WTCHS like cassettes better

Hamilton quartet WTCHS, playing Brasserie Beaubien tomorrow night, discuss the Steeltown scene and why an outdated lo-fi medium is great for indie rock.

WTCHS, friends of analogue

Hamilton four-piece WTCHS believe strongly in cassettes. Not because they’re resorting to intentionally lo-fi recording techniques as a way of masking unintentionally lo-fi musicianship, like many in the Montreal cassette community. No, the Steeltown band prefers tape for its sound quality. And maybe for their brand of cave-pop, which strikes a difficult balance between angular melancholy and happy-go-lucky vocal hooks, the format is just right.

I caught up with frontman Jeremy Alexander Gilbank, nicknamed “Jag,” while in Kingston, on tour, to talk about Hamilton’s burgeoning scene, going broke on the road and why cassettes are the best bang for your buck.

Gregory Pike: So how’s the tour been?
Jeremy Alexander Gilbank: It’s been going pretty great. The really good thing is, economically, it’s been going well. Having enough money for food, having money for gas. I’ve been on so many other tours where I’ve just had to scrape by. I mean, I’m still paying people back from tours, like, three years ago. But this time we’re ahead and the crowds have all been really receptive. And it definitely beats our fucking day jobs.

GP: It seems like there are a ton of good bands coming out of Hamilton these days. You’ve got the Magic Shadows, TV Freaks, to name a couple. What’s being part of that scene like?
JAG: Like every city, it’s up and down. But there’s been a bit of an insurgency lately. A lot more art. A lot more music. There’s a great sense of community there. With a city of a half-million people, the community is still very small and tight-knit. It’s really supportive. We just keep pushing and plugging away because we love it.

GP: I hear you guys are big fans of the cassette format. What do you like about it?
JAG: It’s the quality for me, man. The quality. I just love it. The saturation. The compression. Even the mentality when it comes to tape.

GP: It’s also super cheap to produce, right?
JAG: Right. It’s inexpensive. With my label Perdu, it costs about $150 to do a run of 100 tapes. So it’s very economical and it makes it more accessible for people to distribute music. It even lets them get more creative with their packaging. I also just like having that little piece of plastic in the palm of my hand. It’s an all-around great music endeavour.

GP: What about not being able to switch from song to song without the tedium of fast-forwarding and rewinding?
JAG: When people buy a tape, they know what they’re getting into. That’s just part of the experience. ■

WTCHS play with Cartoons, Ought and Teen Squirrel at Brasserie Beaubien (73 Beaubien E.) on Saturday, Feb. 23, 10 p.m., $6

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