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Interview - WVUM's Music Directors Talk Music, Miami & The Pursuit Of Woodie

Our own WVUM 90.5 is currently in the running for mtvU’s coveted Woodie Award. (sidenote: vote now vote often!) I recently had a chat with current music directors Kevin Mason and Laura Sutnik about WVUM’s significance in Miami while somehow managing to avoid innuendo involving the word “Woodie.”


In your opinion, what does WVUM contribute to Miami’s cultural landscape?

We are the Voice of Miami’s independent and cultural landscape! We support all the local shows not only on air, but we’re usually at or performing at these events. As music directors, we certainly enhance the market and bring a lot of bands to the city as some rarely get this far south. Many times, touring groups dip down to Orlando, but don’t make it as far as the 305.

Promoters often check our charts to see what’s playing the most and what would work for each venue. A Brooklyn-band called Bikini is playing here this weekend at Bardot, for instance, and we had been playing them in rotation since December. It’s been heavily dug here and guess what: they’re playing here this weekend at Bardot, when they would have probably just stayed in NY and kicked it at Walter Foods or wherever. Should we take all the credit for sprouting interest in them down here? Probably not, but we’re going to cos I mean really, where else would people down here have heard of them?

Does programming music in Miami present any special problems?

There are some sort of representation issues we’ve been chatting about with regard to the University of Miami and the City of Miami. I think we represent and provide jams that the younger and more alternative communities in Miami want to hear, which is vastly different than the on-campus student body who have origins elsewhere. We’ve traditionally played underground artists and that means striking Arcade Fire from heavy-rotation when they’ve got the golden Grammy and we got some haters for that, but haters always gonna hate.

Radio here is awesome and covers many spheres, but we fill the gaps that is lacking in between the Caribbean pirate radio stations and the government-funded Cuban-nationalist programming of Radio Martí. But we have a great deal of autonomy that non-commercial stations don’t have, so we get to play some left-field stuff like Party Trash and Clive Tanaka Y Su Orchestra.

What approach do you take towards balancing programming? For example do you ever feel there’s a difference between what needs to be heard and what wants to be heard?

Yes, there’s a huge difference between want and need. We’re conscious of what listeners want to hear, which we cater to, of course, but we also want to introduce them to new music along the same lines of what they currently dig. Our mission is to play electronic-based, off-the-beaten-path music and we don’t really feel bad that Mr. Connor Oberst isn’t getting enough play.

Is being MD still as hectic as I remember it being? Still as much fun?
Was it crazy when you were here? Cos’ right now it’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S. We’re in the Top Ten for a MTV Radio Woodie Award, which has potential to mean huge sponsorship that will get us the equipment we need to increase our radio signal, which is our chief objective for the year. And also pretty epic for WVUM history.
Is it fun? Hell yeah- the tyranny of determining every record being played has to be the best, most decadent sensation we’ve had in our lives (and we’re freaks!). But it’s also a lot of pressure…and lordy, does it keep us on our toes and busy! We’re also both graduate students and have good GPAs, so we hustle.

Any events to be on the lookout for in the coming year? Anything you guys are excited about?

Our birthdays and getting a big ol’ Woodie Award! March is always a wild time for Miami and will be Kev’s first one here. WVUM is heavily involved with Ultra Music Festival this year. Laura juggles awesome events with her company Nightdrive Miami (nightdrivemiami.com) like Palmbomen from Holland on March 9th at Bar Black down here during WMC. Kevin is putting on a more-academic Hybridity in Music conference with some international presenters through the Musicology department here. Art Basel is also a wild time!

What’s the best show you’ve seen so far in Miami?

Laura: I saw Kraftwerk a few years ago when the Jackie Gleason Theater was still called the Jackie Gleason Theater. The Little Dragon show we threw last month was also pretty epic.
Kevin: I just moved down here, so I really dig the more Latino and Haitian performances down here. There’s a very important Haitian singer named Jean-Michel Daudier who performs at a restaurant in Pembroke Pines, so I tend to check that out more than anything else.

How does it feel to be fighting for something called a “Woodie” and what’ll you do if you win?

Kevin: Story of my life! If we win, I’m gonna have to make it rain and boast about it for a few months, then try to hit up the ‘right people’ to make WVUM more powerful (for I am very greedy).
Laura: It makes it kind of fun to say on air. If we win, it’ll be the only woodie I’ll go near.

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