Right, not an actual band, but a label that was doing something very different. Bored stiff with the scene (hate that word) in Sheffield, Adam Zejma and James Levitt ventured into that white husk overlooking the blue devastation called Decathlon and that dive bar infected by racists, Lord Nelson. From 2010 until 2016, that upper floor in that corner building caught between Sylvester Street and Arundel Street was a factory of tapes and top bands. Genres? “Stupid surfer hipster bullshit”, according to some critics, #safe, according to others, and well, actually punk, lo-fi and new wave.
All captured in those magical boxes, the ones that captured spooled magnetic tape. The preferred format was tape not only because there’s something pleasing about that tiny format, but also because it fitted their ideology and sound perfectly. Pjaro might sound mighty fine on a 7 inch vinyl, but they excel on tape. Same for Feature, a dream pop outfit that ventures into post punk and new wave, and have an album coming out next month. And Slowcoaches? Between each scream, bass line and introspective shushed lines, there must be a hiss, in the background, telling a story about anxiety-ridden minds finding solace in music.
What was so special about the venue? Besides being a tiny hidden treasure in a zone of derelicts, I think the biggest asset was that they had to answer to no one. There were no demands to be “cool”, no palms to grease to play at any other venues, no favours to repay. As the joint was the triple threat of studio, rehearsal space and venue, it could run as a self-sufficient unit for as long as they wanted it to.
Want a good night out without ending up in debt after a couple of pints? Tye Die Tapes was your option, as it was BYOB at every gig. There was a Sainsbury’s nearby to get whatever poison you like with whatever shrapnel you had in your back pocket. Or if you wanted to be grand, you could’ve smuggled a burrito from a nearby restaurant. It didn’t matter if they went overboard with the rice, it was still a good burrito.
The brutality of Dolfinz. The sparkler-intensity and vivaciousness of Warm Hammer. The angular Blood Sport and their hypnotic aggrobeat. Sealings, who sounded like a tape recovered like a WW II bomb, with all their isotopic energy. The delicious dark tidings brought by Fawn Spots. All those bands, and many more, captured on tape at Tye Die Tapes.
James got in touch back in 2012. They were doing a second run of Slowcoaches‘ fantastic We’re so heavy and they wanted to push this and a video. I was sold on their stuff right away. For the terrible year that 2012 was becoming, that jolt felt necessary.
I would like to say I went many times there, but honestly, I only made it to two gigs. I kept thinking “I’ll go later, I’ll catch the next show” every time I saw a flyer or a poster, but I guess it’s in my nature to collect missed opportunities. Heck, these posts wouldn’t exist at all if it there weren’t any regrets seething in the back of my mind every time I hear the word “Sheffield”, as much could’ve been accomplished, but it just didn’t work out as expected. No solos forever for me.
My first gig at TDT HQ was during Tramlines 2013. I remember getting lost and actually getting shouted at by some bellends at Lord Nelson. I finally made it into Tye Die Tapes with a bag of cans of cider and cheese and sat on the floor. I was as anonymous there as when I started out reviewing and it felt good. I saw Collider‘s set in its entirety. I stuck around for a few songs by Feature and hightailed it to another venue I had to cover. Should’ve stayed there for the rest of the day.
Although I told myself I would venture more often into the place, it wouldn’t be until November of 2013 where I finally went in, for one last gig. I already had an email from the University of Sheffield to get the fuck out of the country. Much obliged, I guess.
Warmhammer and Mazes where the bands I wanted to see the most that night and I remember a good friend, Beth, being there that night too. I ended up giving her several of my vinyls after the gig was done.
And the gig was great. Maybe because I knew it was one of the last I would see in Sheffield, I relished it even more. How many venues in town can you still BYOB? Or lit a cigarrette? Or mosh without any baldheaded pricks getting aggressive? It seems the number is now zero, with Tye Die Tapes having to close recently. I have no idea what James, Adam and everyone involved with Tye Die Tapes those 6 years will do now, but whatever it is, I hope it’s as far from #safe as it can be.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López