Radio is a unique medium: it broadcasts to thousands, and yet the intimate voices and music carry a strong feeling of belonging and community. The radio DJ is undoubtedly instrumental in creating this camaraderie in grounding new genres of music, bringing together independent stylistic strands, and inspiring ambition in the local musicians who play them.
The DJs of WZBC 90.3 FM Newton are no exception. The WZBC DJ is the station’s unseen frontline—the person who forms an audible connection with listeners. They are the musical curators who provide Boston College students and the Boston community with unique and progressive programming. Though they ordinarily operate humbly behind that iconic black door, the DJs have surfaced to put a face to a voice, and a story to a sound.
Who better to begin this pursuit than Rock Music Director and DJ Ryan McGlashan, MCAS’19. Hailing from Haverhill, Massachusetts, McGlashan has been a part of WZBC since the beginning of his sophomore year. As Rock Music Director, he manages the station’s rock music library, logging and listening to loads of label submissions, and ultimately deciding which songs receive airplay.
McGlashan also hosts his own show, “Ry’s Crispies” on Tuesday afternoons from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., under the DJ pseudonym 'Ry Guy.' Just as many have come to know Rice Krispies cereal by the onomatopoeic harmony of snap, crackle, pop, listeners now associate “Ry’s Crispies” with McGlashan’s audibly satisfying playlists.
“I feel like I’m a good starting point for listeners because I don’t specialize in any particular genre,” he explains, “I play a lot under the umbrella of indie rock, but it’s so hard to pinpoint what exactly indie rock is and what it's made up of.” From synth to shoegaze to surf, the amorphous nature of McGlashan’s program draws in a variety of audiences from any point on the alternative spectrum.
Many of McGlashan’s personal favorites fall into female-fronted and queercore genres, like Carly Rae Jepsen, Mitski, and BC’s own Shady Lady. “Under WZBC Rock, I love Speedy Ortiz and Soccer Mommy. But there’s so many artists I love, it’s hard to name only a few,” he continues, “I’m always keeping up with new releases in different styles of music.”
Since initially crossing the WZBC office threshold, McGlashan’s library of music knowledge has exponentially grown. “I came in liking rock music and bigger, more well-known bands. After being a DJ, you learn a lot more about smaller bands, local bands, and underground music,” he says, “Now I tend to play artists that have under a million listens on Spotify. That’s typically a rule that I try to follow.”
Abiding by this rule allows McGlashan to discover and promote artists or bands that have otherwise been overlooked by top charts. By supporting local talent, he helps foster a fresh and vibrant sound, whilst keeping the voice of the Boston community alive. As for what he can’t stop listening to right now, McGlashan says, “There’s a local band called Prior Panic, they just released a new album on Bandcamp called finicky things. It came out in April, and I’ve really been loving listening it.”
For anyone interested in turning against the mainstream current to the regional and obscure, McGlashan recommends utilizing Bandcamp’s genre and location search features. Delving into Spotify’s curated recommended music and exploring related artists is another way to open up to a world of new music. “Also listen to other shows on WZBC!” he suggests, “That’s a good way to be exposed to a lot of different music. I also post a rock chart every Tuesday of the top 30 albums played that week, so you can check out new stuff there also.”
Offering a tour into the depths of the WZBC office, McGlashan is so clearly in his element, excitedly maneuvering around the maze of CDs and vinyls. “The station is fun because you never know who you are going to see here or what you’re going to see on the walls,” he says, referring to the all-encompassing collage of stickers and posters, “It’s such a different space than a lot of other places on campus. There’s no other place at BC that looks like this.”
Although McGlashan doesn’t play or perform music, DJing gives him the opportunity to share his musical expertise with a wider audience. “I am incredibly untalented in playing instruments, and I’m actually not the best at talking on air either,” he laughs, humbly denying his evident articulate nature, “but I’m much better at this than I am at singing or playing a musical instrument.”
“I really love being in the booth,” McGlashan continues, “During my show, I like the all lights to be on, I like high energy, and I like to play from CDs. I sometimes make Spotify playlists or play from Bandcamp, but playing physical CDs allows me to always being moving around, more so than scrolling through a streaming playlist.”
Above all, McGlashan’s passions seem to lie in the station’s unparalleled ability to build community. Collaborative listening and shared tastes create connections that can only be defined by a special song, a sacred concert venue, or the perfect playlist. “WZBC is such a good little community, not only of students but of greater Boston community members,” he adds, “my favorite part of the station has to be the people. The music is good, but the people are better.”