Two years ago Dante Scaglione was digging through Bandcamp when he came across a music community he was unaware of prior — one of cassette-exclusive labels.
He was immediately intrigued by this idea of keeping tapes alive in this age in which streaming services, vinyl rebirth and digital downloads are king. Labels such as Gnar Tapes and Burger Records appealed to him in that when they started; they too were releasing their music on cassette only. Scaglione started buying music on the niche format and began his own collection when his friends in Joy Again (formerly Forever Lesbians) were talking with him about wanting to releasing their first album on cassette. They hashed out the details and Third Floor Tapes was born with the band’s first album, Sherry, a set of warbling lo-fi garage pop.
That particular sonic characteristic, one that’s most definitely unique to tapes, was another aspect that influenced Scaglione’s decision to keep the label tape-based.
“What drew me to the cassette tape was that in this era of of people downloading and streaming music, it’s certainly cool to have this physical, tangible tape,” he says over the phone. “And in my opinion, it’ll never go away and they’ll always be desirable. There’s something very specific to that. And cassette tapes aren’t quite CDs and they’re not quite vinyl in that you’re not going to them for high fidelity sound. I think as a format it has a lot more character than people give it credit for.”
Scaglione encourages the musicians on his roster to record analog too, citing efforts to stay true to form, but also to not lose any sound integrity in transferring from one format to another. Some artists on Third Floor Tapes, such as Ardmore-area synth popper Arthur Shea, even records to tapes that once had other material on them for achieving a more worn tape effect in his recordings.
That sort of do-it-yourself authenticity is what Third Floor Tapes is now thriving on. Since the label’s inception, Scaglione has become a part of a the Philly basement scene, where many of the bands he brings on board come from. Despite how familiar he now is with the local scene, it wasn’t always that way for him.
“When I put out Forever Lesbians I hadn’t ever seen a basement show or anything like that, maybe not even a coffee shop gig,” Saglione says. “But then after that I would go to house shows in Philly and I started meeting all these bands because I’m prone to just talking to people when I go out to shows like that. And Philly has such an explosive basement and DIY community that there’s stuff happening all the time. A lot of my output reflects that scene.”
However, he’s been able to branch out beyond lo-fi garage and the Philly area. And much like how he’s been able to find bands to sign to the label by putting himself in the scene, those from out of the area have come from the relationships he’s fostered over the last two years. Through his connection to Joy Again, Scaglione has developed a decent relationship with some artists in Connecticut, such as Furnsss, who are now Philly-based, and Bread Pilot. Just this spring Third Floor Tapes released a split between Boston’s Claire Cottrill and London’s Keel Her.
The United Kingdom isn’t the only international location Third Floor Tapes has been getting recognized by. As a matter of fact, a store as far east as Taiwan has some Third Floor Tapes’ material on its shelves.
“I was really ecstatic about that, that a store in Taiwan wanted to stock my tapes,” Scaglione says. “They emailed me randomly and said they wanted to stock these. So, I gave them a price and they stock them regularly, which is really great. I love having international fans, and that’s what’s really great about having an internet tape label. I’m really excited to be able to facilitate that connection between people.”
He goes on to say he’s also received online orders from people in Japan and Ireland. And whether Scaglione receives an order for 50 tapes or a single one, he says he always includes something to make it personal, whether it’s a letter or a drawing of some kind.
Scaglione just likes to share the connection he creates with those interested in his record label. He felt that right off the bat when he started freequenting the Philly basement scene, and now he’s just trying to extend that as far as he can.
“When I do stuff with artists internationally, and established bands, their fans become fans of the label,” he says. “And then they become fans of other artists. And that’s how people discover other music, and that’s the purpose of a label in 2016. It’s not to put their music out and that’s it, because they can do that themselves. It’s about creating that little community.”
If you’re not in Taipai, you can find releases from Third Floor Tapes at Repo, Sit & Spin and from their website.
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