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And Now for a Little Melodic Chaos

Huddling with Tape in their cramped dressing room at the Troubadour is like wearing a coiled spring: Within the hour they’ll ambush the stage downstairs, beguiling and befuddling with their mongrel melding of My Bloody Valentine‘s sculpted noise, At the Drive-In’s oblique sonic architecture and the darkly sexual atmospherics of Pornography-era Cure. Though formed only last year, Tape have already mustered a palpable buzz through mesmerizing live shows, word-of-mouth rep and passed-around demos. Theirs is restlessly melodic, cinematic rock & roll, delivered with the “come and get it” air of a band that knows it‘s on to something.

“Chaos, groove and melody” is how crazy-haired guitarist Kirk Hellie describes his band’s music. “Tape exists to express what we have to express as a collective, and that‘s what comes out.” Although something of a cult-band supergroup (Hellie was previously in Interscope Records outfit Pink Noise Test, frontman Justin Warfield worked with England’s Bomb the Bass, while drummer Norm Block anchored L.A. stalwarts Plexi), Tape (rounded out by Aussie bassist Thomas Froggatt) formed organically, recalls Warfield. “The people we were supposed to play with just came together.”

In contrast with most Hollywood acts, Tape are not drooling Pavlovian at the prospect of a record deal. “We‘re forward-thinking and independent,” claims Warfield. “We’re not trying to get attention from the record companies, though we‘ve had attention from them since our first show. The whole idea of record companies and industry factors very little into the way we make music and present ourselves.”

With this in mind, Tape have started their own imprint, Trank City, and plan to release their debut EP in June. But they’re no indie snobs. “We don‘t see ourselves as an ’indie rock‘ band,” stresses Block. “I think the scope of our music is really broad. Ultimately, for us, the goal is to put out a record that we love and get it out to as many people as possible. Because we live in Hollywood and we’re under the microscope, it‘s been really apparent to Tape just to put out product ASAP and start working -- y’know, get out of town and work.”

“We haven‘t put out any music yet,” laments Warfield, “because we’re yet to capture the live experience in the studio. We don‘t want to make a ’finely crafted‘ album, but at the same time we don’t want to just set up, plug in and play -- we want to find the middle ground, and we‘re yet to do that.” It’s true that Tape‘s demos to date -- while in a different league than your average amateur effort -- don’t convey the sensual battering of their stage show. For now, fans will have to settle for the handful of MP3s on their Web site (www.tapenation.com) and their increasingly well-attended live outings.

Tape‘s atypical attitude toward Tinseltown is no coincidence: “We don’t consider ourselves an L.A. band,” insists Warfield. “We‘re just a band -- the ultimate goal is to be on the road, to play for kids every night and get people to hear our music. It doesn’t really matter where we‘re based. The problem with L.A. is that there is no one, real, strong community of music here. But I don’t think we need that -- we‘re pretty strong and set in our ways about what we want to do.”

To avoid local oversaturation, Tape handpick their shows in town. “We try to play all-ages shows -- like tonight, since 6 o’clock, there‘s been a line outside of almost a hundred kids,” marvels Block. “Kids are just really inspired by music, and that’s one criterion we‘ve had for most of the shows that we do.” Though they’ve played choice gigs with the likes of Placebo and Girls Against Boys, Tape have also turned down shows that most new bands would jump at because they‘ve felt no connection with other acts on the bill. “We either play with friends or anything that makes sense musically,” says Warfield.

Onstage at the Troubadour, Tape spew nagging grooves, ADD-like energy and kaleidoscopic textures, offset by an angular song craft that prevents a descent into self-indulgent wank. Warfield, a thrift-store Phil Lynott, makes an intriguing frontman, spasming between Jagger-like vogueing and sudden, cattle-prod convulsions. Hellie’s virtuosic molesting of his distressed Sears guitars is a spectacle unto itself, underscored by Block and Froggatt‘s deliberate, ominous propulsion.

“Music is crap right now,” announces Warfield. “What gets played on the radio in America and on MTV for the most part is garbage. We don’t make music that‘s tailor-made for radio. We make music that we love and that we’re passionate about, that‘s energetic, powerful and beautiful live -- music that’s clever. We‘re not going to dumb ourselves down; we’re just going to be Tape, and whoever wants to align themselves with that is what‘s going to happen.”