By Isobel Mason
A sea of sweat drenched bodies with heads bobbing up and down like a buoy in the ocean on a windy day fill the rectangular room. At the shore of people lie the machines which create the sound moving through the crowd like the wind – the mixture of body odours flowing along with the beat.
The three boys on stage, under the name Mildew Mildew, use their instruments like wands to cast a spell on the audience, causing them to nod with the beats. Slow vibrating strings from an electric bass and guitar leap to all corners of the room, joined by the pounding of sticks on the collection of circular surfaces to make up the drum set. It was an exciting night for the little shop.
Other days the shop is brightly lit by the natural light from the large windows which greet passersby strolling down the strip with numerous cheerfully coloured plastic rectangles. The three-panel window display shouts out waves of nostalgia for baby boomers taking a stroll down the Bloor Street West strip. For many millennials, the small rectangular piece of plastic with two holes in the center pose an introduction to an old art form, a cassette.
Marking the midway point between Dufferin Street and Lansdowne Avenue on Bloor Street West is the Dupe Shop. Quite simple looking from the exterior, the inside of the shop is full of life with music singing from the stereo and employees busy at work towards the back of the store. On the right-hand side of the rectangular room, across from the sand toned brick wall, sit two chunky, black stereos – a LUXMAN and a YAMAHA – topped with 16 small plastic rectangular cases separated into three rows. There is rarely a moment where you will find your ears at peace – in a good way.
The Duplication company is a thirty-year-old online business based in Montreal, where people are able to order cassette tapes or request to print their own cassettes. Three years ago, the desire for a retail store was filled when the order heavy area in Toronto had a retail vacancy pop up, 1185 Bloor Street West – the home of the Dupe Shop. Some orders to duplication.ca are sent to employees at The Dupe Shop to review to ensure files are uploaded properly. Employees at the retail location also help customers with uploading orders to send to the factory in Montreal to be mass produced.
Walking into the shop, Kate Bush’s A Sensual World romances your ears – or whatever tape one of the employees decided to pop into the player. The room is filled with cassettes at every turn, red and pink tapes plastered on a board in the shape of a heart, stacks on display in the window, tapes face out on the walls, and a large alphabetically ordered spread in the middle of the room. Empty cassettes and VHS tapes for home production can also be found on shelves on the left-hand side of the room, and when in stock, old Walkman and other cassette players.
Behind a wooden desk at the back sits the manager of the shop, Garret Darley, dressed in a teal Northern Reflections crewneck and a baseball cap. Growing up on the west coast, Darley explains how is not a musician himself but, is connected to music in other ways, “I’ve always been into visual arts stuff. I’ve always been involved in music stuff, so it’s funny to land here.”
Mass duplication is done through orders online and shipped out from the Montreal location. However, Darley explained with a master copy of a cassette they can perform duplications in the store, and VHS’s can be converted to a digital file – digitalization of home movies is a frequent request. Aside from duplication machines, the store is also equipped with a lathe cut machine to cut records onto plastic.
The back of the shop also holds the duplication machines behind the check-out desk.
Some cassettes found in the store are dropped off by people looking to pass on their collection. Employees play the tapes throughout their work day, adding to the stores ability to introduce unknown artists and create a musical environment.
“We are all just sort of involved in the music scene in some way,” said Darley about his co-workers. “But everybody who has worked here has always been a musician or an audio engineer, so I think we all of a personal connection to a lot of the people who come into the shop. They’re not a lot of barriers I guess, we’re all just sort of friends.”
Back to the old ways
Streaming services, such as Apple Music and Spotify, control most music circulation today. However, independent musicians and local talent thrive through businesses like the Dupe Shop, which provide a place for the local scene to market themselves and find exposure through the store. The old practice of bands making tapes to sell at gigs is still prominent in the local scene.
“I think rooted back in the concept that bands are still making tapes and promoting themselves that way, it’s really good to have a place, like a home for everybody’s music,” said Darley. “There’s a lot of record stores but there’s a heavy preference on the mainstream, so it’s nice to have a shop where we can showcase more local artists that way, also people who order tapes around the world have the option to send tapes here to sell them so it’s kind of like a cool hub of independent music.”
Venue for local artists
On March 1, Mildew Mildew, “a pop band creatively ascending on an egoless wave”, as described on their Bandcamp profile, performed at The Dupe Shop for an EP tape release show. The store provides the ability for bands to find an outlet for their music sales besides on the internet, as well as have physical copies of their music.
Mildew Mildew brought the house down on that cold night. The man behind the microphone stood about six feet tall, guitar in hand, and hunched over, with his long brown mane shielding half of his face. His head banging as he shrewed the strings that accompanied his vocals melody. The collection of sounds came to a sudden eclipse but was quickly replaced by a roar of admiration from the audience
Different Floors by Mildew Mildew is the four song EP that was released on March 1, 2019.