Reel World focuses on tape culture in an attempt to better understand the growing comeback of analog hiss.
For this edition, we recently video-chatted with Hunter Peter Thompson and Krystal Pérez, the visionary owners of Purr Tapes. This feline-friendly, Portland, OR-based music label prides themselves on their attention to DIY design detail and building passionate relationships with the artists they work with. Purr Tapes have carved out a respectable niche in the cassette tape scene with a focus on electronic and experimental sounds, including releases from Spazzkid and Wolfe. Read on as we discuss their thoughts on style, the MP3 generation, and a reemergence of tape retail.
Purr Tapes has had a significant contribution to the electronic tape scene over the past year. How did you guys begin such an amazing operation?
Hunter: I had a friend whom I met here in Portland, OR who was making music as Pslzy. He mentioned releasing some of his music on cassettes, and the rest is history. Our first release, Pslzy’s 52tEEth, is a seamless collection of electronic beats and themes that really helped establish our aesthetic direction for Purr Tapes.
Krystal: Also, Hunter and I are huge cat-lovers—so much that we even got complementary tattoos that say “Purr” and “Meow.” I guess that’s where you can say the name ‘Purr Tapes’ came from.
You guys seem to have an undying love for the tape format, what made you decide to exclusively release music on tapes?
K: Tapes are a really affordable way to get music out into the world. So it allows us to support our favorite artists by providing an opportunity for bands to have a physical format of their music, complete with unique artwork and design.
H: We feel that there’s a growing generation who are only experiencing music in its digital form. This “MP3 Generation,” if you will, really missed out on all the little imperfections and individual personality that physical media provides. So in a sense we equip those individuals with a way to experience that, as well as the artists that we believe in.
K: The artwork for tape is also really unique and fun to design.
One of my absolute favorite tape releases that I’ve ever purchased was last year’s super limited edition “gold” tapes for the Purr Tapes’ Summer Compilation 2012. Do you mind sharing that whole process?
K: Haha, it was easier said than done. Hunter had this crazy idea that we could unscrew the tape shells and paint whatever color we wanted. We had some gold spray paint and we decided to make something extra special for our fans.
H: It was a tedious process, but they ended up looking great!
So how do you usually start the process for developing a tape project?
K: For the most part, all of our potential projects begin with a submission.
H: We’ll spend a significant amount of time with the music to make sure the project will be in line with the Purr Tapes vibe. This is very important to us, especially when we create the artwork ourselves.
K: We also like to personally get to know the artist… We believe in having strong relationships when we begin each of our projects.
Not only is it a great album, but the artwork for Spazzkid’s Desire was beautifully created. How did that relationship start?
K: I found his music on SoundCloud and reached out. Mark liked what we were doing and asked if Purr Tapes wanted to release Desire on tape.
H: Yeah, we really like working with solo artists… And almost by accident we’ve gone down this electronic style path for our tape releases. Mark’s music fits the Purr Tapes style really well.
K: We’re also excited about helping Mark set up a show here in Portland for an upcoming tour.
So what does the future hold for Purr Tapes?
H: On June 21st we’re doing a release with Riot Meadows, an artist from Wisconsin, titled Simulacra. He’s one of the most experimental artists that we’ve worked with, really drone-y type of electronic music… Great stuff.
K: We’ve also started doing tape pressings for outside labels.
H: Yeah, Shoeboxx Recordings from Denver, CO.
K: We also have a late summer compilation coming out in August and a release from the Portland-based music collective, Blankstairs, that we’re really excited about releasing in late July!
So, there’s been some rumblings about introducing a retail store that exclusively features tapes and tape paraphernalia. What’s all the fuss about Replicant?
K: Well, our friend Pslzy works at a juice shop and he found this location in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Portland. We thought it would be the perfect space to explore the potential of the tape format in the community.
H: We’re going to call it Replicant. The space will be multifunctional and serve as a retail store front for tapes, a venue for artists, and a creative area for community-based workshops on how to create electronic music.
K: It will also be the new base for Purr Tapes production.
That sounds incredible… Can’t wait to see how Replicant turns out! Anything else that you would like to add before we sign off?
H: We’re super thankful for the opportunity to do this with Portals.
K: Yes, thank you. We’re so happy to be a part of the online music community.
Curated by Tripp Mostertz.