Minneapolis' Tapes 'n Tapes were already gaining momentum through touring and blog buzz when Pitchfork Media pronounced their first full-length, 2006's The Loon, "awash in promise." It was one of Pitchfork's rare raves, and drew new attention to the foursome, whose sonic palette ranges from grinding guitars to softly haunting keyboards.
Then came comparisons to indie institutions like Pavement and the Pixies. Lead singer Josh Grier downplays rather than denies the parallels.
"When you're a new band, people look for reference points. I don't necessarily agree with them, but music is kind of personal. People get what they want out of it. There's not much I can do about it, so we're just going to keep playing what we like. But at least it's bands that were good, and not Nickelback, or something like that," he says.
With their new disc, Walk it Off (XL), the band — Grier on guitar plus drummer Jeremy Hanson, keyboardist Matt Kretzman and bassist Erik Applewick — sounds more distinctive on the tracks that range from thrashy and tortured to melodically cheeky.
Adds Grier: "As cheesy as this sounds, we've grown into our own. And this time we were working in a studio, with a great producer," meaning David Fridmann, who also produced for the Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney and others. "We try to explore a lot and keep it interesting for us. Every song is its own thing, and if it sounds like something else on the album, it won't make it.
Tapes 'n Tapes finished Walk It Off in October, and is, in the enthusiastic words of Grier, anxious to share it, since it was an album that was made to be toured. Which is exactly what they're doing now.
"We tried to make this album sound like we're doing it live. We see ourselves as a live band. That's where our focus lies. As this tour goes on, each song has started to develop even more, and that kind of exploring will come out in the live shows too."
Hearing Grier describe the band, you get the refreshing impression that they're doing this out of passion, for themselves as much as for the fans.
"The bottom line is we still love playing together. If we didn't love it, we wouldn't be playing anymore. The focus is still to make music that we really like. It's just awesome that we get to play it for people."
In that regard, they're a band that satisfies both the casual listener and elitists who crave indie to the point of physical lust. But whatever the crowd, it's all about the fun of playing live and showing the audience a good time, as Grier says.
"We put on a good rock show. We will rock your socks off. But more than anything, we're all going to have a really good time."
Tapes 'n Tapes is playing with White Denim at the Magic Stick, 4020 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. Doors at 8 p.m. for the all-ages show.