.
Alex: I think so!
Me: are there any other projects that you’re involved in either within Fox Pop or outside of it?
Alex: I have my solo music project. It’s called The Neu Monotones. It’s based from… if you’ve ever heard of them, The Cat’s Miaow, they did a song called “Neu Monotonic FM” and they spelled it, like N-E-U. So that’s where that came from. Music from that might be featured on the tape club.
Me: I know we’ve probably touched on this a little already… Are you involved in any collaborations with other artists?
Alex: There’s actually a band that I play in, it’s called Hypnolyze, which is like, a lot garage psychedelic stuff. I’ve just finished recording three songs for a CD single that we hand-screen-printed, and stuff. The CD is really cool. We just recorded a bunch of songs—three songs were released… some of the other songs should be featured at the tape club.
Me: Do you feel the internet has helped independent music?
Alex: In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. I feel like the internet has created some apathy towards, like physical formats, like people are just releasing MP3s, which is fine and it’s a great way to get music out, but I don’t think people should abandon the physical format. I think, even if you’re making a tape and giving it to people, I think it means a lot to have something physical in your hand rather than a bunch of 1s and 0s on a hard drive.
Me: Do you think you’ll exclusively with cassettes or do you see yourself moving into other formats, like 3” discs or pressing vinyls?
Alex: Ooh, uh I like 3” discs. I’m not sure if I want to take the digital step yet… Vinyl, however, I do plan on releasing some vinyl in the future.
Me: I know what mains stream music culture might assume, there’s still a large culture out there that thrives on the cassette format. Do you think that by having that kind of cassette culture out there is advantageous to your format for the label?
Alex: You mean like, lots of people are getting back into cassettes? I mean, there are a lot of tape labels popping up all over the place over the last few years, and if you’re asking if that’s making it worth it or better for my label, I’d say it is. Because I am really interested in trading tapes with other labels, which is really great because it makes that culture grow. If that’s what you’re asking.
Me: Yeah, that was pretty much it. I know a few of my musician friends have released cassettes and my problem is finding a workable cassette player…
Alex: I don’t know if you have a Salvation Army or a Goodwill nearby where you live, but I always tend to find three level tape desks there when I go. Typically, they’re like, three dollars. Some of them work and some of them don’t, but if it’s just three dollars… go for it.
Me: That’s true. Do you think there is a certain demographic that might more attracted to cassettes?
Alex: I guess there is a little novelty to cassettes. The thing I love about cassettes is that it forces you to listen to the whole thing; you can’t skip tracks. I love that. Also I like that about vinyl. I also like the warmth of analogue. I mean you might lose a little hi-end, there might be a little tape warble, but it makes up for it, it sounds little more raw. I really appreciate that. For me, it’s like a more novelty-version of vinyl, because not everyone can lay down the 500$ to release a 7” release or whatever.
Me: That’s true.
Alex: It’s a good way to release music in analogue and on a budget. Because when I started Fox Pop, I was on a budget and I was sixteen.
Me: That’s about when I started experimenting with cassettes… and having no money. I still don’t have money, but… (laughs)
Alex: Yeah, who does?
Me: That’s true. What is your opinion of independent music as a whole?
Alex: Hm, that’s a tough question. I’ve actually talked about the subject recently… I mean looking back in the ‘90s, there was a bunch of independent stuff, but pretty much all of the popular indie or alternative bands were on like, 4AD and Creation (labels), there were maybe three or four key labels. There were a bunch of tiny labels too, but I think there are a lot of people now who are kind of doing it on their own; completely independently run labels are sort of getting really big. I think that’s really cool. I think record labels in this day and age and digital music and things like that shouldn’t so much be looked at as a business but more of like, a way to bring people together, make a community. I think the way independent music has been going in this day and age is good, but labels are less about money and more about keeping communities.
Me: All right, last questions… Are there any artists out there that you would really, really, really want to work with?
Alex: You mean like, ones that could realistically happen or could never really happen?
Me: Why don’t we do both?
Ales: ok, all right. Well, ones that cross the “both” category… I would really like to work with Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo, on any one of his million side projects he has going on. That man has been a huge influence. I got to talk to him, and I gave him a tape, and he said something to me… “These are so great because the only thing on this is sound.” And I thought about that and it that’s kind of became the slogan for Fox Pop. So that would be great. That might actually realistically happen
Um, on the unrealistic side, I would love to release something from Laetitia Sadler did from Stereolab, because she is an amazingly strong woman; I love the politics, I love her music; she’s been a big influence on me on my music. That would be great, but it’ll probably never happen.
Me: Do you have any advice for artists out there?
Alex: Advice for inspiring artist… Put everything on tape, don’t let any idea go un-recorded. You never know who’s hands the tape will end up in.
— This interview took place at the end of July. A big thanks to Alex at Fox Pop for allowing me to interview her.
If any artists out there are interested in submitting music for the Tape Club, there’s already a full roster but there JUST may be room for one more if any artists on the roster have to drop out.
If you’d like to sign up for membership for the tape club, slots have yet to go on sale, and a final price tag has yet to be posted, but it looks like it’ll be under 50$ USD.
If you’re interested in getting a copy of the Hypnolyze single, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering info. I know I will!