From Aug. 26-30, KEXP celebrates our first ever Mixtape Week. All week we'll be featuring on-air mixes created by our listeners and celebrating the art of the mix – whether it be cassette, CD, or digital playlist. We'll also be sharing stories on our website from writers, KEXP staffers, and more – like this piece below KEXP's Director of Planning & Business Intelligence Cyrus Despres.
Since my teens, making mixtapes has been a helpful way of processing and communicating complex thoughts and feelings with people close to me. I was having a good run of them in 2011 when I suggested this project to my friend Lokesh that October.
"I'm considering making a Manchester revival mix for a future project. It's a tricky one, as I don't want to simply make a "best of" mix from our nights out together."
Manchester Neverending is a collaborative mix made by my friends Johnny, Lokesh, and me over the course of October 2011 through February 2012 via the internet after years spent living in separate cities. I went west to Seattle and Lokesh made it to Baltimore, while Johnny held things down in Manchester, NH, where the three of us bonded over music the year following my graduation from college. Memories and feelings of our brief time together have remained present in my life all of these years, surfacing and multiplying with every chance we’ve had to reconnect. The warmth I enjoyed with Johnny and Lokesh, sharing music and reflecting on our past and present through the making of Manchester Neverending makes this mix project one of my favorites and one that I wanted to re-engage in as part of KEXP’s Mixtape Week.
Lokesh helped bring Johnny into the project. The two of them had a longer history, having gone to high school together in Manchester before I met them. When I graduated from Saint Anselm College in 2003, I moved into a downtown apartment that served as home base for the three of us spending nights together enjoying music, making casual art, and jumping out into the streets to climb fire escapes and frequent the bars with good jukeboxes. With Manchester Neverending, I wanted to reconvene the group, catch up on how our lives had progressed, and hear great new music that I knew they each could share.
We created a shared Dropbox folder and took turns contributing songs with only a loose idea of where we were headed. Lokesh got things started with “Friends to Go” by Paul McCartney. The song reflects upon separation and anticipates reconnection. McCartney was channeling his deceased friend and former bandmate, George Harrison when writing it. With this pick, Lokesh made it clear we need not be shy about recontextualizing songs to serve the mythologization of our friendship and personal stories.
I followed with “Apathy” by Mikal Cronin. I was playing off the “waiting” lyric in “Friends to Go” and providing my friends a glimpse into the angst and anxiety I harbored as I grew older, settled down, and let go of the dreams and wildness of my past in service of a stable and fulfilling future. For his first contribution, Johnny came through with my most listened-to track of the mix, at 102 plays, “Long Long Time to Get Old” by Great Speckled Bird. The song further developed the themes of growing older, looking back, and watching friends go. We were on to something!
From Cyrus, Oct 27, 2011, 9:18 PM: “I like this experience of anticipation and unexpected music thrills. I have to say, when I thought about us doing this collaborative mixtape, all I could think about was when Johnny subtly hyped 12:51 for, like, two weeks before he finally dropped it on us. What a great way to share music!”
Johnny brought more magic with “I Don’t Like” from the Lee Jung Hwa LITA comp released that year, and Lokesh dropped a couple more contemporary alt-pop gems from Frank Lenz and Sean Na Na. I flexed my early power pop muscle with “Always in the Way” and kept things weird with R. Stevie Moore’s “Part of the Problem”. With each new share, I felt like we were back in my old place surprising each other with new music while testing our drinking, head-standing, and drawing abilities, and loving every minute of it. With Johnny’s submission of “Leftovers” he emails:
From Johnny, Nov 9, 2011, 9:12 PM: “i can really see the Cyrus meets Elvis leg stomp when i hear this song! If we could track down the infamous triple piggyback picture, i think we'd be all set for a cover...but i think that one is lost forever. Perhaps Kate D. might have it?”
Along with nurturing nostalgia, our song selections and emails were opportunities to reveal new parts of ourselves to each other. We were having a conversation through music. Lokesh provided a vision for how to finish this project.
From Lokesh, Nov 9, 2011, 9:41 PM: “Should we take this mix to the next level and make it a double cd? We can make artwork for each other. I would craft two covers, one for Cyrus and one for Johnny. Everyone else does the same. We exchange in person in Delaware. So each person would get and give two covers. And yes please, we should see if we can dig up the triple piggyback picture.”
We decided to keep Manchester Neverending to a single CD-length. It seemed time to wrap the collaboration up before it tapered off as the pace of sharing slowed down. However, we had more music and feelings to share and chose to each build a secret, companion mix that we’d send each other along with our own artwork to complete the project.
From Cyrus, Nov 18, 2011, 9:30 AM: “I'm working on a little chart to visually depict the mix. It might end up being the basis for some artwork. I'll try to put it to (digital) paper this weekend and share so maybe you can both punch it up a bit. Also, because I was interested I've been tracking how each of our individual picks sound as three separate mixes. Kinda interesting to see how it unweaves into 3 separate sonic and narrative paths as well as how they integrate.”
After a flurry of submissions basking in old-time exuberance, we slowed the songs down as we neared the end of Manchester Neverending. “This Is Where I Belong” cut to the chase, and “Brazil” became a stand-in for our never-realized fantasy of spending a long weekend in Delaware together following the completion of the mix.
“Brazil, where hearts were entertaining June
We stood beneath an amber moon
And softly murmured ‘Someday soon’"
I followed with “Wait Til Next Year”, an ode to loose-living and chuckles. Johnny’s “Keep on Dancing” and Lokesh’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” brought sweet closure to the mix. These final songs were claims made on each other's hearts while acknowledging the reality of our distance from each other. We briefly wondered if we should resequence the mix.
From Cyrus, Dec 16, 2011, 9:28 PM: “Man, I don't know about you two, but after sitting so long with this mix and the way we've gone about sharing songs, i'm feeling pretty attached to the original order. I definitely hear difficult transitions and all, but there's something in the memory I've developed about the way it's come together that makes it hard to remix.”
From Lokesh, Jan 8, 2012, 6:42 AM: “I vote for keeping the mix as is. I now associate the songs and the order with the emails and discussions we've had and I like it that way. Official title, 'Manchester Neverending' sounds good to me. Let's make our outtakes/b-side cds secretly. I'll be creating artwork for Manchester Neverending for both of you and packaging in the special bonus disc.”
Lokesh and I completed our companion mixes and art, but Johnny was pretty quiet on email by this point and didn’t get his mix out. I’d love to hear it! My mix, which I titled Manchesterious, was a personal memoir of my life since Manchester and my warm feelings for my friends. The artwork is made of photos from our time together and with other friends in Manchester circa 2003-04. Everyone other than the person receiving the mix is cut out and replaced with old drawings we made of each other. Hand drawn line graphs of the tracklist by BPM and release year are included to share my love of data analysis and provide different perspectives on the composition and flow of the mix.
Lokesh and I have remained connected since Manchester Neverending, seeing each other for a few long weekends over the years, and as KEXP’s Mixtape Week preparations heated up, I reconnected with Johnny in a heartfelt but fleeting email exchange. Music has served as a context for our connection from first getting to know each other through now, looking back at old times and ahead to perhaps one more rooftop together someday. Manchester Neverending reaffirmed my love for Johnny and Lokesh and helped place our friendship in a leading role in my life story. I listen to these mixes often and look forward to the next time we connect.
From Johnny, Nov 9, 2011, 8:49 PM: “Take the "Someday" video by the Strokes, but with us in their place...set during the winter time...pre-bar fun at cyrus' pad, then off to the bar for laughs, conversations and dancing. snowballs, snow angels, etc. That would be the greatest video ever...”
Listen to Manchester Neverending, Manchesterious, and Lokesh's Queen City Rhapsody mix below, along with a peek of the spreadsheet used to create Manchester Neverending below.
|Mix Track #||Name||Artist||Album||Time||BPM||Year||Added By|
|1||Friends to Go||Paul McCartney||Chaos and Creation in the Backyard||163||116||2005||Lokesh|
|2||Apathy||Mikal Cronin||Mikal Cronin||158||92||2011||Cyrus|
|3||Long Long Time To Get Old||Great Speckled Bird||Great Speckled Bird||187||84||1969||Johnny|
|4||God I Need a Map||Frank Lenz||Strictly Background||131||110||2009||Lokesh|
|5||Always In The Way||Ol' Paint||Ol' Paint||164||119||1971||Cyrus|
|6||I Don't Like||Lee Jung Hwa||Beautiful Rivers and Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound of South Korea's Shin Joong||191||94||1970||Johnny|
|7||Spread the Good Feelin'||Sean Na Na||My Majesty||148||141||2002||Lokesh|
|8||Part Of The Problem||R. Stevie Moore||Clack: The 1979-80 New York Studio||226||143||1980||Cyrus|
|9||Euthanize Me||Grand Trine||Euthanize Me||172||179||2011||Johnny|
|10||Ghost of His Smile||Sparklehorse||Good Morning Spider||192||133||1999||Lokesh|
|11||All Kindsa Girls||The Real Kids||The Real Kids||220||174||1977||Cyrus|
|12||Leftovers||PS I Love You & Diamond Rings||Leftovers||323||144||2011||Johnny|
|13||Solid Gold Easy Action||T.Rex||The Very Best Of T.Rex||141||217||1972||Lokesh|
|14||Dumb Head||Sharades||Joe Meek Presents - Let's Go! Joe Meek's Girls||124||124||1964||Cyrus|
|15||This Is Where I Belong||The Kinks||Face To Face||145||114||1966||Johnny|
|16||Brazil-Geoff Muldaur||Michael Kamen/The National Philharmonic Orchestra of London||Brazil||206||96||1985||Lokesh|
|17||Wait Til Next Year||Lee Hazlewood||Forty||215||85||1969||Cyrus|
|18||Keep On Dancing||The Ronettes||Back To Mono (1958-1969), Disc||153||108||1964||Johnny|
|19||I'll Be Seeing You||Françoise Hardy - Iggy Pop||Clair Obscur||245||117||2000||Lokesh|
1. "Mystery Mail" - Cass McCombs
2. "My Music Is My Sweet (Dub)" - Angelo & L'Orchidee D'Hawai
3. "Getting Older" - The Clean
4. "Wild In The Streets" - Garland Jeffreys
5. "Good Things" - Charles Leo Gebhardt IV
6. "Shit Happens" - White Fang
7. "Get With It" - SPURM
8. "Boys Are Back" - Ryan Garbes
9. "Golden Rose" - Stan Hubbs
10. "Distance Fades Between Us" - Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark
11. "That's Us / Wild Combination" - Arthur Russell
12. "Hawaii Nei I'll Miss You" - Bobby Brown
13. "In My Room" - Sagittarius
14. "two sixty one pine" - ccaanntt
15. "Tiny Gradiations Of Loss" - The Caretaker
16. "Go Now" - Bessie Banks
From Cyrus, Sun, Feb 5, 2012, 12:17 AM: “Alright boys. I'm done with my b-sides and artwork! I'm excited to get these out to you. They should go in the mail on Monday.”
From Johnny, Feb 10, 2012, 1:11 PM: “got mine yesterday! the packaging was fantastic...loved the photo of the old rover jukebox. My mix should be ready and out for delivery sometime next week. : )”
From Lokesh, Feb 19, 2012, 1:20 PM: “The artwork, the music! This might be my favorite mix tape of all-time! Going to listen to it a few more times and send some comments on fave songs and moments. My mix is ready. The artwork is not. I'm in San Francisco till next Sunday. When I get back to Bmore I will finish the artwork and mail out to both of you guys.”
From Lokesh, Mar 19, 2012, 9:13 PM: “Track 14 - CANT. Amazing! Also, the Cass McCombs song you choose to start the album was perfect.”
1. "This New Garage" - Secret Stars
2. "In The Garage" - Weezer
3. "Eddie Vedder" - Local H
4. "Everlong" - Foo Fighters
5. "Grass" - Animal Collective
6. "Bear" - The Antlers
7. "Laura" - Girls
8. "Double Date" - Sean Na Na
9. "Somewhere In My Heart" - Aztec Camera
10. "Your Cover's Blown" - Belle & Sebastian
11. "Divine" - Sebastien Tellier
12. "Raquel" - Neon Neon
13. "Float On" - Kidz Bop Kids
14. "Major Leagues" - Pavement
15. "Let’s Go Mets Go" - New York Mets
16. "I Don't Wanna Die" - The Unicorns
From Lokesh, Mar 19, 2012, 9:12 PM: “I decided to do something a little different for my month late mix: http://lokeshdhakar.com/projects/mix-cd/. My mix artwork is simpler and less tactile/textured then Cyrus's handicraft but hopefully it brings back some good memories. Enjoy the mix! It's not that refined, but it has some fun moments.”
From Cyrus, Mar 20, 2012, 3:33 PM: “I love it! The website definitely pulls me back into the old apartment. Great interpretation of the room, right on down to the bareness of the walls aside from the music collection. I just got through the first full listen of the mix, interrupted by my work here and there throughout the day. There are so many highlights, and the mix has a great flow. Lokesh, did you do some song transition mixing? I've gotta say right off the bat that Local H never sounded so good, and that Sebastian Tellier song is probably my favorite new-to-me song on the mix. This project has been very rewarding. Johnny, you're up!! I can't wait for the final installment!”
Martin Douglas tells a story about his friend and makes a mix.
The New York Times best-selling author reflects on the beauty of making mixes as we celebrate KEXP's first ever Mixtape Week.