bunny jr. is making cassette tapes cool again
Jezenia Romero is creating old-school playlists with your favourite artists.
Image courtesy Bunny Jr.
Though we're now almost two full decades into the new millennium, our obsession with all things 90s and early aughts is still going stronger than ever. Itty-bitty Matrix-style sunglasses are everywhere you look, the Spice Girls and their Buffalo sneakers are back together again, and Clueless still seems to be on every tween's sartorial mood board for summer. But there's still one seminal item from every 90 baby's adolescence that has yet to make its nostalgia-fueled revival. That is, until now.
Jezenia Romero, the creator behind mix tape label Bunny Jr., is here to end the tyranny of digital downloads and transport our music tech back in time a couple decades. Inspired by the "Art Laboe Connection" radio show, Bunny Jr. has found a way to revive our cultural fascination with the outmoded medium of cassette tapes. By collaborating with artists and friends (including the creatives behind Maroonworld and LA fashion labels COMETEES & NO SESSO whose collaborative runway show "COMESESSO" she walked in earlier this month), Jezenia is ditching the algorithms and taking back the curated playlist from Spotify. In its place, she's placing a physical product, crafted with love, intention, and personality, back into the hands of music fans everywhere. Each tape is like a small glimpse into the personality of its creator, giving listeners a unique insight that can only emerge via this interdisciplinary intersection. Sure, she admits, it may not be the easiest way to listen to some fresh tunes, but that's also half the fun.
How did Bunny Jr. get started?
Bunny Jr. started when the legendary "Art Laboe Connection" was cancelled which was an oldies and dedications radio station in Los Angeles. I grew up with oldies and that station was a huge part of my history, LA culture, and especially driving culture. When it was cancelled I started to feel like I wanted to archive or document that part of my history which led to me putting out my first tape. It was called "Hot 92.3 Old School" and it was a mixtape of songs Art Laboe would've played on his station with requests and dedications from my friends and fans of the station. Then I made a few more tapes and, incidentally, I created my label.
What do you love about creating mixtapes?
I really just love to personalise or make custom things. I love creating an audio and visual experience. There's a bunch of ways to do that, and tape is almost at the very bottom, but I like it. I think other "mixtape" mediums are more successful, more listenable, more convenient. I don't think it actually has a lot of advantages, I just don't know how to use a computer really, so I stick with tape. I would be making movies if I knew how to use that kind of equipment to be honest.
Could you describe the process of actually creating one of your mixtapes?
Usually, I start with a song that really hits. Then I think of other songs that fit or that I just want to hear one after another. I put it all on a playlist and I dub from my phone onto a tape player to make a master. Next I draw something up or head to a local copy machine and play around until I get something I like. In the final step, I take my master and I duplicate however many I want on my trusty tape player I bought from a homeless guy in front of a McDonald's under a bridge!
How do you come up with the artwork for each tape?
Sometimes I draw, or get inspired by a printing process. Most of the artwork is based off the style of music in the mix. The artwork for "Hot 92.3 Old School" is pretty straightforward. It's starshots of me. Taking a starshot is so classic and in line with car culture, oldies, and LA culture. I'm really just painting a picture with the same brush.
What has the response to your tapes been like?
The people are bugging out! The press is going wild! Riveting response worldwide...SIKE! I mean, I'm not making headlines out here, but I am getting some earnestly thankful messages from my customers. It's fun to watch.
How do you choose the artists you work with?
Most of the artist are my friends, or people who's music taste or artwork I admire. For example, there's a couple who photograph under the name "Maroonworld." I didn't know them personally, but I really loved their photos and invited them to release a tape under the label. I had no idea what kind of music they were into, but wanted to collect a photo from them. They sent me a mix and their artwork and I was totally floored. Listening to songs they listen to gave me a deeper sentiment on them as people and their work. It's an interesting experiment.
What do you think are the key elements to making a great mix tape?
I can't say for sure. It's such a personal thing. Sometimes, some songs are too personal and unless someone also has a relationship to the same song it will go over their head. I think I make them for me and my friends and I play with all the elements until I get something I'm charmed by. I don't think there's a secret to it. It all just depends on if someone picks up what you're putting down.
Where do you think Bunny Jr. will go in the future?
I'd love to start putting out some new music. The next project is releasing my sister Jazzy Romero on the label. She's a singer and I can't wait to release some Jazzy originals to the label. that's the future.
This article originally appeared on i-D US.