Reverberation Radio

Eclectic music swapped among a group of long-time friends and record geeks has given way to a digitized musical gold mine.

Reverberation Radio is a Los Angeles-based organization and podcast producer that archives underrated music from the early 1960s to the present – and operates with a philosophy as loose and feel-good as the sunny tunes it celebrates. Robert Combs, one of Reverberation’s contributors and the manager of Allah-Las – a four-piece lo-fi surf-rock group – said the omission of rules keeps the product pure.

“The thing that makes it so fun is that it’s still not completely defined,” he says over the phone from L.A. “We’re able to make it however we want to.”

Rules are what banished Reverberation from conventional radio four years ago. The radio show was booted from the air of KXLU, a college radio station operating in L.A., for broadcasting “too much old stuff,” according to producers. At the dials back then was Reverberation’s brainchild, Miles Michaud, a member of Allah-Las.

“We were just playing whatever we wanted,” Michaud says. “There’s not necessarily a guideline for what we play, but there’s an underlying theme.”

While KXLU refused to comment, Michaud said the station’s output of music was tailored for a more contemporary audience than what Reverberation was aiming for. Indeed, Reverberation’s playlists are far from conventional – featured artists include Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Adam Wade, Fred Williams and the Jewels Band and the Cramps checker Reverberation’s playlists, a little bit of everything at a calculated dose.

Despite its brief life on the radio, Reverberation has stayed alive and well through its podcast since Combs pushed it into the online landscape. There are now 206 playlists on the site, and every Wednesday, contributors compile 30-minute playlists which are made directly accessible to listeners online. Any collection can be easily downloaded, too. Google analytics revealed listeners tuning in from all over the world, according to Combs, who recently received fan mail from Eygpt.

“At first, I thought they had to be bots,” he said. “We have this huge population in Southeast Asia of dedicated listeners, oddly enough.”

Reverberation advised the score of surf films and curate tunes for companies like Filth Mart, Levis, Mollusk Surf Shop and Crap Eyewear, even Billabong. Playlists have been heard at parties in Athens, during fashion shoots in New York, and cohorts have been sent overseas to DJ in locales like Barcelona.

“I think if you can create art that’s accessible to people, but challenges them at the same time, then you’re going to reach a lot more,” Michaud says. “The grand notion of art is reaching out to people and communicating with them and growing minds together rather than apart.”

Members have shied away from accepting money. It’s the sole love of art that drives the endeavour.

“Record labels have been offering us money now to put their bands on the show, brands have asked us if we can endorse or sponsor a weekly mix,” Combs says. “So far, we’ve really tried to stay pure.”

Michaud says he wants tracks that are at risk of being superseded and lost to be heard and appreciated.

“There’s things that are timeless,” he says. “There’s certain things that’ll affect people the same way no matter what the era, what time it is. That speaks towards our humanity and what makes us appreciate certain things in life.”


Julien Gignac

The Globe and Mail

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