Many BC students, wandering the halls of Mac, have stumbled upon the intrinsically mysterious, black door of WZBC. Passed by students day-in and day-out, the studio is a sort of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory whose inner workings are understood only by the station’s radio aficionados – the rest of us typically seeing nothing more than its iconic door.
If you're anything like me, you would imagine the studio to be something out of Pitch Perfect, and in some respects, the stacks of CDs lining the walls do resemble this romanticized movie portrayal – except sub out Anna Kendrick’s grouchy mentor and insert WZBC’s much friendlier student DJ: Yung Rob.
On Fridays from 3-5 p.m. Yung Rob (Rob Keilson, '14) can be found in the WZBC studio skimming through CDs, chatting into the microphone and simultaneously maintaining the atmosphere of a casual hangout with the multitude of interns crammed into the impossibly small room. This lively, social atmosphere is a trademark part of WZBC. As Rob puts it, “The sense of community is instant.”
As with many radio newbies, Rob started his career at WZBC as an intern, working his way up to an AM show and finally to FM. Previously hopping from blues to hip-hop, Rob has now settled on his indie-rock program, Dead Flanders. When asked how he would describe the show in just a few words, even Rob seemed to have difficulty pinpointing just how its style could be defined. Eventually, he settled on it simply being “music I like.”
I would try to give my own interpretation of the music, but it would be sadly inaccurate and would involve unhelpful words like strummy or spacey. In reality, most of music played on WZBC escapes description or categorization and is certainly not overly constructed, top-100 material. But, while the names of the bands being played may be unrecognizable to fairly mainstream listeners like myself, the unexpected music is unfailingly enjoyable.
While we can all anticipate what a new Katy Perry song will sound like, there’s no way of pinpointing just what sound Yung Rob will go for next. When I asked Rob how he finds most of his music, he explained that record labels send the studio hundreds of CDs featuring up-and-coming artists. The DJs and interns are all “constantly plugged in trying to find new stuff,” as they sift through the CDs and exchange ideas with one another.
With shows playing everything from Indie rock and reggae, to blues, rap or R&B, WZBC represents every shade of music, and the personalities of its DJs have just as much variety.
Although the station is a student-run organization, community members also work as DJs, bringing a colorful perspective with them from outside the BC bubble. One such community member/WZBC legend is JFK, who has been doing shows for the station since 1979 (his current time slot is Fridays from 9-12pm). Rob explains that community DJs like JFK bring with them a “ridiculous knowledge of music in general and an interesting perspective on life that you wouldn’t get on a college campus.”
Despite being a college radio station, WZBC has a reach that extends far beyond campus. The station’s most avid listeners come from all over the Boston area and are nothing short of dedicated fans. If you had any doubts about whether or not people are really listening to radio anymore, WZBC has raised almost $20,000 this year in listener donations to its biannual fundraiser. That is a lot of people who care about what this station has to offer.
In their one-of-a-kind programming and the immense variety of music they broadcast, imaginative college stations like WZBC fill a niche that larger, commercial radio stations can’t. “Radio seems to be really strong still, at least in Boston,” says Rob. “Boston has a really interesting group of independent stations that still push boundaries on the type of programming available and they’ve captured people’s imagination.”
In an age where the iTunes’ top charts list seems to dictate what many people call good music, WZBC’s indefinable programming brings back a sense of ingenuity and randomness to the listening experience. Rob admits, “Maybe it’s not for everybody, but for me I enjoy it.” WZBC’s many donors and Boston area listeners would seem to agree.
To get a taste of WZBC, tune in at 90.3 FM, or on their website wzbc.org.