Pump Up the Volume

Written by Jordan Galloway on . Posted in Posts.


MARK BRINDA AND Colin Ilgen needed an outlet for their obsession with Brooklyn’s music scene, and since they both lack the musical talent necessary to start a band, they settled for the next best thing: starting a radio station.

Officially launching April
19 with a showcase at The Knitting Factory, Newtown Radio—named for the
polluted stream that runs past some of the Brooklyn and Queens
neighborhoods where New York’s most exciting music is being made—will
broadcast a mix of indie rock, live local shows and hosted programs from
the website www.newtownradio.com.
Or at least that’s the plan.

“None of us knew what the fuck we were doing,” Brinda
admits of their entrepreneurial skills. “For probably the first four
months it was really trial and error.” But Brinda, Ilgen and fellow
co-founder Tariq Abdus-Sabur weren’t deterred by having to learn the
hard way. The idea for an Internet radio station playing nothing but
local up-and-comers came to Brinda and Ilgen last summer while they were
lamenting the nearly non-existent presence of New York indie rock on
the radio over drinks.

“There’s no station focusing on New York—specifically this
Newtown Creek area music scene,” Brinda says. “All the shows, nobody was
covering them. You get Brooklyn Vegan coming to take pictures, but
nobody’s broadcasting live all of this stuff. Nobody was really
featuring the artists that come from here and the artists people from
here like.”

So they
decided to do something about it. Granted, Newtown isn’t the first
independent radio station in the city, but comparing it to others like
East Village Radio and WFMU just doesn’t do it justice. “They’re like 90
percent eclectic mishmash, while we’re like 30 percent eclectic
mishmash,” Brinda surmises.

That station’s programming consists of shows like D.C.
LaRou’s Disco Juice, a three-hour set on Saturdays that
highlights hidden classics from its namesake, including songs from The
Tramps and Gazebo. The station also offers less sequined-studded
programming—Arthur Radio is a mix of emerging music, live
performances and interviews hosted by Arthur magazine personalities on
Sundays afternoons. These programs are coupled with the station’s daily
schedule. Shows like Morning Brew and The Daily Cycle with
Inspector Selector, which offers an array of rock every evening,
and Lo-Fi Lunch, which is jockeyed by Brinda himself under the
pseuodonym DJ Bossasaurus, air every day. Ilgen and Abdus-Sabur are also
ever present in-studio, doing DJ duties and keeping everything up and
running. These are the only givens in an otherwise ever-revolving list
of guest DJs that come in to pull night shifts as well as varying
special segments. The programming is capricious enough to make you glad
the station’s schedule is so detailed on their website.

And aside from the
mishmash, Newtown offers an online fusion forum through streaming music online, use
of social networking sites, downloadable MP3s and access to DJs via
Skype. Their
on-the-go, Ghostbusters approach to broadcasting doesn’t hurt, either.

“We just have this bag
of stuff that we load up with a computer, a mixer and a bunch of
microphones,” Brinda says. “Somebody called us like 30 minutes before
this Neon Indian and Beach Fossils show at Market Hotel once and we were
like, ‘Yep, we’ll be there.’ We just show up and plug in.”

When the broadcasting
system isn’t in a bag, it’s spread out over almost every inch of space
in the station.

Newtown
runs out of a warehouse on Meserole Street in Bushwick, close to
performance and rehearsal spaces for many of the bands it plans to
feature. And Newtown is taking full advantage of these close
quarters—knocking on doors in search of bands to make in-station
appearances.

“We
usually have two or three bands in the studio every Saturday and Sunday
that come and just set up their shit,” Brinda says before copping to an
awestruck moment after I ask him who’s been by the studio as of late.
“The bassist for Real Estate [Alex Bleeker] has come in because his
friend is in Family Portrait and they were playing. He was just here.
Hanging out.”

And
while in-studio jam sessions are an awe-inspiring part of Newtown’s
program, it’s equally important for them to interact with their
audience.

“We have
short sessions sometimes when we’ll have a bunch of new tracks and ask
people to call in and rate them,” Ilgen says.

Having the musicians that
make up Newtown’s playlists nearby keeps them aware of what’s breaking
big in the area’s music scene. But with their namesake creek only four
blocks away, that, too, weighs heavily on the station’s priorities.

“I think part of it was
to try and somehow capture the Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick
neighborhoods with some sort of metaphor that would encapsulate the
area, and at the same time, we’re also very interested in promoting the
cleaning up of the river,” Ilgen explains. Brinda adds, “If we ever
start making any money, we’ll definitely spend some of it in an effort
to clean it up.”

But
if name recognition is any indicator, so far they’ve been better at
running a radio station than raising community awareness.

“People don’t even know
what Newtown Creek is,” Brinda informs me. “People don’t even know. I
would say nine out of 10 people don’t know.”

But Brinda and Ilgen are not complaining about
Newtown’s start. “It’s fucking crazy,” Brinda explains. And Ilgen
agrees, before adding, “Everybody seems to really be getting into it and
supporting it. We both grew up in the L.A. area listening to the radio
all the time in cars and it’s like, ‘I don’t listen to radio here ever.’
Blogs and all that stuff are great if you want to actively discover
stuff, but sometimes you just want to sit and have someone else decide
what you’re listening to.”

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