By Reeegan Saunders
Blank Tape Tax /noun/ :
a special tax placed on the purchase of recordable media, cassette tapes in particular
The namesake of a Detroit-based music project
Blank Tape Tax is a collection of members picked up along the road. What originally began as a solo project in 2015, has evolved into a six-person lineup — a lineup that has only played one live show together. “Live at Cow Haus Recording EP” was their live debut recorded on March 9, 2020, right before the world of live music was put on hold.
Blank Tape Tax consists of Emily Parrish on vocals, Ben Yost on drums and vocals, Mark Royzenblat on guitar, Issac Burgess on guitar, William Marshall Bennett on piano and Michael King on upright bass. I had the opportunity to chat with Ben Yost about what the band has been up to in the year following their last performance.
“Creating music for us this past year has been all but at a standstill,” Yost said. “We were lucky enough to have older material that we were able to re-release and to plan around. Our biggest accomplishment this past year has been launching Kickpop Records and releasing our ‘My Book (Demo)’ on vinyl.”
Listening to “My Book (Demo)” is like finding a letter left inside a library book. It’s intimate. You shouldn’t be reading it, but when you do, you don’t feel so alone. Parrish’s haunting vocals ebb and flow with a smooth piano track, matching Yost’s raw lyrics.
“‘My Book’ is a song that I wrote where I don’t stand behind my lyrics entirely. I want my music to inspire positivity and “My Book” always kind of bums me out. But, it just goes to show sometimes being relatable can help people more than a pep talk,” Yost said.
The music industry is oversaturated with feel-good songs attempting to create unity during a global pandemic, but when we are isolated from each other and serious mental illness is at an all-time high, it helps to know you are not the only one struggling.
“‘My Book’ is a song about dealing with serious mental illness which affects roughly 5% of adults in the United States. It is often misunderstood and stigmatized,” Yost said. “Even in a world where mental illness is something more and more people are open with one another about, serious mental illness is still very misunderstood because of its complexity and nuances.”
“I’ve been told by a few friends that they think ‘My Book’ is one of my better songs that I’ve written, and the important thing is that it makes them happy. Sometimes I feel that the artist owes nothing to the audience and that the ‘art’ is just art for art’s sake. Other times I’m convinced that the artist has a responsibility to be a positive influence in people’s lives. This is a song where I’m not sure where it falls, although I’d like to think it’s ultimately positive,” Yost said.
You can look for more Blank Tape Tax music this summer on Kickpop’s 10” sampler, which also features Logan Gavel and For Once in My Life.