Every generation is going to find their own way to fetishize the process of making a mixtape. For a while, it was sitting in front of a dual-deck tape recorder and actually making a mixtape. Then, it was hours on Napster or Kazaa or Limewire, waiting for songs to download and restarting everything when your CD burner’s buffer filled up, and now it’s dealing with the fact that you have practically every song ever recorded and you’ve somehow got to turn that into a playlist that someone wants to listen to and will be impressed by and enjoy and have happy thoughts about you when they listen to.
Because that’s what it’s always been about, right? Whatever you had to do to put that mix together, it was about giving to a person or a group of people and saying “hey, I put some time and thought into this and I hope you like it.” It’s not important because it’s hard, it’s important because it’s for you.
(If you think the “for you” part of a mix isn’t important, you should totally try giving your girlfriend a mix you made for an ex-girlfriend, as I did in college. For maximum effect, totally forget that the playlist name burns with the CD from iTunes, totally forget to change it, and totally make sure your current girlfriend does not share the same name as your ex.)
The weird thing, of course, is that as important as “for you” is, nothing on a mix is “for you.” It’s music usually written by people you’ll never meet, people who’ll never know your story, people who’ve written songs about people they have met and stories they do know. But you get that perfect mix from someone, either a flame or a friend or a co-worker (mixes are great, cheap office presents, guys) and it feels like this magical, special thing, this document of that time spent putting it together and of a time, a moment when they handed it to you or it showed up in the mail, that first listen, all of that’s wrapped up in this thing that’s mostly other people’s work.
It’s the curation that makes it special. What songs made it? What songs didn’t? And how does the whole thing work together?
And that process of making the whole thing work together is a pretty good metaphor for the kind of work pye,brown does for clients. We’ve been super lucky to work with some incredibly creative clients and collaborators. We’ve pitched some projects, we’ve had some projects brought to us, and some projects have come about at the tail end of meetings when no one can remember where the idea came from.
As part of the revamp of our website, we’re slowly putting together the first real look at what we’ve done as pye,brown. Some of it’s client work, some of it’s our own projects – but none of it really belongs to us, not entirely.
That’s how we like it. We started pye,brown as a partnership because it’s more exciting to work with a partner than it is to work solo, and its much more interesting to work with people outside of our partnership than to work in a vacuum. It does create a question, though. As people who are more than a little rooted in the academic idea of “texts,” how do we know what’s really pye,brown’s?
The individual pieces of our work, the campaigns, the projects – those are the tracks on our mix. We’re on each of them, sometimes taking the lead and singing a few bars, sometimes back at the drum kit just putting the beat down.
We’re hoping that something else comes out in the mix. Something that we can’t jam into every project, something that you’ll see a little glimpse of here and there, something that comes together when you take our work as a whole.
We’re incredibly proud of our work taken piece-by-piece, and we’re more excited about it taken as a whole. It’s a mixtape, a burned CD or a playlist that we keep adding to, each project extending a little more on the stuff that came before it and making a little room for whatever’s next.
Back to music for a second, we’re slowly catching up to the great catalogue of The Mountain Goats. John Darnielle has announced that the band’s next album is entirely about wrestling and he wrote on Tumblr about some of the reaction he expected to receive.
Some people might be thinking to themselves, JD, wrestling, I don’t know, I’ve never really been into wrestling, but did I steer you wrong with the Bible album, even though you may not have been super-into the Bible? Fear not. In a world of false promises and hollow gimmicks, please rest assured that the old maxim still holds true, whether scrawled on the back of a claim check or carved into a bench in an abandoned locker room: you can’t trust much, but you can trust the Mountain Goats.
We’re not sure what’s next for pye,brown (that’s one of the best things about this), and we’re not sure that you can swap out our name for the Mountain Goats in that last sentence just yet, but we’re gonna do our best to make sure that with every track we add to this tape or CD or playlist, you can throw it into your music delivery device of choice and find something that not only feels like it's from pye,brown, but feels more than a little bit like it’s for you.
Photo courtesy Todd Hyrck.