July 27, 2020
INTERVIEW WITH INDIE 102.3 LOCAL MUSIC DIRECTOR ALISHA SWEENEY ABOUT DENVER'S MUSIC SCENE, THIS YEAR'S B-SIDE, AND WHAT LED TO HER CAREER IN RADIO
This summer, MCA Denver and Indie 102.3 have partnered to present B-Side Music Fridays, virtually. We recently asked Indie 102.3's Local Music Director, Alisha Sweeney, about the B-Side artists selected, Denver's music scene, and about her early musical experiences.
Each Friday in the months of July and August, Indie 102.3 and MCA Denver will premiere an exclusive concert video filmed on the rooftop of the museum. These videos will be found on the Indie 102.3 Facebook page at 7PM Mountain and later on air at 102.3 FM at 9PM Mountain. Indie 102.3 can be heard across the state and can be streamed online. These videos will also appear on NPR Music Live Sessions, available to a national audience the Monday following each week’s premiere.
Here we go...
What was the first album you bought yourself? How old were you?
When I was in elementary school I proudly bought the cassette tape to De La Soul's "3 Feet High And Rising" at K-Mart as a way to impress my older siblings so that I would be allowed to go into my brother's bedroom and use the cassette player. It worked for a short while; I still have the tape.
What artists or albums influenced your desire to make a career in music?
As a lonely teen, music was a gateway to another world for me where I felt like the person on the other end understood me or was serving as my guide on some pretty wild trips.
As I got bored with commercial radio, by junior high I did a deep dive into music from past decades and I discovered New Order. When my brother told me that they were members of Joy Division who I was also obsessed with, my mind was blown. We watched a bootleg VHS documentary about Ian Curtis and I remember feeling like I wanted to be a person that people could talk about music with. By high school The Cure's "Staring At The Sea," Siouxsie and the Banshees "Peepshow" and Pixies "Doolittle" were albums I could put on and recite every lyric to. I also grew up on soundtracks and will always love "Twin Peaks" and "Valley Girl."
By the time I was a college DJ I was enamored by many obscure indie bands that I would play on the radio. I loved learning about bands and sharing that knowledge on-air; it was exciting to go and see them in concert too. College radio also gifted me with a voice to connect with local bands and early on The Apples In Stereo, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Dressy Bessy, and The Czars were the biggest local celebrities to me.
What was your first concert?
My family loved live music and as a real little kid they took us to see country and western acts every summer with my grandma like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and The Judds. Perhaps the first concert I paid for was when I used my babysitting money to score a ticket to R.E.M. and Sonic Youth. I wasn't old enough to drive, but thankfully my brother could!
What was your first music-related job? What was it like for you?
My first music-related job was Morning Show Host at the University of Colorado's student-run radio station, Radio 1190, in Boulder. I was young and enthusiastic and I remember going to host my first shift and when I got back home, my roommates who were older than me and I looked up to so much were like, "you're pretty good, I thought you would be laughing or giggling the whole time."
My college radio experience was magic, raw, and unexpected. I was being paid to connect people with music. The library there was incredible, dating back mostly to the late-80s, and I was excited I could play bands on the radio like the ones reflected in my own collection at home like Yo La Tengo, P.J. Harvey, and Pavement. I also had the freedom to bring in some of my own rarities and would go on a krautrock bender and spin Can or Neu! and share tidbits I learned about them through liner notes of the import CDs or play a set of Scottish twee acts that I obsessed over after reading about them in Mojo Magazine!
While radio is a very one-sided medium it meant the world to me to be sitting in the DJ booth at 7am and have someone call me on the phone and tell me that a song changed their life. College radio was also where I discovered that local music is the lifeblood of a city's spirit.
Looking back, I was self-taught and came to it with genuine curiosity and passion for curating a radio show of non-mainstream music. It became so much more than that though; I found a community of like-minded people, music lovers and musicians whose support of my passion led me to pursue music journalism.
What’s your favorite part of Denver’s music scene?
Good people. I am inspired by the creativity that comes from every aspect of our scene from songwriters, bandmates, composers, label owners, engineers, producers, venue operators, record store employees, luthiers, bouncers, videographers, photographers, DJs, graphic designers, dancers, managers, bartenders, fans; our scene is collaborative and brings so many wonderfully good people together and no matter what the genre is, we are all connected because our love of music.
What do you wish more Denverites knew about the music scene here?
Opt for discovery. Denver's got talent, don't discount a band just because you haven't heard them yet.
What are the good and bad ways that COVID-19 has changed the scene?
COVID-19 has changed the way artists are performing and releasing their music. I am trying to see the good, but I feel for musicians that are struggling right now especially with their mental health. Locally, I appreciated how our scene rallied around to support one another from the beginning of the global pandemic; but I don't want to ignore how difficult this must be, especially for full-time artists who rely on touring and merch sales to pay their bills. We've done a lot of coverage at Indie 102.3 on how Coronavirus has affected our scene as well as offer resources to musicians and fans who need or want help. I stand with artists who are doing their part to keep our community healthy.
Tell us about B-Side Music Fridays and why CPR partnered with MCA Denver this year.
I have been wanting to collaborate with MCA Denver for years and am so happy this is happening. Specifically B-side Music Fridays has been a summertime series I look forward to attending every year. At Indie 102.3 we felt it especially important to partner with MCA during this unprecedented time to make sure the series happened and safely. What is cool is that it's even more accessible for all to attend---- both to watch on Facebook or listen to it on the radio.
What kind of music can people expect to hear?
We've helped curate some exciting voices out of Colorado including emerging acts like Latin electro-pop band Neoma, singer-songwriter Ella Luna, indie rockers Orca Welles and exciting R&B performances from The Grand Alliance and Adiel Mitchell. You can also expect engaging sets from local powerhouses Esme Patterson, Wildermiss, The Yawpers, and Ned Garthe Explosion. There's a little something for everyone.
What’s so special about live music anyway?
There's a special connection you make with a performer during a concert that can only be experienced in that beautiful, fleeting moment and there's nothing else like it.