Make Me A Mixtape: Mug's Time Traveling Social Experiment

Make Me a Mixtape is a segment where we interview artists and have them make a mixtape of seven songs based around a particular scenario, explaining why they chose each song. This week, we chat with the Melbourne-based sibling duo, Mug, who ponder which songs they would show to a 17th century European commoner if they were given the opportunity to time travel.

Photo by Matt Shaw

Today, the Melbourne sibling duo, Mug, unveiled their self-titled debut EP through Tiny Town Records. Wandering through celestial art pop soundscapes with twangy guitars, muted drum machines and cavernous vocals, the brother-and-sister duo of Lily and Sam Harding make music that unearth powerful images—echoing Melbourne's lively underground scene.


Each track on their debut EP exudes a timeless, almost hymnal quality in its melodies. Take for instance the aptly named "An Unsettling Dream," which layers loops of eerie synthesizers with a steady bassline underneath the duo's chilling vocal harmonies. Lyrically, the track captures the anxious, surreal and melancholy feelings of reflecting on a strange dream or dreamlike experience. In contrast, "From the Lookout" evokes a carnival-esque atmosphere with its staccato piano chords while "Connection" twists its madrigal-like melodies with analog synths and a motorik pulse that feels like almost like a parade rushing at you. Occupying their own distinct corner of pensive melodic pop, the sibling duo draw inspiration from the likes of Cate Le Bon and Young Marble Giants. Recorded remotely during the pandemic, their songs explore personal experiences of solitude and reflection, giving the EP an air of catharsis.


For Mug's mixtape scenario, we presented them with a thought experiment: you're granted the opportunity to time travel back at least 200 years to expose a commoner to music from the 20th and 21st centuries to gauge what their reaction would be. The duo decided to travel to the 17th century during the early modern period to "try and fast-track the globalization of music, and introduce a European audience to some of our favorite tracks from around the world, giving them a glimpse of a very diverse future." Imagine living without electricity or indoor plumbing and being surprised with this range of tracks.


17th Century Shocker


Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood & The Rajasthan Express — "Junun"


"Junun is a 2015 album by the Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, the English composer and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, and the Indian ensemble the Rajasthan Express. We think it's a really cool mixture of cultures and people, and the music feels like one giant celebration."


The Lijadu Sisters — "Danger"


"The Lijadu Sisters were around in the Nigerian music scene of the '70s and were one of the only women-headed acts to 'break through the backing singer/dancer ceiling.' We reckon it would be really powerful to show young people this kind of music with such a strong female vocal. It has the attitude that feels kind of like a huge middle finger to the grandeur of Opera, which was probably one of very few musical roads women could take in those days."


Shintaro Sakamoto — "まともがわからない"


"Shintaro Sakamoto is one of those artists that we think makes really cool jazz-inspired elevator music. We took a lot of inspiration from his song '悲しみのない世界' to work on a disco song of ours (didn't make the EP in the end). It continues the theme of celebration for us, and would be a great track feel-good to share with people from the past."


Blondie — "Heart of Glass"


"Everyone knows this song, so it would kind of be cool to run a little social experiment within a social experiment, and see if people gravitated towards this track. It's kind of like 'I Feel Love' with those synths doing stabby 16ths...maybe there’s something universal about that kind of groove that makes everyone want to move?"


The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band — "ลำสั้นดิสโก้ (Lam San Disco)"


"The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band is a band from Thailand who released albums in the early 2000s that joined traditional Thai music and roots music together. We discovered this record a few years ago playing in a local record shop...maybe we would create our own pop up record shop in the middle of a busy street and blast this out there."


Loose Joints — "Tell You (Today)"


"Loose Joints was a US disco duo made up of New York DJ Steve D'Acquisto and one of our favorites, avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell. Lily came across this song after watching an Arthur Russell documentary and thought it would be cool to imagine this playing in the underground, secret world of the 17th century, wondering what went on behind closed doors and away from the social eye of the time."


Kraftwek — "Trans-Europe Express"


"Although Kraftwerk is a band that hails from the same area as many famous classical composers of the 17th century, we thought it would be funny to show an audience of German aristocrats the weird synths that would birth an entire generation of electronic music."


Stream Mug's mixtape below.