Lafayette label embraces cassette tape’s unexpected comeback 

Citronel Sounds founders Alaric Bloss (left) and Sidney Bloss (right). Alaric Bloss

For modern audiophiles, vinyl records are the pinnacle of the listening experience. In 2023, vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time since 1987.

But making vinyl records can be incredibly time consuming, with production times ranging anywhere from six weeks to six months.

Now, Citronel Sounds, a new Lafayette company, is empowering artists to embrace the DIY spirit through the humble cassette tape. Citronel operates not only as cassette producers, but also as an accessible record label working to record and promote new artists.

Longtime music enthusiasts Alaric and Sidney Bloss started the company as Alaric aimed to launch his first solo album Pensive. (Alaric and Sidney are married.) In an increasingly digital age, Alaric wanted to create something tangible. His first inclination was to look toward vinyl, but he soon realized vinyl wasn’t as feasible as he’d hoped.

“The lead times are just kind of crazy about vinyl. Like I don’t feel like waiting months for something,” Alaric says. “So I just kind of figured out what we needed to do, bought a cassette machine, and then went from there.”

Cassette tapes, which cost less to produce for artists upfront, maintain the retro feel of vinyl and offer a more durable product to consumers. The sound itself is a warm and distinctive one.

“You always have a little bit of a tape hiss on a cassette, just like you would a vinyl. You hear a little bit of that scratchiness, but with a cassette it’s just kind of a unique flair that is desirable among some music listeners. It’s desirable amongst my ears as well,” Alaric explains.

Cassettes are having a comeback of their own, with major acts like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish all making their latest albums available on cassette.

In addition to offering full-service cassette production, the Bloss duo is operating as a music label for small, up-and-coming artists. Because the music industry can be difficult to break through, Citronel hopes to offer a starting point.

“I think a lot of musicians, especially, get discouraged really quickly when they create something, and then they try to find a record label to put it out. And we’re for the opposite,” says Alaric. “You don’t need to submit your music to us; we will create it for you and allow you to be a part of a label and even generate some cash flow if it’s possible to.”

Citronel has already partnered with a handful of artists, such as Lafayette singer-songwriter Kid Charleroi, Arkansas-based band Cosmic Cream and Michigan artist Shanf. The company’s hope is to grow production capabilities to allow for more tape customization.

Citronel wants to help musicians gain the confidence to put their art forth into the world while fostering connections in the local music scene, and, according to Alaric, it’s hoping to encourage a broader appreciation for an old format rising in popularity.

“If you find the right piece of machinery, you can create cassettes yourself as well. So that’s kind of what we’re after, to just be a part of that community and encourage people to just record music yourself, make the tangible object yourself, and then just combine all aspects together,” Alaric says. “We’re obviously not trying to promote against streaming music. We’re just trying to keep that part of the music alive.”