I’m sitting on a weathered brown couch at the Sacred Bones headquarters; a loft space in industrial North Brooklyn that’s part inventory storage and part “open concept” workspace. I’m here for the unwrapping—the unboxing, if you will—of Townes Van Zandt’s first album, For The Sake Of The Song, which Sacred Bones is releasing on their new 8-track label, Sacred 8.

The entire office is quiet—rapt with attention, I'd argue—as Bones founder Caleb Braaten peels off the plastic wrapping and stuffs the 8-track confidently into a Weltron 8-track player; a high-tech, multicolored button-y device that looks like it belongs on a spaceship rather than a window sill cluttered with plants. The title track plays.

“Just drink it in. You ever hear music this good? Listen to how good that sounds,” says Braaten, who is tall, thin, and bearded. Dressed in a black collared shirt, black wranglers, and black boots, like a gothic apprentice to ZZ Top, he glances approvingly at the Weltron.

“Yeah, the haunting quality of the warble,” agrees longtime Bones staffer and black eyeliner aficionado Gabby Edelman, who’s listening from her desk nearby.

“This is the best way to consume music,” Braaten says. “I mean, what do you think? What other ways are there? You could listen on your telephone—but that’s weird. Records are really flat…you have to flip them over, that’s a lot of work.”

What about regular tapes? “Regular tapes are cool,” Braaten says, lost in thought for a moment. “But you have to flip them over still.”

So you don’t flip an 8-track? “Well, they’re on an infinite loop,” Braaten says. “It’s really good for lazy people.”

But I read in an encyclopedia that you also can’t rewind an 8-track, either. “Yeah, there’s no rewinding,” he says. “But you can fast forward them. 8-tracks are really future thinking. So, do you have the Weltron? Which one do you have?”

The 8-track cover design of "For the Sake of the Song" by Townes Van Zandt.
Courtesy Sacred Bones Records
For the sake of the warble, bro.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but this is my first time experiencing this profound audio format. Forgive me: they stopped manufacturing 8-tracks in the late ’80s. Braaten reckons the last one was something by Don Henley. [Editor’s note—the final commercially manufactured 8-track is a topic of great debate online. Most seem to agree that Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits from 1988 was likely the last.] Stores like Radioshack continued to sell 8-track blanks into the early ’90s, but after that, there was nothing. The format is finite.

Braaten says that anyone who’s making new 8-tracks now—like Sacred 8—is actually just dubbing over old ones, or they’ve somehow gotten a hold on a stash of blanks. “There’s another thing for you,” he says. “8-tracks: very sustainable. Because they are not making any new parts for them, so it’s all recycled!”

So who exactly is supplying Sacred 8? Braaten hesitates. “Couple of nice folks… named Dan and Kathy. They’re the premier 8-track manufacturers—but I don’t really want to give up all my sources.”

Braaten appears to have been prepared for the fact that I’m an 8-track ignoramus. He steers me towards a nearby coffee table that’s strewn with the things, as well as a few 8-track players. This guy’s a connoisseur.

“I brought some for us to look at—also here’s some cookies,” he says, pointing to a bakery box nestled between the 8-track players.

“So there’s some original Townes Van Zandt… And for the kids, you know,” Braaten gestures to a copy of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, “This is what the kids are into.”

Sacred 8's Caleb Braaten, dressed in a black collared shirt, black wranglers, and black boots, like a gothic apprentice to ZZ Top, glances approvingly at the Weltron.
Photo by Grace Scott
Sacred 8's Caleb Braaten and his 8-track riches.


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