In I Made You A Mixtape, we ask our favorite musicians, actors, writers, directors, or whatevers to strut their musical savvy: We pick a theme, they make us a mix.
The mixer: Though Ariel Pink is, understandably, the face of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, the band is definitely a collaborative effort. For Mature Themes, the group’s latest record, members Tim Koh, Kenny Gilmore, Joe Kennedy, and Ryeland Allison created the sonic landscape for Pink’s cultish, oddball visions. Working in harmony, the band managed to turn Mature Themes into a smart sum of many visions instead of the myopic view of just one artist. What better way, then, to create a mixtape based on the idea of mature themes than as a group? The A.V. Club talked to two of the group’s members—Allison and Gilmore—about just where all the tracks came from and how they all go together.
Jay Ferguson, “Thunder Island”
Ryeland Allison: I thought that recording circa 1978 had a pretty mature ’70s analog sound.
Isham Jones Orchestra, “Sentimental Gentleman From Georgia”
RA: That’s a great Isham Jones song. It says a lot about the old South, back in a time when it used to be a little more quaint.
The A.V. Club: Why do you think this song qualifies as having a “mature theme?”
RA: I think everybody used to be really elegant when they listened to that kind of music. It was a kind of maturity that we don’t really see in music anymore. A bit more class, if that makes sense.
Herbie Hancock, “Watermelon Man” (from 1973’s Head Hunters)
RA: I jumped all over the place looking for maturity and style. This one’s definitely a maturing of the fusion style he started. He recorded “Watermelon Man” a long time before this version, and it was more traditional jazz. When he did the new version it was a maturing of that song.
AVC: It’s interesting hearing what your interpretation of the theme was. Some of your other bandmates just took “mature themes” to mean incredibly dirty.
RA: Yeah, it could be anything. These were just things that popped into my head, and I think that’s what makes this eclectic, but also smoothes out the tape and makes it an interesting experience. We thought about having a contest where people had to have only this mixtape in their car, and they had to drive coast to coast. Then we’d give them a free concert ticket. [Laughs.]
Terry Reid, “Faith To Arise”
RA: I love Terry Reid, and that was his peak. Unfortunately, he famously turned down the lead singing position in Led Zeppelin. But then he went on and did his solo thing, and that was kind of as good as it got. I just love that song. It has a real warm feeling.
AVC: It’s also timeless. There are songs coming out now that sound just like this.
RA: Yeah, and it was used in the movie Wonderland. That really had that vibe, that ’70s kind of style.
Emmylou Harris “If I Could Only Win Your Love”
The Doors, “Moonlight Drive”
RA: “If I Could Only Win Your Love” is just such a lovely courtship song. There’s a maturity to that one as well, and it’s all about the class. And along the same lines, “Moonlight Drive” is a good courtship song as well.
AVC: But if you listen to the lyrics on that one, it can be interpreted as a little dirty.
RA: Nothing wrong with that. [Laughs.]
Georgina Dobson, “The Message”
The Kelly Family, “Ain’t Gonna Pee-Pee My Bed Tonight”
RA: These are Ariel’s picks. I don’t know if you’ve heard that version of “The Message.” It’s pretty hilarious. He was playing it for us the other day. Obviously, she’s a granny. So that’s maturity right there. [Laughs.] And then The Kelly Family’s “Ain’t Gonna Pee-Pee My Bed Tonight.” [Laughs.] That’s a band favorite.
AVC: This band was a total mystery to me before you sent the song list, but looking into their history, they’ve sold 20 million records.
RA: Yeah, they’re hugely popular. It’s like a [David] Hasselhoff situation. Crazy. The video with the little kid is pretty ridiculous.
AVC: Do you know what made Ariel pick that song?
RA: It was fresh in our minds since we’ve been rehearsing, and it just kind of popped into his head. I can’t really speak to what he was thinking, but it’s been on our minds and on the tips of our tongues. As far as the other ones, I can’t really say specifically why he picked them.
Blowfly, “Spread Your Cheeks”
RA: The Blowfly song is an homage to Joe’s dad. He turned him on to the Blowfly stuff. I think that’s how we all ended up in music. We all have weird dads.
2 Live Crew, “We Want Some Pussy”
Joe Kennedy: They’re from my hometown. That was a shout-out to my hometown boys from Fort Lauderdale.
The Fugs, “Boobs A Lot”
AVC: This song is both fairly dirty and from the ’60s, which seems like an odd combination. When you think of sexy novelty songs, you normally think ’70s and ’80s.
JK: Yeah, they were ahead of their time. They were pushing the envelope out there.
AVC: So why did you pick that one, other than for the obvious reasons?
JK: It’s just so silly. It’s hard to imagine that song existing when it actually existed. Plus I just love The Fugs.
The Cyrkle, “The Minx”
JK: The Cyrkle was probably my choice that was the least literal. Although the song comes from a proto-softcore foreign movie they scored back in ’70.
AVC: Have you seen the movie? The tagline is “Exactly what you think she is.”
JK: [Laughs.] That’s right. Great title. Great album cover.
Leon Ware and Bob Hilliard, “Theme From Deep Throat”
JK: That’s an amazing piece of music. Beautifully recorded. I love the way that thing sounds.
White Lions, “When The Children Cry”
JK: The White Lions was Ariel. That was a very literal laugh-out-loud kind of moment when I saw he had put that on there. There was a tune I’d written for this project that we’re working on, and his comment was that it sounded like “When The Children Cry.” I don’t know if that’s flattering.