Get to Know Telos Tapes: The Cassette-Only Indie Label

Editor’s note – when we have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on a really cool label, we jump at the chance. Telos Tapes recently got on our radar for their cassette-only release strategy. No Spotify, no Shazaming, all physical. We asked the label to provide some background on their story, and this is what they sent. Enjoy, and check out more at

Drew Danburry was on tour with J.W. Teller when he told him about a crazy idea he’d recently had.

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 “What if we started a label where we only released music on cassette?” To his surprise, J.W. seemed to like the idea. He even seemed excited about it. And the more they talked about it, the more they liked it.

Sure, we’re living in a world where everything is online and most everyone interacts and consumes media through their devices, but there was once a time when you had to actually physically search for a song. A time when it wasn’t always easy to find a song you heard on a commercial, or on the radio, or on a skateboarding video and when you did finally get it, it had value. Because you had worked for it.

Drew Danburry

Drew Danburry of Telos Tapes

Reading about bands before hearing them is a novelty today and having to wait to listen to them is outlandish. Actually purchasing an album before actually hearing it? Seems crazy.

But when we asked ourselves, “How can anyone value anything in a landfill like the Internet?” We knew the answer. (you can’t)

And perhaps maybe even more important: “If everything is catered to our convenience how do we as people avoid ending up self-involved, unappreciative and egocentric?” Again, the answer: you can’t.

Or maybe that’s a red herring. Maybe we’re tired of putting out quality music for it to be ignored because our social media game can’t compete with all the butts on Instagram. Maybe we’re a bunch of seasoned (not salty) musicians who’ve put in our time and haven’t been able to eat for a couple decades…and maybe we don’t want to play the game according to the so-called “rules.”

On a personal note, if you couldn’t find a song with Shazam would you want to solve the mystery? Or would you just forget about it and move on? (we don’t know the answer to this, this is a question specifically for you)

Later in the middle of a haircut, Drew was telling his friend Harman about the cassette-only label idea and Harman suggested the Greek word “Telos” which means “an ultimate object or aim” or in short, a purpose. It felt appropriate.

(Also, Drew Danburry likes alliterations and Telos Tapes had a nice ring to it.)

 So, after such a positive response from J.W. and Harman, Drew talked to some more friends. The response was nearly unanimous. People were interested, if not excited. Fellow struggling musicians didn’t really see a difference between “no one listening to them on the internet” versus “no one listening to them on cassette.”

J.R. Boyce and Eric Edvalson were brought on to do art and design. Jimmi Bayer of Infintesmal Records was brought in for consulting and Ever Kipp was brought in from Tiny Human for help with publicity. Drew does the day to day operations and J.W. helps with quality control. 

Regardless, the cassette tape only label idea? We decided to put the idea to the test. Welcome to Telos Tapes. 

The first release is a new project from Drew that has developed into a newly formed band called “Icarus Phoenix.” Inspired by shoegaze bands and cyclical failure the album was written as he climbed out of a crippling near-suicidal depression (the keywords are “climbed out of” kind of like Christian Bale in the Dark Knight Rises). Drew would like to point out that the album gets less sad as it goes along. 

The second project is the mysterious punk EP from “No One Knows Who Did This” and though the lead singer of the project is currently seven years old, they are adamant that “no one know who did this”. As responsible adults, we feel obligated to respect their right to privacy. Honestly, we’ve already said too much. NO ONE KNOWS WHO DID THIS.

Regardless, there’s something ritualistic about putting a cassette into a tape deck and hitting play. An act of commitment. And what if the only way you could experience an album was through a physical medium (like, for example, an audio cassette tape)? What if you just missed out on the whole experience if you didn’t have a tape deck?

As a team we intend to release art on our terms. By establishing boundaries as humans, we maintain our self-respect. By establishing boundaries as artists, we do the same.

This is art. This is special. This is our soul. It’s not for everyone. But maybe it’s just for you.

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