Seasonal Mixtape Series

The seasonal mixtape series began at the very beginning of 2021, amidst the first pandemic winter. While I had always loved making mixtapes and mix CDs growing up and into my mid-20s, I went through a period of serious economic instability and mental health struggle which resulted in my not really having a way to listen to music on hard formats for a while. I eventually started putting a lot of work into making seasonal music compilations on Spotify and sharing them with my friends, the way that I used to with my stereo. As Spotify began to come under a lot of fire for exploiting musicians, I was thinking about alternative options for sharing music with my friends, but it was hard: few people had a way to listen to tapes or CDs or make them anymore.

The last seasonal Spotify playlist I made, Spring 2020’s “feel like snakes twisting through quarantine,” is one I spent a lot of time on and remain very proud of, even though I cannot hear my own work anymore, since I refuse to pay Spotify to listen to playlists in order. You can hear and see that it was the light through the tunnel to making real mixtapes again; I even made a paper playlist for the sheer joy of writing out a playlist on a page with ink and making it beautiful, even though it just lives in the folder built into the planner I used for that year or whatever now. I just made it to remember how much I love doing that. And I’m glad I did: it led me not just back to making mixtapes, but to doing things that bring me joy again generally.

When quarantine hit, one of the first things I invested in with the small business loan I eventually got from the government was a pure tube stereo amp and a quality Marantz tape deck. It was actually the DC duo Blacks’ Myths that made this happen–I had bought their first LP on Atlantic Rhythms, but could not listen to the second, because it was only put out on cassette. I needed to hear it, and I valued it enough that I wanted to hear it on hard format. It had been a long time since that had felt important to me.

I made this investment during an unfurling catastrophe with unforeseeable ongoing economic consequences, because listening to music was something I could actually do during quarantine, and I wanted it to be as wildly fulfilling as possible if that was kind of it, indefinitely. I immediately got back into making mixtapes, making a four hour epic over the course of the first pandemic summer devoted to protest music, specifically attempting to illustrate the fact that Black people invented most of it. It ranges from hardcore punk to blues, rock, work songs, hip hop, soul, electro, house, techno, gospel, disco, industrial, jazz, etc. It’s called ‘This Ain’t No Picnic’: In My House, All Forms of Gospel are Allowed (‘Cuz to Me, M.C. Means Move the Crowd’), each hour represents one century of slavery in the Americas (so don’t ever tell me it is too long to listen to), and one day when my audio engineer ex finishes mastering it, you will finally be able to hear it!!!

I spent most of the summer perfecting this: re-recording, listening, learning the ins and outs of recording from different sources on my tape deck and figuring out how to sort of manually get the volumes to be close over time. This whole project has been delayed for years due to my refusal to learn how to digitize tapes and master audio myself, and I own that. Maybe I will finally do that soon. I am also getting to a point in making tapes where I want to create more artful shifts and transitions, so finally blowing all of the dust out of this mixer and getting a friend to come over and show me how to use it seems in the near-future cards.

In the fall of that year, I did a mixtape trade with my friend Carrie, but I was missing one aspect of making sharable playlists through a streaming service: being able to keep listening to the mixes I made forever. Carrie’s tape ended up being kind of a study for the tape I eventually made for my old friend Glenna, the first in this series, which was digitized and shared with the world after Glenna received the hard copy. It actually played an important role in me getting my first assignment for Bandcamp, even. There has been a feeling of magic about the series since it began; these tapes seem to manifest the future in big ways. They are also a way for me to catalog my life and share it with others–not just the recipient I make the hard copy for, but anyone who wants to hear it online.

In my late teens and early twenties, I journaled so much that I would go through many journals a year, but at a certain point writing just to myself didn’t feel very interesting or valuable anymore–the moment perhaps when you cannot deny you are supposed to be a writer and do something about it. The period of isolated “figuring out” had run the length of its real utility. I wanted to have audiences for things I make, and I also find these mixtapes to be more useful little time capsules to remember my life by than whatever weird scribbles would result from each individual day…things that felt totally important in a given moment, but in the grand scheme of everything make little sense. Each tape is made very powerful by the amount of listening, thought, intention, and craft that go into them over many, many hours each season. I spend so much time on each one that I can always return very intensely to the time and space in which I was making that tape, what I was thinking, feeling, processing, considering, or envisioning.

Anyway, the project has really started to take off. I am currently booked out through next summer for these highly personal sonic documents, people have started to buy tape decks to participate, I have gotten interviewed for Sarah Grady’s blog madeyouatape and Marc Masters’ book on tapes. So, as a result, I thought maybe the series deserved a dedicated place on my website where people could find them all alongside one another and engage with this as its own project. This is that. If you are interested in receiving a tape through this project or just want to trade tapes, feel free to get in touch.

Recently, this project was featured on Sarah Grady’s wonderful Made You a Tape blog. Check it out!

Winter 2021//ON! MY! HILL! I! WAIT! FOR! WIND!

Spring 2021//knocking on doors, condensing mysteries

Summer 2021//sweet & low

Fall 2021//purify, and then; collide

Winter 2022//recorded syntax

Spring 2022//the sputtering chariot of the vernal equinox

Summer 2022//thief of fire

Fall 2022//no autumn leaves

Winter 2023//forces at work

Spring 2023//this is the chariot!!!!!

‘The Bird is the Word’: Blurbs from the Flock

“Erin is a writer and makes pretty killer mixtapes, she also owns the Dead Moon book/box set… which is a true indication of her exceptional taste.” –Jeff Mueller (June of 44, Rodan, Shipping News, Dexterity Letter Press)

“I listened to this while I was working on my book, and it was akin to hanging out with friends I’ve just met. I didn’t know any of these artists prior to listening to this tape, so every so often, I got taps on the shoulder from bands like Squid, Jordan River Boys, Scout Niblett, et al saying, ‘hey turn around check this out.’ Truly a wonderful listening experience!” –Jim Powers (Friday Night Music Party), on fall 2021//purify, and then; collide

“I think a lot of what Erin intended really resonates with my experience of the tape. But also, in ways I can’t imagine how she would know, the songs act as sort of oracles for either things that have happened to me, or things that were to happen that only now I can reflect on (meaning things that happened between now and when she gave me the tape). It feels like a most exquisite portrait of me, and I feel totally valued and seen by it. I know it’s also meant to be for everyone else, but because I was an inspiration, I can’t help but feel that way about it.” –Sevan Arabajian (Pleasure Thief, Credentials), recipient of fall 2021//purify, and then; collide

“I treasure this tape. It arrived when I absolutely needed it and it helps me each time I listen to it.” –Dash Lewis (Gardener) , recipient of spring 2022//the sputtering chariot of the vernal equinox

Erin Margaret Day is always looking for more people to make tapes for. See the contact page if you’re ready!