While the general public might consider cassette tapes an impractical medium, the format has its devotees. And with its new release, Secretly Yours, local three-piece Secret Tombs makes digging out that tape deck especially worthwhile.
Secretly Yours — recorded at drummer Dave Rosenstraus' studio, Braddock Hit Factory — is the band's third cassette release. But unlike many bands, who make cassette demos with the intention of later re-recording and re-releasing, Secret Tombs' cassettes are complete works. "Tapes are very conducive to our songs," explains Rosenstraus. Skipping around on a cassette is a pain, and because Secretly Yours is essentially one long, epic track, it wouldn't make much sense to try, even if you wanted to. "It's like our shows," he adds with a laughs. "No one can leave the room."
Secret Tombs formed in 2008, with Rosenstraus joining singer/guitarist Ben Klahr and original bassist Colin Post. In 2011, Andy McDonald took over for the second bassist, Ben Hickling, who is credited with introducing a certain "rowdiness" to the band's sound. Comparisons are frequently made to dark, garagey punk bands like Deadmoon. (According to the band, Secret Tombs has also been described as "The Black Crowes' version of 'Hard to Handle' meets the King of the Hill theme.") But the group also brings to mind bands like Harvey Milk, effortlessly mixing heavy, sardonic angst with the swaggering, radio-friendly rock of ZZ Top or Bob Seger; Klahr says he wants Secret Tombs' next record to sound like the Silver Bullet Band, "if the Silver Bullet Band just smoked resin all the time." Klahr, the primary songwriter, also cites Meatloaf as an influence: In other words, "people you listen to and think, 'Wow, they're serious." (And it should be noted, Meatloaf's influence on Secretly Yours is both hard to miss and one of the highlights of the tape).
There are other advantages to cassette releases: They're financially manageable for a band that self-releases everything — plus, as Klahr points out, there's something special about the way a cassette sounds. "Not that I'm into the lo-fi-on-purpose sound, but it's just how it's quote-unquote 'supposed to sound.'" And, he adds, you can listen to Secret Tombs while riding in cool, old cars. "If it's a car that plays CDs," he says, 'I wouldn't want to ride in it anyway."