Reel World focuses on tape culture in an attempt to better understand the growing comeback of analog hiss.
This month we got a hold of Tyler Gardosh of Birdtapes. This up-and-coming music label has had an explosive presence in the DIY cassette tape and vinyl scene, with 7 beautifully designed releases over the past year. Tyler has had the pleasure to work on key releases from rising artists like High Pop, Julia Brown and Elvis Depressedly, among others. We spent some time with Tyler to discuss the beginnings of Birdtapes, his secrets on packaging design, and what the future holds.
Would you mind introducing yourself and tell us a little bit about the inception of Birdtapes?
My name is Tyler, and I’m from Doylestown, PA, which is probably most famous for Circa Survive or Balance and Composure at the moment. Right now I live and run the label from Brooklyn, which I started in January of this year. I’ve always wanted to run a label, I think that’s a lot of kids’ dream job when they first really get into music. I started a little label project with my friend Joe back home called Birdseed and we released a compilation that I’m still proud of and listen to—A Very Communal Commotion Compilation Summer 2010.
Then I came to New York for school and was pretty busy with that but once I graduated I knew I wanted to get right back into music. Teen Suicide—Goblin Problems came out in June 2012 and I loved it when I heard it and contacted them right away. I didn’t meet with them until they played CMJ in October and then we sent the 7″ to be pressed. By then they had already released the next album, and by the time the label released the Goblin Problems 7″, they had broken up, but that album still rules and it’s awesome, it’s BRD001.
So what draws you to the physical releases of music?
Well, I love vinyl and cassettes but the cassette culture especially is so unique and I think it has a sense of community and intimacy that you obviously don’t get with digital. I really try to make our releases unique in their packaging and in limited runs to stick to that idea of uniqueness.
I absolutely LOVE your packaging. It definitely is pushing the envelope for the DIY cassette label scene.
Thanks a lot, I’m really happy with the response I’ve gotten with the tape packaging. For the Julia Brown tapes, I got chipboard cases and cut out the circles, spray painted them bubblegum pink, and then stamped the title on them. Had business cards printed with different images of clouds and the credits on the back, there were about 50 different cloud images for 75 tapes. I’m glad they came out so well and people dig it, but honestly I don’t think we made our money back on those; they cost a lot to put together. My intentions were just to make the tapes compelling, I think the tangible product is awesome and I want other people to feel that way and want to hold on to it and not just throw it away or anything. Our releases are available digitally for free and the tapes come with a download code so it’s sort of like how can we give value to the physical release. I have a lot of fun with the packaging and as long as people keep buying the tapes I’ll keep making them, even as we transition into more vinyl releases, really. I hope to carry over the same ideas with our vinyl packaging. I think it’s going to be a fun challenge trying to apply the same ideas from a small run of 50 tapes to a run of 500 records.
There is growing excitement for the new Elvis Depressedly album, how did you anticipate pressing vinyl? It’s a big leap from magnetic tape to stylus grooves.
The Elvis Depressedly Holo Pleasures 7″ is a big deal for the label, it’s essentially a make or break type situation where we invested everything we had into this pressing before we put up pre-orders. I love the album, and if I had to take a risk on any release, I’m glad it was this one. I’m confident we’ll be able to sell them. Once we passed the 100th sold on release day I think I relaxed a lot more. It was a great feeling. I really appreciate everyone that supported the band and the label and ordered a record. I’m also really excited to get photos up on the store, the packaging and vinyl colors are really cool and I can’t wait for people to see them. We have about 50 blood red left right now so you should go buy one if you haven’t yet. :)
What does the future/2013 have in store for Birdtapes?
We’ve got several releases planned and a few coming out this summer, some compilations in the works, and an awesome tour with Julia Brown and Elvis Depressedly in July. Right now we’re working with The Le Sigh on a zine that will be sold in the online store we’re building. We will also carry merch, art, distributed vinyl and cassettes, and other zines.
I started the label in January and I couldn’t have guessed people would be this into it and so supportive. I’m just going to keep pushing it as much as I can and thanks to everyone who ever bought anything from us or reblogged/retweeted/shared anything. I also have to thank Sam Ray for helping me out and working with me, Julia Brown and Elvis Depressedly for their help, support, and letting me release their amazing music. Pill Friends, SW/MM/NG, and High Pop for trusting me to release their albums in the very beginning. Alex Barsky for helping with art and packaging, Emma Garland for her support and help with press, and Rachel Levy for being our west coast intern. Infinity Crush, Happy Trendy and LVL UP are rad too. Everyone should check out Double Double Whammy, Orchid Tapes, Chill Mega Chill, Seagreen Records and Spooky Ghost.
Also shout out to Portals for running a cool site with original content and actually interesting features, and for even considering me interesting enough to be a part of it.