Sacramento State business student Hans White has been making show posters for Sacramento bands since he was in the eighth grade. This year, the 20-year-old artist branched out with a cassette-only label, Pleasant Screams Cassettes, specializing in local punk releases. I sat down to talk to the Jesuit High School grad about old U2 cassettes, thrift-store tape decks and why buying your favorite local band’s new album on tape just might make you the coolest person ever. Visit www.pleasantscreams.webs.com for more info.
What made you want to start a cassette label?
I’ve always tried to be involved in [the local music scene]. I was making posters for the band Boats! I’ve been doing that and touring with them and hanging out, and as a supporter, I always wanted to get more involved. I had this friend who is a local musician and he wanted to [release] a CD on tape, and he asked me to go in on it with him. That never happened, but the idea of tapes just stuck.
But why tapes?
I was like, “Really? You’re going to put something out on tapes now?” My friend just thought it sounded cooler. In Sacramento, everybody’s got a CD out. The guys in Boats! were like, “Oh, vinyl’s the thing you’ve got to do.” Right after my friend had suggested [the cassette label], I’d thought about doing 7-inch singles, and then I started doing research and learned about a label called Burger Records in Fullerton. They do tapes so good. The artwork is good and it looks professional and it sounds good. The bands they put out are garage-y, so it really works for that format.
When did you put out your first cassette?
In January I went on tour with Boats! to Texas, and I thought I’d gather a bunch of their demos and unreleased stuff and make a tape and sell it under the name Pleasant Screams Cassettes. So I made all the tapes myself and did the artwork. It was called Texas Tour Cassette, and a friend and I screen-printed all the covers. There were 10 songs and I sold them for $5 each.
How did they sell?
I only made 50—we sold 40 on tour and 10 back at home.
Did it surprise you that there was a market for them—that people still had tape decks and that they wanted to hear music on that format?
Yeah, sometimes people actually chose the tape over the CD or vinyl.
So, of course you have a tape deck.
I actually have two, and I’m looking for a third, because the ones I have aren’t that great. You can get them at Deseret Industries thrift stores.
What kind of tapes did you use?
My original idea was to just buy whatever [used] cassettes I could find and dub over them. The first one I did like that—it was U2’s Joshua Tree—and right at the end of [the Boats!] music, it goes right into a U2 song. It was kind of bad, honestly—the sound quality was muddy—so I decided to spring and get blank cassettes that would sound good.
What’s the appeal of the cassette? It’s hard to argue that it’s sonically superior.
I feel like cassettes have the same sort of appeal that vinyl does in that it’s more—well, I wouldn’t say exclusive, but I only make so many copies of something. It’s like, you can only buy this on cassette, so if you want it, that’s [the format] you have to buy it on.
How many releases have you done so far?
I’m up to five releases. The first two were Boats! Recently, I did a band from Canada, and I also did two for Milhouse.
What are the Milhouse releases?
I’d wanted to put out a tape for them, so I started talking to Charles [Albright]. They were planning a reunion show, so I planned it around that. The two cassettes are technically from different bands. One is from Milhouse SMF, and the other is from Milhouse and it’s a re-pressing. It was originally out on tape, and we added [bonus] tracks. The other one contains the [original] LP with bonus tracks and rare live stuff.
What’s your goal for the label?
My dream is to expand the label. Right now it’s just something I do, just some way that I’m involved in the scene and give back. I’m going to put out a Portland band and hopefully some foreign bands.
Any dream bands you want to work with?
Actually, Burger Records is probably working with all of my dream bands [laughs], but I’ve been talking with the Secretions for a while, and hopefully we’ll do something.
I’d like to put out tapes by bands that aren’t together anymore—like Milhouse—bands that are before my time, that I didn’t get to see back in the day. I’m very interested in the history of music.