Arts + Entertainment

Talking Tunes with Harrisonburg’s Death Cassettes

Among the numerous talented rock-and-roll groups in Harrisonburg is the Death Cassettes, a lo-fi quartet featuring Rich Ochs, Graham Brouder, Lindsay Carlin, and Chris Donnell. The band’s first EP, “Ghost Party”, was released this past January. I spoke with the band about how they began, their musical influences, and their recent two-week tour.

Death Cassettes' first EP, "Ghost Party". Album art by Raechel Hurd, photo by Conrad Berkompas.

Death Cassettes’ first EP, “Ghost Party”. Album art by Raechel Hurd. Photo by Conrad Berkompas.

Marisa Cagnoli: Tell me about the birth of Death Cassettes.

Rich Ochs: So, Death Cassettes started when Graham Brouder (lead guitar) and I started recording songs in our basement.

Graham Brouder: Rich would lay down guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, and if it needed it, I’d add some extra guitar or vocal harmonies.

Rich: These recordings would eventually become our first EP, Ghost Party. Originally, I had no intention of playing live. However, after some positive feedback from friends and family, I asked Lindsay Carlin (drums) and Chris Donnell (bass) to join. We played our first show with White Laces and fellow Harrisonburg band, Bib-Bi, in February to raise money for MACROCK. The rest is history as they say…

MC: Who came up with the name Death Cassettes and how?

Rich: The name Death Cassettes is credited to my good buddy Matt. In high school, we formed a band and narrowed the name down to either Death Cassettes or Early America.

MC: I hear a lot of Ty Segall, as well as Guided by Voices, influences in Ghost Party. What was each member’s main musical inspiration when it came to creating music together on this past album?

Rich: I can’t speak for everyone but I certainly feel that Ty Segall and Guided by Voices are fairly heavy influences in Death Cassettes. But I think the greatest influences have been my friends’ bands. I’m inspired by all the bands we have played with in Harrisonburg or on the road. They have really paved the way for us and given us such a great network to make our band work. We truly couldn’t do it without them.

Lindsay Carlin: Guided By Voices influences EVERYTHING I DO. But actually, I listen to a lot of lo-fi and shoegaze — songs with driving beats and lots of cymbals really get me. As a result, this kind of drumming has also crept its way into my own weird style of playing.

MC: You guys recently went on tour for two weeks this past June with fellow Harrisonburg band, Malatese. What was the most valuable lesson about playing in a band that you learned from this tour experience?

Rich: As far as touring goes, it can be tough. You have to realize that you may not be playing to a lot of people, who may or may not be interested in listening to you. You have to learn to not take it personally and, despite this, you have to try to play your best and have great energy every night. Being on tour has taught me patience, resilience, and integrity. I think you really need [these qualities] to make it work.

Lindsay: One word for touring: sweaty. Other than the excessive moisture, I made a lot of new friends during those two weeks, including (but not limited to) a cat named Ramses. I also think we played some of our best shows on that tour. Spending all that time together really bonded us and helped to create a really solid sound.

MC: What’s next for Death Cassettes? Any more tours, upcoming local shows, or new releases?

Rich: Death Cassettes is currently in the process of recording another EP which we are really excited about. We plan to hop on a couple shows when school starts again in the fall. Future tours are definitely possible.

MC: All of you have been in at least one other band in the Harrisonburg underground music scene. What is something you’d like the Harrisonburg community to know about this music scene that unfortunately sometimes goes unnoticed by the general public?

Rich: I would like the community to know that the underground music scene, which is essentially just a group of friends who love music and host shows, is a very open and welcoming group. We love to meet new people and get excited when we see new faces at shows.

Lindsay: As far as the music scene, everybody I know is friendly and incredibly enthusiastic about the tunes they’re playing and/or listening to. Everyone is welcome, nay, encouraged to come and enjoy!

To find out more about the Death Cassettes, please visit https://www.facebook.com/DeathCassettes and http://deathcassettesva.bandcamp.com.

Marisa Cagnoli is the Summer and Fall 2013 Promotions + Social Media Intern for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.

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