Gifts from the heart: Elana Spivack ’17 starts mix CD business

by Inês Forjaz de Lacerda ’17

Name: Elana Spivack

Year: 2017

Hometown: Closter, New Jersey

Majors: English/Spanish Literature with a Creative Writing concentration

Tell me about your mix-tapes. Where did you get the idea to start making them?

I have a really good, long-distance camp friend who, after we met one summer, mailed me a mix CD. I was ecstatic and listened to it over and over because it had a lot of great music I hadn’t known before, and it was one of the most thoughtful gifts I’d ever gotten.

I also didn’t really listen to music until later in high school, mostly because I didn’t know any bands. Mix CDs have shown me a variety of artists, especially some independent or little-known musicians that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. It’s how I’ve found some of my favorite songs. Also, I think music for many people (especially those who make mix CDs) is a very personal, important thing. When you make an album for someone, you’re hand-picking songs that have made your life better in some way, and you’re saying, “This is something I love. I wanted to share it with you.” I love that feeling, both on the giving and receiving end.

I started making CDs my senior year of high school because I’d finally figured out how iTunes worked. I mostly made them for friends’ birthdays, and then in college I started making them whenever I felt like it—always for somebody else though. Sure, they’re cheaper and easier than most gifts, but they’re also incredibly personal. You could end up giving somebody that song that they listen to sixty times a day.

What sort of effort goes into each mix-tape?

Sometimes I’ll ask a person’s three favorite bands and work from there. Sometimes I know exactly what a person needs or likes, so I’ll scroll through my library and make a playlist (usually 60-80 minutes of music). Then I’ll arrange it—I usually put upbeat songs in the first half, instrumental/weird stuff in the middle (“intermission”), and softer, acoustic stuff [last]. Then, while the CD burns, I make the CD case/cover. Obligatory Sharpie decorations come last.

What are some of the themes you have explored through these compilations?

Recently “Love Songs,” “The Greatest People You Will Ever Meet,” “How to Survive Freshman Year of College,” and “Body Parts.”

Out of all the mix-tapes you’ve put together so far, which one has been the most fun to create and why?

I don’t think I have a “most fun,” but I really liked making the “Love Songs” one. I wanted it to be more than happy-go-lucky, Taylor Swift-ish love songs, so it includes songs in all different styles about breakups (e.g., “Song for the Dumped” by Ben Folds Five), lust (“Bedroom Eyes” by Dum Dum Girls), unreciprocated feelings (“Some Fantastic” by Barenaked Ladies), and real kinky stuff (“I Fink You Freeky” by Die Antwoord).

Elana, in addition to making these awesome mix-tapes, you’re a member of the Kenyon College Chamber Singers. Were you always this involved in music?

I’ve played classical piano since I was 7 years old (though I only started enjoying it two-ish years ago), I’ve played electric bass since I was 13, I’ve sung all through high school, and I play ukulele when I have time.

Imagine D-Cat asks you to make him a mix-tape. What would the theme be? What songs would you include?

It would mostly be “Kenyon-themed” with some other things thrown in:

  • “One Love” by Bob Marley because he quoted Bob Marley in a speech once.
  • “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan because maybe he actually quoted Bob Dylan but I can’t remember.
  • “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles
  • “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles
  • “Lady Madonna” by The Beatles
  • Stuff by French Club, Addie Pray, Sports, and other current Kenyon artists
  • Stuff by all the a cappella groups.
  • “Anna Sun” by Walk the Moon for obvious reasons
  • “Feelin’ Groovy” by Simon & Garfunkel (for sunny days on Middle Path)
  • “Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon & Garfunkel (for all of winter)
  • “Us” by Regina Spektor (for the “quirky” factor)
  • “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
  • “Heroes” by David Bowie (this and the Queen song are what college feels like on good days)
  • “Rain or Shine” by Benny Goodman
  • “The Thrill” and “Kokosing Farewell” by the Chamber Singers

If you could spend an hour with any musician (living or dead) who would it be and why?

David Bowie. He’s too awesome for words. In that time I’d want to jam with him, have a fashion show, and talk about life.

Finally, what’s one fun fact about you?

Simon & Garfunkel is my favorite band. Also, if I had a band we’d be called The Brunchies.

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