Cheap Miami and the Magic of Cassettes: "Fans Feel Part of Something Sacred, Underground"

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Who said cassettes were dead?

Definitely not Patrick Garcia and Michelle Grand, founders and owners of Miami-based record label Cheap Miami.

"We started Cheap Miami around two years ago in the summer," says Garcia. "I envisioned it as a small project. I was looking to work with bands that I liked, local projects. The funny thing is that the first two bands we released through Cheap Miami were totally not local. One was from France and the other one was from South Africa."

See also: Miami's Five Best Record Stores

From the beginning, Garcia knew that he wanted this record label to be different. He wanted something memorable. And that's why everything released through Cheap Miami is issued on cassette.

"We decided to go with cassettes because they're a unique touch," said Garcia, "But they're also convenient. Cassettes are small, cheap to produce, easy to handle, and they sound great. You can also have a ton of fun with cassette designs, and they can be kept as collectibles."

Now, for those who may not know, a cassette is a small magnetic tape for audio recording and playback. It's what people used to buy at these places called Sam Goody back in the day before cassettes were replaced by compact discs, which were then replaced by MP3s, which were then replaced by whatever it is you crazy kids are listening to these days.

For many, though, cassettes still hold a vintage, nostalgic appeal.

"We've released one split cassette with another band Las Tias," says June Summer, vocalist for Plastic Pinks, "The reason for making cassettes comes from the love of having music out there in different formats.

"We feel it's good to branch out and give something more personal to our fans. Make them feel part of something sacred, underground. Also, there is a crowd for cassettes and we want to reach them as well. I personally love collecting vinyls and tapes, they have a sentimental value which you don't get from getting the MP3. Although, the Cheap Miami cassettes do come with a digital download code."

See also: Miami's Five Best Music Venues for Local Acts

Chris Horgan, songwriter for Sweet Bronco, was skeptical about releasing his music on cassette, but he quickly changed his mind.

"I always thought cassettes were cool and all, but I didn't really think they were very practical," Horgan admits. "But I'm really happy we made them. They have their own feel in a similar respect to the way vinyl has its own feel. And fans of the band seem to be really into it. Our tapes have sold like hot cakes."

For Garcia, starting Cheap Miami was always about his love of music.

"I don't really have a musical background, I've just always been a really big fan," says Garcia. "I would go to Churchill's a lot. Like all the time. But my girlfriend, Michelle, who runs Cheap Miami with me, has a much more musical background. She's been in bands like Ex-Norwegian and Red Nectar."

Garcia's passion for the local music scene is also manifested through Cheap Miami's frequent showcases, which highlight bands and artists from the 305. The next gig is July 12 at Churchill's Pub, featuring a variety of Miami artists.

"Patrick and Michelle give a lot back to the local scene. Their shows are always great and everyone has a good time," says Summer. "Cheap Miami is the sound of the Miami garage rock scene. Though I feel it will outgrow that and become something bigger."

Something bigger is certainly on Garcia's mind. Currently, he's in the process of planning a big music festival in Miami that would bring in national touring acts. While it's still a work-in-progress, Garcia maintains that it is the next logical step for Cheap Miami.

"We obviously want to put out more local tapes, work with more bands and get more product," Garcia says. "But we also want to keep growing our showcases. I'm trying to organize a really big festival that I feel would be great for the Miami music scene.

"But before any of that we have Cassette Store Day coming up on September 27, which started last year in Europe and we organized a show to celebrate. This year, it's going to be bigger and better. I've reserved both Sweat Records and Churchill's, and we've got a bunch of local bands performing. It's going to be great."

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Cheap Miami's B-Day Jive. With Viceroy (Deaf Poets' Sean Wouters), The Bearings, Grey 8s, Buffy, Young Deville, Sweet Bronco, The Gazms, and Golden Arrows. Saturday, July 12. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave. Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and cover costs $8. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.

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