As the future of independent radio seems to become bleaker and more uncertain, it is both comforting and refreshing to know that a station like Los Angeles-based KXLU is out there, almost single-handedly battling against the airwaves polluted by a ceaseless rotation of Rihanna, Ke$ha, and Lady Gaga. Behind the Hype recently chatted with the station’s current music director, Molly Shelton, about the challenges of selecting content, the five bands you need to know about, and the fate of KXLU in the present market.
Behind the Hype: When your day begins and you’re choosing what to play on the airwaves, what is your process for sifting through the constant barrage of music that is sent to you?
Molly Shelton: Well, as the music director at KXLU, I receive between 200-300 hard copy music submissions a week. KXLU is super old school, and we don’t accept digital submissions quite yet, at least for rock programming (Monday-Friday from 2am-6pm). KXLU has always thrived on being a source for independent music… which there is quite a lot of. Here at KXLU, we pride ourselves on holding down the “weird” in L.A. The music that I add to the station is always unique, uncommon, and something totally different than anything I’ve heard before. I get submissions all the time from bands that really sound great, but if they sound too similar to an existing artist, I typically pass.
Behind the Hype: For a show like Demolisten, how do you go about choosing the bands that will be featured on it?
Molly Shelton: I am in charge of adding the music to our rock programming… so the bulk of programming on KXLU. Demolisten is actually a specialty show that Fred Kiko (the host) is in charge of. I am, however, in charge of booking the bands that play up at the station during rock programming.
I typically go about this by reaching out to artists that I’ve added or, if I go to a super awesome show, I’ll invite the artist to come play a live set in the future. I also pay close attention to the concerts going on in the L.A. area and often times invite bands to come play at KXLU to promote for their upcoming L.A. shows.
Behind the Hype: In your opinion, what are the five local bands to watch – the ones you feel have a chance at becoming mainstream within the next year?
Molly Shelton: Moses Campbell (olFactory Records); Foot Village (they’re four drummers and a megaphone so, although I couldn’t see them making it mainstream, they’ll get huge in the underground scene); No Age (if they don’t already count); Warpaint; Abe Vigoda.
Behind the Hype: How often does the staff of KXLU rotate? Is this a factor in keeping the musical content as fresh and diverse as possible?
Molly Shelton: KXLU is student run, meaning all the directors (music, program, engineering, promotions, and general manager) are full-time students, so the staff more or less switches up every year. I was the promotions director last year and this year I’m the music director. Although the directors must be full-time students [at Loyola Marymount], our DJs do not have to be. An overwhelming majority of our DJs are alumni who, back in their day, were directors as well. Every time a DJ quits or is fired, we typically hire a student.
What were KXLU’s thoughts on Indie 103.1 being pulled from the radio in 2009? Was this a source of fear for the future of independent radio stations like KXLU?
Molly Shelton: Surprisingly for us, the death of Indie 103 was actually a good thing for KXLU as we got many of their listeners. Although Indie 103 played independent artists, they weren’t the type of independent station KXLU is. They received money through commercials and sponsorships, and KXLU runs completely on listener donations in order to keep us commercial free.
There are two things that do scare us: NPR has tried to buy KXLU’s frequency twice in the past two years and, because the university owns our frequency, we’re worried that we may not have a fair say if they come back with a bigger offer. This is what happened very recently to KUSF in San Francisco. They were an independent station broadcasting out of University of San Francisco [a Jesuit university like Loyola Marymount where KXLU broadcasts from]. USF recently sold their signal for a couple million dollars to the University of Southern California so they could broadcast their classical music in San Francisco. This really sent KXLU into a frenzy and we’re taking measures to ensure this doesn’t happen, such as forming a better relationship with the university, holding events on campus, DJing school events, notifying our listeners that KXLU not being around forever is a real threat, etc.
To stream KXLU radio, donate, or buy merchandise, visit their website.