Raven + Crow February 2019 Mixtape

Being the latest in a series of playlists from the LA-based, Brooklyn-born creative studio

Our friends at Raven + Crow Studio make the sort of new-music mixtapes that should have spindles but, since 2015, have existed in streaming playlist form only. They have thoughtfully illustrated visual representations of each edition with cover artwork to wrap your virtual cassettes in your mind, featuring a graphic spool-to-spool center stage.

Musically, the rules are simple:

  1. No artist repeat for one year;
  2. No covers;
  3. No remixes;
  4. No instrumentals;
  5. No shirts, no shoes, no service.

But the way the design grid is there to be broken, so are those rules.

Troy Farmer, one half of the Raven + Crow duo with his wife Katie Frichtel (though baby Nico might make it a trio), shared some of his thoughts on learning about new music from your Lyft driver, if having a baby changes how you listen to music, and roller skating documentaries.

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One fact that we don’t know about a raven or a crow?
Troy: Wait, just one? Come on. Alright, best one off the top of my head—most people already know that a group of crows is called a “murder”; most don’t know that a group of ravens is called an “unkindness.” Goes back to the days of the Black Plague, from what I’ve read, when both tended to hang out at mass graves and the like, and feeds into the unjust negative impression many have of them and things like organized crow hunts that still go on to this day.

How does having a baby change how you listen to music? 
Troy:  I’d say it makes us a little more deliberate about it. We still listen to the same things we listened to before, pretty much, but now we notice things more or hear songs through his ears. Like, some beats or melodies really grab Nico’s attention and even from a really early age, he’s been prone to dance pretty adorably (totally objective opinion), but only to certain songs and very consistently. Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” was released when he was about three months old and he loved it (still does), which led to dance parties in the house every time we put it on or it played on KCRW (still does)…which, yes, given the subject matter, is a bit weird. We’ll deal with that in future family therapy sessions.

How would you say you listen to music the majority of the time and find new stuff?
Troy: It’s on pretty constantly, at home and in the office. Weekday mornings are solidly the aforementioned local public radio station KCRW and Morning Becomes Eclectic with Jason Bentley. We’re always keeping our ears out for new artists and music when we’re doing that, but I’ve also been on a lot of distribution and music PR lists that have only grown over the years (they started by sending us CDs back in the day, most notably, first releases by Lady Gaga + Florence and the Machine). I try, often unsuccessfully, to listen to everything that comes our way, sometimes as it’s sent, but more often in late night dig-throughs. We’ve found so many wonderful artists that way that we never would have heard otherwise, some of whom went on to huge success, some of whom we sadly never heard from again.

Weirdest way you’ve ever been turned onto an artist or first heard a song?
Troy: Oh, that one’s easy—we discovered Grammy-award-winning Anderson .Paak because his keyboardist was our Lyft Driver once back when he was starting out and was playing him to get the word out. Now that’s loyalty.

Miss Grit (aka Margaret Sohn).

What’s the first song you put on this playlist? More generally, how do you land on the order?
Troy: Ah, that one’s awesome. It’s the title track—“Talk Talk”— from NYC’s Miss Grit’s just-released debut EP. That EP is really exciting and the perfect example of what I mentioned before, an artist we found digging through promos that were sent our way and we haven’t heard anywhere else yet. Really wishing her the best and hoping this talented artist some much-deserved attention and success. We actually interviewed her at the beginning of the year on our studio journal.

As to the order, like the whole series, that largely harkens back to our youth, when all of our friends from high school on into college painstakingly created these actual, physical mixtapes for each other, creating what were usually very thought-out, intricate covers and ordered the songs based on how they flowed into each other and played side-by-side. We made them for fledgling loves, for new friends, for old friends, for joyous and/or random occasions. The first time I actually drank (I abstained all through college), I actually decided—amidst a party with all our college friends celebrating this inaugural drunkenness—that I must make what would become the most legendary, amazing mixtape ever. It was terrible, cutting out mid-song and, I think, only finishing part of one side. I do think I still have some of the better ones that we made for each other buried in a closet somewhere, though, despite the lack of a tape player anywhere.

We made them for fledgling loves, for new friends, for old friends, for joyous and/or random occasions.

What activities is this playlist a good soundtrack for? Roller skating comes to mind. 
Troy: I could definitely see that. Oh, totally off-subject, but have you heard about this new HBO documentary on rollerskating rinks and their roots in black culture? I haven’t seen it yet, but I heard an interview with the creators and it sounds awesome.

But yeah, roller skating, driving through the countryside or down the PCH, cleaning the house—all favorite places of ours to enjoy music.

How do we think Novo Amor feels about representing men on the otherwise all-female playlist? Sweet falsetto, too. 
Troy:  Right? I only just discovered this guy, but I’ve gotta feel like he’d be cool with it. You’ve got to be pretty secure in your masculinity to sing like that.

In “Heels” by Sir Babygirl how is it possible that “I changed my hair” sounds like such a strong declaration?
Troy: She’s just one of those artists—I feel like everything she sings is this major statement. Just her existence as this totally non-conforming, impossible-to-pigeonhole artist is a statement in this music market of inherent categorization (just think of the Grammys and all these other award shows). I think that’s definitely a song that could and maybe should mean different things to different people, but, to me, it reads like a song about identity and growth in the eyes of someone else and out of their world of influence. I don’t know. I’d love to talk with her about that song.

Any new artists on here you’re especially excited to have discovered this month?
Troy: All of them? No, definitely Sir Babygirl—she was new to us and came to us via Oh My Rockness, which is this great, longstanding source of both new music and great shows for us (if you’re not already on their newsletter mailing list, you should be). Rachel Fannan, who’s a mainstay in the local music scene here and we know from her work with our favorite prog-psych band, Moon Honey, is starting to release some exciting new solo stuff. And I was really excited when I stumbled across the duo PERMANENT, but equally saddened when I reached out and they informed me that they’re no longer active. Hoping the members go on to do something cool down the road though.

You’ve been following EP and single releases from  Maggie Rogers, The Japanese House, + Nilüfer Yanya, all of whom have full-length debuts coming out. Did the debuts come out like you might have imagined?
Troy:  Maggie Rogers‘ is the only one we’ve heard start-to-finish and it’s pretty much what we expected in the best of ways. Though there are a couple tracks on there that I wouldn’t necessarily have know were her’s if I heard them blind. I think that’s a good thing though and evidence that she pushed herself out of her comfort zone, writing-wise. The couple I’ve heard from The Japanese House + Nilüfer Yanya, same deal—I feel like I’m hearing what sounds like ‘them’ but aspects that are new, so I’m excited about those new releases and catching at least Japanese House live when she comes through town soon.

Old, familiar artists who either delivered something different or surprised you in some way?
Troy:  I’ve got a serious soft spot for Berlin band Lali Puna—they were one of my first loves in the early aughts when I began to journey down this formative path of intelligent electronic music discovery that I think was first sparked by Björk. I got a chance to interview Lali Puna frontwoman, Valerie Trebeljahr, a few years back when they started releasing new music again and, though it was done from afar, I was a bit star-struck in the process. Really excited she’s again releasing new work.

One track on this playlist that you are like oh my god, everyone needs to hear this song right now?
Troy:  We’ve mentioned many of them here, but one that hasn’t come up is King Princess‘ “Pussy Is God”—you’ve gotta love that level of frankness + directness. Or maybe you don’t. Thinking that one might not play well, say, in the Bible Belt. Nico’s got some mad dance moves for it though.