Columns, Interviews, Label Introductions, News

Summer Darling Tapes (Label Introduction)

Label: Summer Darling Tapes
Location:Stuttgart, Germany
Genres:Post-Punk, Dream Pop, Shoeganze
Active since:2022

When we started off with Transcended Music Blog, I originally introduced the format of Label Introductions, where I wanted to interview labels that arouse my interest within the underground scene and present a share of their releases. Unfortunately, this format has now been on a hiatus for quite some long time. This is why I’m very glad to say that we found our way back, this time taking a closer look at Stuttgart-based Summer Darling Tapes!

Summer Darling Tapes started off as a tape label within the spheres of Post-Punk, Shoegaze and Dream Pop in 2022. In order to get a closer insight about the label, its emergence, original idea and current development, we talked to label owner John. Apart from that, several members of the team also took some time to present a selection of former Summer Darling Tapes releases for the readers to maybe find access a little quicker.

Interview with John from Summer Darling Tapes

Hello Summer Darling Tapes, I am really glad to be back at Label Introductions with your label. I’ll head off first of all to just give you some space to introduce yourself – maybe mentioning other projects you or your team are involved in that the readers might know.

Hey…John here! I’ve been keeping busy with a slew of projects lately—too many to list if I’m being honest! But one venture that might ring a bell with your readers is the label I’ve been running called Black Omega Recordings.

When considering the fact that you also run Black Omega Recordings I definitely have to ask: How did the idea come up to start with another label that releases music that might be considered quite different compared to Black Omega Recordings?

I’ve always had a pretty eclectic music taste and into all sorts of music, not just metal and hardcore. So, the idea of starting another label that explores different sounds felt pretty natural to me. While Black Omega Recordings is all about the heavy stuff, I wanted to branch out and dive into some other genres that I’m really into. It’s been a cool way for me to reconnect with some of the music that first got me excited about this whole scene.

Has your interest in this triangle of Post-Punk, Shoegaze and Dream Pop always been there or was there a certain moment that got you going with the genre?

Yeah, I’ve always been into that whole scene—it’s been a big part of my life since forever. You know, growing up, music was just everywhere in my house. Whether it was my parents spinning vinyl or playing songs on the radio, I got exposed to all kinds of sounds from a super young age. It’s not like there was this one big moment that got me hooked on these genres. It was more like a gradual thing, you know? Just soaking up all those unique sounds over time. I guess you could say I gravitated toward all the classic bands that everyone talks about as influences. Their music just spoke to me on a deeper level, you know? It was there for me during all those ups and downs, always providing a kind of soundtrack to my life. And the more I dug into their stories and checked out new artists, the more I fell in love with it all.

What were the artists that introduced you to these spheres of music?

John from Summer Darling Tapes
(Source: Instagram)

Yeah, I’m into all the classics like The Cure, Joy Division, MBV, Cocteau Twins, and the rest. Shoutout to my older friends for putting me onto The Sisters of Mercy, The Cramps, Love and Rockets, The Jesus and Mary Chain… good stuff. And back in the ’90s, MTV’s 120 Minutes was my go-to for finding new tunes. That’s where I first heard bands like Lush, Catherine Wheel, and a bunch more. It was like my music radar back in the day.

This is something that interests me personally. As someone who is not deeply involved in the musical bubble of post-punk, it feels as if there is a certain underground renaissance of the genre taking place during the recent years. Do you feel the same or would you disagree?

Yeah, I’m with you on that. There’s definitely been this underground resurgence happening for a while now. Remember bands like Interpol and Bloc Party back in the early 2000s? They really brought post-punk back into the spotlight. But for me, Cold Cave really pushed things forward. Wes Eisold, coming from a hardcore background with American Nightmare, brought in those electronic elements with Cold Cave, and it struck a chord. There were probably other bands doing it before, but Cold Cave had that hardcore scene connection that gave them a broader reach. Yeah, the ’90s nostalgia is everywhere these days, not just in music but also in fashion—it’s making a comeback for sure. It’s interesting to see newer bands revisiting those sounds and styles, putting their own spin on things. It’s like a modern twist on some classic sounds, and I’m all in for that.

Sometimes you browse for music, sometimes music is specifically submitted and sometimes you just know people from bands you want to release. When looking at Summer Darling Tapes, is there a certain recurring pattern when deciding what music to release?

I mean not really. I would say it’s a combination of searching for new music, bands reaching out, and knowing people in bands. I think you open the aperture a bit more by doing so and not limiting yourself to a single approach.

At Black Omega Recordings, the releases rather focus on the German / European scene. However, when taking a look at the releases of Summer Darling Tapes, it becomes clear that you rather focus on Post-Punk from the US / North America. Is this selection intentional or did this merely evolve?

This is totally by design! Over at Summer Darling Tapes, we’ve been all about shining a light on the amazing scene coming out of the US. While Black Omega Recordings leans more towards the extreme music scene in Germany and Europe. Whether it’s the gritty atmosphere of New York City or the laid-back sounds of the West Coast, there’s so much creativity going on across the continent, and we’re pumped to be a part of it. It’s been really rewarding to see our label grow and change over time as we’ve stuck to our vision.

When drifting away from the locations of the bands and moving towards the music that is contained on your tapes – are there any musical elements you specifically look for when digging through releases / submissions or is it the overall effect of a release that has to convince you?

What truly matters to us is the quality and uniqueness of the music itself. We seek releases that captivate listeners, whether through their sonic textures, emotive depth, lyrical content, or experimental qualities. Our goal is to curate a collection of tapes that offer a diverse and engaging listening experience.

Another aspect that becomes clear quite quickly when being into the underground music scene is the fact that you do not offer a Bandcamp page. I definitely have to ask – Did you not manage to put up a page so far or do you intentionally offer your music physically to shift the audience towards listening to music on physical formats?

We have no intention of setting up a Bandcamp page and leave that up to the bands. We have a couple of playlists that are on Spotify but that’s it. We run a page on Instagram and offer our releases through Bigcartel. We are 100% DIY and want to shift our audience to listening to music on physical formats. We’re not big into figuring out algorithms and running multiple social media platforms to maintain an online presence. I think if people look hard enough, they can find us. And if they like what we do, then that’s cool and all we could ever hope for!

Again, I have to get back to you being involved in Black Omega Recordings – the last time, I promise! On Black Omega Recordings, you primarily release music on vinyl format. On Summer Darling Tapes – as the name suggests – you chose the format of cassette tapes. What were your thoughts when deciding what format to release on?

When it came to deciding the format for our releases on Black Omega Recordings and Summer Darling Tapes, it was definitely a journey shaped by the circumstances of the time. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the music industry hard, causing significant disruptions, especially in the vinyl sector. What used to be a manageable 6-8 week turnaround for vinyl production suddenly ballooned into a daunting 1-2 year wait. Faced with these challenges, it became clear that we needed to explore alternative options.

That’s when the idea of cassette tapes came into play. It wasn’t just a random choice; it was a pivot in response to the industry’s shifting landscape. As the vinyl industry grappled with delays and uncertainty, cassette tapes offered a more accessible and practical solution for releasing music. It was during discussions with Nino from Lower Class Kids Records that the idea gained momentum, and we decided to take the plunge.

So, here we are, embracing cassette tapes as our format of choice for Summer Darling Tapes. It’s been an exciting journey, navigating through uncharted territories and redefining our approach to music distribution in the digital age. And while the decision may have been prompted by challenging circumstances, it’s opened up new opportunities for creativity and collaboration.

On your Instagram Post in which you introduce the team of Summer Darling Tapes, you also introduce Levin (Die Zeit Heilt Alle Wunder / Amber) as your graphic designer. Considering the fact that there is a locational distance between Bielefeld and Stuttgart – how did you get to know each other?

I reached out to Levin over Instagram, and I asked if he would be interested in doing a logo design for me and luckily, he agreed! I absolutely love his artwork as it reminds me of some of those iconic punk flyers from the 80’s. The relationship just blossomed from there and we involve Levin in every single release we put out. He’s really been instrumental with translating our ideas into a visually appealing representation that embodies our aesthetic!

Die Zeit Heilt Alle Wunder

When starting the label, did you decide from scratch that you want one person to be in charge of the graphical designs in order to convey a coherent imagery or were you just in love with Levin’s designs and this evolved into the current state?

When it comes to how our releases look, we’re all about keeping things cohesive and true to who we are. A lot of the artwork we use comes straight from the bands themselves or the artists they work with. But we’ve got Levin on board to make sure everything fits our label’s vibe just right. Levin’s got this knack for taking the artwork we get and making it feel like it belongs with us. Tweak things here and there—maybe adjust the colors or shuffle things around a bit—to make sure everything feels like it’s part of the same family. It’s all about creating a visual story that matches the music and gives our label its own unique style. We’re also super appreciative of Travis from The True Faith, who goes by the name Cowards Way for his design work and has also lent a hand with our project. So yeah, it’s a collaborative effort to make sure every release looks and feels like it’s part of the bigger picture. We want people to look at our stuff and immediately know it’s us, you know?

There are numerous ways how to set up a tape release as a label. How exactly do you put together your releases regarding J-Card, dubbing or printing on the tape shells?

Bands send us all their stuff, and then we handle the rest. We want them to have total creative freedom to bring their vision to life. Levin makes sure everything looks good for production, while I take care of the audio side. We usually work with Tape Factory for production, and David there has been awesome, always supporting our wild ass ideas. You’ll see some of those ideas coming to life later this year. It’s great to be surrounded by creative folks who help make our visual dreams a reality.

Especially when taking a look at the tape versions for example of Soft Kill’s Metta World Peace, Lathe of Heaven’s Demo, or the Future Dreams mixtape it becomes evident that you also like to mess with special editions of tapes including obi strips or dyed tapes. What inspires you when thinking about what features to include on a certain tape version?

Future Dreams – Mixtape SDT-014

We get inspired by the bands themselves, which helps us make each release unique, especially when it comes to the European version. We’ve got some cool new ideas and features coming out later this year that I think people are gonna dig. Plus, we’re big fans of mixtapes and we donate all the money we make from them to charity. We’re planning to do a few more of those this year too.

At the moment, there is still a pre-order running for the latest EP by Tragic Figures from Chicago. Are there already plans for any future releases that you might be willing to tease – or what are the general future plans for the label?

We’re all about keeping things exciting and surprising, giving our audience something to really get hyped about. Believe me, we’re dropping heat all throughout the year, so keep your eyes peeled for those announcements. I’ve got a feeling that our upcoming mixtape and the test tape release bundles are going to be absolute game-changers that everyone’s going to love!

Since we try to consistently broaden the musical scope at Transcended Music Blog, I’d like to ask if you can name three current releases that our readers should definitely get to know.

Definitely check out:

They Are Gutting a Body of Water – S,
Full Body 2 – Infinity Signature, and
Panther Modern – Deluxe.

Thank you very much for taking your time answering the questions regarding Summer Darling Tapes. The last words of this interview shall belong to you.

Thanks so much for the opportunity! We’ve been a big fan of Transcended Music Blog for a while now. To anyone reading this, be sure to check us out if you’re into what we’re doing and don’t hesitate to write to us. Peace!

Summer Darling Tapes on Instagram

Sadly, while having prepared this article, John announced that Black Omega Recordings will be put to a halt at the end of 2024 as can be seen in this post.

Summer Darling Tapes Releases

Old Coke – Seasonal


With Seasonal, Old Coke from Chicago present the release of their second EP after their debut Sorted. When entering this EP, the welcoming warmth of the tone seduces you to calmly dive into this music. Especially the opener “Vapor Drunk” opens up with a beautiful clean guitar tone and vocals whose reverb dreamily sets them into the further back of the mix. Shortly thereafter, Old Coke immediately portray that they are capable of versatile songwriting. The guitars shift back and forth between clean warmth, gazey walls of sound and occasional Punk riffing. This entire EP sounds like a hazey dream that gradually draws you in. The framework of the songs proceeds towards a more straightforward gaze-infused heavier tone on “Coffee Eyes”. On “Suntinged”, the calming beauty of this sound is highlighted once more with cleaner guitars and slower, sort of Jazz-nuanced drumming. To be honest, it is extremely difficult to get a full grasp of this sound when writing about it since the emotions that are transported with this music are incredibly broad. Better listen into this EP right away!

The Shape – …Introducing


Toronto-based Synth Pop combo The Shape released their debut with their first EP / single Introducing… It only takes three tracks to fall for this highly memorable Synth-Pop sound that The Shape showcase. Feel free to be thrown right back into the 80s when the synth sound is coupled with a memorable chorus on “Tunnel Vision.” On all of those tracks, the synth-infused Pop sound shows bold love for New Wave sound while also not hiding this genre’s rooting in Punk. All of those three tracks take different approaches applying varying tones of this basis. On “Tunnel Vision,” especially the incredibly catchy chorus underlined with the repetitive synth melody builds the foundation for a track that’s gonna be stuck in your head for days. The second track “Blush” rather focuses on a melancholic, almost ballad-like atmosphere and the third track “Cough Collar” finds the strongest resemblance in what can be considered a rather classy setting of original New Wave.

Lesser Care – Underneath Beside Me


When getting closer in touch with the resurgence of post-punk that is currently still taking place, it is especially breathtaking when it only takes the first few minutes of a track to immediately cast a very original spell on the listener. Lesser Care‘s flanger-infused arpeggio guitar melody in the beginning of “Shadow” alone is already enough to fully grasp you, when vocals and synths kick in as well I instantly fell in love. On Underneath, Beside Me, Lesser Care seem to cherrypick from the big names of the genre to yet construct something very individual that will touch the heart of a large amount of OG fans. Although the beginning lures you with rather optimistic tones, it feels as if the further progression of the album softly shoves you towards more of a Joy Division tone. When having passed the album midway, the synths shift towards the front and the vocals towards the back, entirely switching the tone of the band before moving towards a more straightforward punk-infused sound as on “Placement.”

Soft Kill – Metta World Peace


Although not being that long (round about 30 minutes) there is a lot of musical ground covered here. “Rat Poison” is a bleak as Soft Kill has ever gotten, while “Paranoid” (feat. Evil Pimp) has a hazy vibe to it and tracks like the aforementioned “Molly” or “Veil of Pain” are among the catchiest Synth-Pop Soft Kill has ever released.

Metta World Peace is a product of passion. Passion for creating music, alone or with the help of (sometimes unlikely) friends. This album feels like a magnifying glass view on what makes Soft Kill amazing: melody, mood and mastery in making captivating music.

[Thomas Transcended]

Lathe of Heaven – Demo


No clear sight, the air feels heavy and a fast paced drum beat moves your body. That is what it feels like listening to the demo of Post-Punk Proteges Lathe of Heaven. With their debut Bound By Naked Skies released last year you could clearly hear their vision on this demo.

It always a nice sight for ears, when the promises given on a demo come to fruition. This Demo contains three Post-Punk-Pearls, from the pumping “Genome” and “Breaking Strain” to the more melancholic closer “Moon-Driven Sea“, Lathe of Heaven tick all the Post-Punk boxes in compelling fashion to wake the interest of everyone interested in this genre.

[Thomas Transcended]

Tragic Figures – Open Sores


Tragic Figures from Chicago take a more Rock-oriented approach to their Post-Punk roots. Shoegaze is the name of the game here. Instead of shuffling in a club, Tragic Figures take it to the dusk-flooded-streets on a summer night.

The dreamy atmosphere is perfectly intertwined with the echoing voice and the waving guitars. The opening track “Expose” is a perfect example of the quality of this EP. If it was up to me, I would compare them to Soft Kill around their Saviour-phase. Shoegaze combined with Dreampop can never go wrong, Tragic Figures are a prime example for that.

[Thomas Transcended]

Adored – Songs For Film


As I scrolled through the music library of Summer Darling Tapes I got stuck on a few releases. One of the most popular was Songs For Film by the Lennon brothers and Christian Nichols, a must-listen for anyone who enjoys 80’s style music in any form.

Adored manages to bring the style of 80s synth-pop into the modern era in a marvellous way and give it its own modern touch without being overproduced, as is often the case in other modern compositions that also draw heavily on 80s sound design. The songs are soundtracks to film scenes that the two brothers invented themselves in the writing process and they do this with flying colours for anyone who grew up with 80s films.

[Patrik Transcended]

Sleepwalk – Underneath The Shade


Another highlight on Summer Darling Tapes’ music shelf for me was Underneath The Shade by Sleepwalk, a great shoegaze album that I can recommend to any fan of the genre.

Wonderfully hypnotic sounds that are intentionally a bit dirtier than some cleaner playing shoegaze bands. Sometimes I also had the feeling that it was drifting into Punk in a positive sense. The style doesn’t change much over the whole album, but the band manages to incorporate varied sound structures into their songs that captivated me. One exception, however, is the song “Skiflowers”, which sounds much calmer and more controlled, giving it a more melancholy note.

[Patrik Transcended]

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