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Rad Releases 20 – Devil Town Tapes

December 19, 2020

Rad Releases 20 – Devil Town Tapes

It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2020 rapidly approaches and we quickly want to move away from this year- we take a personal look back on familiar names, labels, promoters, and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been a challenging year for all, the one constant has been how artists and their labels have adapted and produced some of the best records of our time and it’s those releases that have the audience has depended on to get them through the year.

This year the Rad Releases special celebrates 10 years, to mark the decade-long feature we let our favorites take over the site to tell us the records that have kept them going throughout this trying year. Telling us how they’ve adapted, if they’ve returned to a loved record and what we can look forward to from them next year.

Tas Needham

Our next Rad Releases comes from the hardworking DIY label Devil Town Tapes. This year the label has introduced us to some of the most essential releases of 2020 thanks to new additions to their family. Each cassette run Devil Town Tapes have issued this year have quickly and rightfully so flown off the shelves. We handover to Jack to tell us more about their year in music…

Greg Mendez – Bike

This was the first release Devil Town Tapes put out in 2020, and we were lucky enough to be able to co-release it with the legendary Forged Artifacts. When Omar (of omes) first heard it he said that it was “classic sounding”, and honestly I think that’s the best way to describe it. It’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s so remarkably fully formed. The harmonies are beautiful and the melodies sound instantly timeless. During the first lockdown, watching Greg’s livestream gigs was a ray of light. He is a super talented songwriter, I’m so excited to hear what he does next.

Harley Alexander – Love Language

For better or for worse, I really don’t listen to a whole lot of happy-sounding music. Love Language is the antithesis to that. It’s like a musical reservoir of joy, I can’t help but feel positive and energised everytime I hear it. Listening to it makes me feel like I’m hanging out with the coolest cats, loving life.

Bedtime Khal – Black Tears

Having been a massive fan of Khal’s music (Wake Up is one of my favourite EPs!) for a while, I was so excited to be able to release something with him. When he first showed me the EP, and Black Tears came on, I was blown away. It’s lyrically potent, and sonically revitalises the sounds of surf-punk in the most exciting way. The response to the EP was overwhelming, it was the fastest release to sell out that we’ve ever done and really took on a life of its own. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of Khal’s journey this year.

Lomelda – Wonder

Thx is one of those albums I only just came across this year, I was super late to the Lomelda party. But that did mean I hardly had to wait any time at all for new music! Wonder is music at it’s most healing and cathartic. This is a particular favourite of mine to belt out around the flat at the top of my voice.

The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – The Best of All Possible Worlds

The Goalie… encompasses so much that I love, taking the glacial pace of bands like Low and wedding it to classic emo. It’s amazing how much it goes whilst also being so understated. Their album Ways of Seeing  just released on Count Your Lucky Stars, who were such a massive label for me growing up (Brave Bird! Foxing! Joie de Vivre!) and are still killing it!

The best show you have played this year / gig attended (if you had the opportunity)

(Photo by Jack Laurilla)

Alex G & Pet Shimmers @ Parallel Lines (12/2/20)

I think, if you inhabit this particular corner of DIY or whatever you want to call it, it’s hard to overstate quite how big of a deal Alex G is. So many of my friendships started out of a shared love of the G man, and his influence on our community is undeniable. Finally being able to see him live was already the best, and seeing him with my best pals made it even better (I miss them a lot).

Has there been any record that’s got you through this year? If so what.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been turning to old favourites this year. R.E.M’s Out of Time is one of those records that I can listen to anytime and immediately feel comfort and calm. I used to listen to it pretty much everyday in the car with my mum on the drive to work during a particular low point in my life. I’m not even sure how it ended up there, but that album just kind of never left the CD player. The fact that it was something that we could listen together and enjoy (rather than her politely tolerating) was really cool to me, so we’d just listen to it endlessly. Listening to it now takes me back to that. My mum’s favourite song from Out of Time is Shiny Happy People, she’s obsessed with it.  She’d always ask me to skip back so we could listen to it again, so I made her a CD one Christmas with it on loop about 20 times as a gift. I don’t think I’ll ever top that.

How have you adapted with releasing/recording/promoting during this year?

I’ve been fortunate in that, as I’ve been working with releases with overseas artists, nothing too much has changed from how I’d usually work! That being said, not being able to set up stalls at gigs/markets has been missed for sure. Some of my favourite moments running the label have been at these events, talking to people excited about discovering new music and getting them involved in cassette culture. Don’t get me wrong, Bandcamp is great but, as yet, there is no substitute to real life when it comes to forming these more tangible and substantial connections with listeners.

Best discovery this year?

One of my favourite releases I only just discovered this year is an EP called Everything Tastes Bad by Snowhore released in 2018. The singer Veronica Isley’s backing vocals feature heavily on the Greg Mendez album, which led me to discovering her band Snowhore (where Greg plays drums too!). It’s always such a joy to discover new music in this way. Her voice has such an addictive quality, and is captured beautifully on this release. It’s such a brisk listen (with most of the songs clocking in around the 2 minute mark) that I often find myself repeating it over and over.

Label Highlight of 2020

(Poster by Lu Rose)

OOF Records are one of my favourite labels, so it was an absolute blast to put on this online gig with them! After such a long period of not being around people, not being around music, to be in a space hanging out with old and new friends watching my favourite artists perform live was powerful and healing. My endless thanks to Ava and David at OOF for making this happen and creating this magical communal experience.

As this is our 10th year of Rad Releases, we want to look back on your 10 years- has there been on standout moment/standout record of the past 10 years?

(Photo by Luke Griffiths)

Exam Season @ The Winchester (10/6/16)

Personally and musically speaking, this represented an important milestone in my life. I had just got back from university and returned to a town that I neither recognised nor felt like I belonged. It was pretty isolating.

My best pal Ed had invited me to play in his project Exam Season, and after a few years of barely touching my guitar, it felt like a relief to reconnect with music again. Ed and I have played music together since we were about 13 years old, it was such a big thing for me growing up and I don’t think I realised how much I missed it. This was our first gig as a band and was the culmination of so much hard work and practice. We were scrappy as hell but I look back on it incredibly fondly.

Beyond that, releasing music with Exam Season really demystified so many things that seemed completely alien to me when I was younger. Suddenly things like getting gigs, putting music out and playing in other cities weren’t outside the realms of possibility! Playing that show also exposed me to a whole community of people trying to make things happen, and more broadly the idea of “doing it yourself”.

Being involved in Exam Season and the Bournemouth music scene was a very formative period of time for me, and really sowed the seeds of what would eventually become Devil Town Tapes.

Artist/Band to watch for 2021

Omar turned me onto Michigan-artist Conor Lynch a while back when he showed me the track Homeland (which you should 100% listen to, by the way), and this year he continued his hot streak by putting out a load of amazing singles. The way Conor darts between musical styles is fascinating to me. Every track sounds like such a departure from the last, but still definitively him. His upcoming full-length is going to be worth the wait.

Label Plans for the New Year

One big change that’s happening for Devil Town Tapes is that all future releases are going to be dubbed and assembled in-house! I’ve been super fortunate to be in a position to create a (sort-of) production line at home, and I’m really excited to be more hands-on in the process of bringing these tapes to life. I already have a couple of releases lined up for early next year which are going to be rad, and I guess we’ll see what happens after that! 

A huge thank you, we’re so excited to hear more from DTT in 2021, you’ve introduced us to some incredible artists this year!

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