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Interview: Jen Long on Cassette Store Day

Last month, BuzzFeed posted one of its ‘listicles’ that provoked an outpouring of derision and abuse from music fans everywhere.  Entitled ’35 Music Experiences You’ll Never Have Again’ – and containing things like ‘in-stores’ and ‘reading the liner notes’ – it seemed to state that music on physical formats, and the shops that sell them, had finally succumbed to the digital giants of iTunes and Spotify.  Unsurprisingly, after Record Store Day posted the story on their Twitter, they received hundreds of messages from people stating that they’d had many of the experiences BuzzFeed thought they would never have again that very week. What it showed was that there are still a great many people determined to keep the old ways alive.

The latest attempt to buck the trend comes in the form of Cassette Store Day, taking place this coming Saturday.  The event is the brainchild of three cassette enthusiasts, Jen Long, Steve Rose and Matt Flag, and aims to revitalise the much-maligned form with a wide range of releases and events at music stores worldwide.  We sat down with Jen to find out how Cassette Store Day came to be and why she’s pushing to revitalise the medium.

“I love cassettes because I grew up with them and the nostalgia of it. You could go to a charity shop and find old tapes and compilations, like That’s What I Call Musics and stuff like that for 50p.  Rumours by Fleetwood Mac will always remind me of driving Shakira, my blue Ford Fiesta, around south Wales.”  Cassette Store Day is not Long’s first flirtation with the format.  When she started her own label, the Transgressive imprint Kissability, cassettes were her format of choice, releasing tapes from the likes of DZ Deathrays, Cut Ribbons, and a joint cassette/7” single with ParadYse Records for Thumpers.

The idea for an event celebrating tapes initially came from Rose following on from this year’s enormously successful Record Store Day. He suggested to Jen that they do something similar with cassettes and the trio set about organising it.  As Jen says, “It was like ‘Ok, I’ll email some guys I know who run tape labels in the UK and I’ll reach out to a couple in New York,’ and Steve emailed Burger Records in LA and Big Love in Tokyo.  Then Bella Union heard about it and wanted to do something with Flaming Lips for it and then we were like shit, that’s pretty big.”

The event has now become something of a big deal, with labels like 4AD and Wichita contributing to the very impressive list of releases.  Artists such as Haim, Animal Colllective, At the Drive-In, Gold Panda and Deerhunter are all releasing cassettes to mark the occasion, with Kissability releasing the Los Campesinos! live album A Good Night for a Fist Fight.  “Los Campesinos! are one of my all-time favourite bands and the reaction when we announced that release was pretty brilliant.  I had people saying to me ‘Yes! I have to get this’ so for people like that I think it’s a great thing.”

Long is quick to point out, however, that Cassette Store Day is not just for tape nerds or hipsters.  She has a much more relaxed approach to the whole thing. “It’s for music fans who can put their tongue in their cheek a little bit,” she says. “I just think it’s going to be a really fun day.  We’ve got a really great day at Rough Trade with in-stores and DJs and Steve and me drinking beer.”

After a minor controversy involving a record store in Glasgow that held a similar one day event on a much, much smaller scale in 2012, several websites posted about the Cassette Store Day ‘drama’ that was unfolding.  “What happened was, the shop emailed us and we were like ‘Haha, that’s really funny, do you want to be involved this year?’ And they were like ‘Yeah, cool.’  There was no drama at all, so there’s all these pieces being run and then underneath just one comment going ‘Who cares? It’s a shit idea anyway!’.  And I was like ‘well, that makes more sense to me than any of the rest of these pieces of news’.  It’s just a fun day, for people who like tapes to have a few cans of beer and buy some cassettes, guys.  It’s just a fun day; it’s just a bit of fun.  We need to chill out.”

Although Jen clearly appreciates why many people would think that the day was perhaps a step too far into hipster nostalgia, her passion for the format is somewhat infectious.  “There have been people tweeting saying things like, ‘Well, if you look at my PayPal account I think you’ll find every day is international cassette store day.’  It’s amazing! People on the internet get so angry! I just thought it would be a bit of a lol.”  It may have started out as a bit of fun but Jen, Steve and Matt’s grafting has turned it into something that looks set to make waves this coming weekend and they’re going to have a hell of a good time doing it.

- Rachel Bolland

Photo: Sebastien Dehesdin

Cassette Store Day takes place on Saturday 7th September. Events are taking place in record stores in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo; as well as in Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Spain and Germany – full listings of which can be seen here.  In London, Rough Trade East has in-store performances and DJ sets.

Our interview with Jen originally appeared in Notion 065, which you can purchase via our online store.

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