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Dylan Francis Claire Bravener really loves cassette tapes. While playing bass in the punk band Life in Vacuum for a decade and touring all over the world, Bravener was collecting and swapping cassettes with other bands he met along the way. Since parting ways with LIV, he’s found a place in Death Party Playground, who’s single (“cassingle”) “Bright New” was 3 Nines’ first release. They’ve since released their first full tape, Bruce Willis’ Jog Mixtape.

“I wanted to be more involved in the community and kind of build a stronger music scene here,” Bravener said on why he started 3 Nines. The project officially launched July 1st, with Bravener putting about a month of hard work into it to get the first few tapes ready to go, which includes Sad Brad and the Crybabies’ Big Whiny Tunes 5 and Duff Thompson and the Full Grown Men’s self-titled tape.

Bravener has a studio setup in his basement, which looks like a graveyard of early 90s tech, except for the laptop. He’s got six cassette recorders stacked on top of each other, a few boom boxes hanging around, and some old walkmans waiting to be refurbished — he plans to sell them at shows, so no worries if you gave yours to a thrift store in 2002. And of course there are hundreds of cassettes, some blank in a variety of colours, others newly recorded with one of the six releases 3 Nines currently has out, and a tonne in Bravener’s personal collection.

He recently snagged someone’s old collection of about 200 cassettes for $20. He keeps the ones he likes, and the rest get repurposed, stripped of the original audio to be used for future 3 Nines work, along with the cases. The cover art of all these are scattered across a card table, waiting to be cut up and used in a collage Bravener’s working on.

Why cassettes? For Bravener, it’s a bit of an emotional attachment. Now in his late 20s, his first introduction to music was through cassette tapes. His childhood was too late for vinyl and a little too early for CDs. “It’s more my lifetime,” he said of tapes. Sifting through his current collection, I gushed over many old favourites, like the Backstreet Boys’ self titled debut and Much Dance Mix ‘94.

“I remember being 18 and throwing out my [old] cassettes, not knowing I was going to be in a punk band and be collecting them again,” Bravener said, echoing a regret similar to my parents’ generation over their long-gone vinyl collections.

Eventually, he wants to get into tape DJing with a couple of cassette decks, which is part of the motivation behind building up his own collection.

3 Nines has already been making a name for themselves around town, with a release party for Bruce Willis’ Job Mixtape at Becky’s Apartment and a booth at the punk rock flea market in Guelph at the end of July. Soon you’ll find their tapes at Orange Monkey in uptown Waterloo and Duke Corner Store in downtown Kitchener.

Check out 999tapes.bandcamp.com to listen to the current releases, and follow them on Facebook to find out about upcoming shows and events. You can find Bravener in August at the Kitchener Blues Fest, scooping ice cream with The Yeti Cafe and selling tapes all weekend.