Words by Megan Cahn
Playing everything from the Fuck Buttons to Madonna to Holy Ghost!, Newtown Radio—an Internet station based out of Bushwick—is the itch to the scratch of Brooklyners and beyond who are sick of Pandora, missing their college radio listening days and just wanting to hear some good tunes without having to work too hard for it. Mixing local favorites, cult classics, crowd pleasers and hidden gems of the past with the latest from the indie music scene, Newtown Radio is sure to entertain even the most astute BK music aficionado.
Although the Internet gives anyone the pleasure of listening, this station is all about keeping it local by featuring bands from Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City and often broadcasting live from venues within these musically burgeoning neighborhoods. Working Class got the details on this blossoming local treasure from co-founder Tariq Abdus-Sabur and now we could not be more excited about the current Newtown Radio happenings and everything yet to come.
WC: How long has Newtown Radio been around?
NR: We officially launched in March this year, but first started broadcasting this past December.
WC: How many people are involved?
NR: There are three co-founders—Mark, Colin and myself—and there are about 20 weekly shows hosted by one or more DJs. The three of us who “keep the lights on” each play a different role: I am responsible for art direction, managing the schedule and DJs; Colin works with the bands who play on the air and the venues that we broadcast from; Mark maintains our music library and does a lot of the technical work. It all just works.
WC: How did the idea come about?
NR: We’ve always believed that radio is best when it’s local—connecting local artists, local venues, local bloggers, local magazines and businesses from the neighborhood. If you believe that’s true, then it’s pretty obvious that there should be a local radio station for the area around Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick and Long Island City—all the places surrounding Newtown Creek. No one was doing live Internet radio here, so we decided to do it.
WC: Where are you guys work located?
NR: The station is located in Danbro Studios out in Bushwick near the Montrose stop on the L train. The building used to house a brewery (that made beer called VD…can’t believe that didn’t make it) but was converted to practice spaces. Main Drag Music recently opened up a store in the ground floor and there are plans to have a venue, a hostel and a cafe sometime soon. It’s a pretty awesome space.
But since it’s Internet radio, we can broadcast anywhere we can get a reliable connection. So, we’ve done shows from a number of venues in the neighborhood.
WC: Any music in particular you guys love to play?
NR: Right now we have new music from Coyote Clean Up, Millionyoung, Wavves and Weird Wives pretty heavy in the rotation. We like disco and new wave and hip hop and shoegaze and lo-fi and glo-fi and witch house and lots of other music too.
WC: Where are you guys originally from?
NR: I grew up in New York. Colin and Mark are from Southern California. We all met at Sweet Paradise in the Lower East Side where I frequently DJ. We were all friends with Michael Yinger, the artist who bartends there on Sunday and Monday nights.
WC: Anything Newtown Radio is working on that you are excited about?
NR: We’re talking to a certain promoter of some pretty big Williamsburg summer shows about a broadcasting a new concert. We are also relaunching our blog and making some changes to our archive to make some of the really awesome shows we’ve recorded easier to find—also plenty of surprising guests.
WC: What makes you guys different from EVR or Viva Radio?
NR: There are a few differences: ultimately we want to be tied in really tight with the community—the area surrounding Newtown Creek. As far as we know, no other station is really located in and focused on this area.
Also we have a general format: new local bands, other notable “indie” bands from around the world and really hot classic tracks. We have a mix of hosted shows that are programmed by the Newtown DJs themselves and ones who play from the Newtown library, which is selected by us. When the programming is only selected by DJs, like on college radio or a lot of other Internet stations, the station becomes a kind of loose federation of individual shows. We wanted Newtown Radio to be a blend between a college style station and a traditional FM station so listeners are always getting something new, but they still know what to expect when they tune in.
We also broadcast live music, both from local venues and from in-studio performances. It’s so easy to broadcast from anywhere with Internet radio and there’s so much great live music in the Newtown area—it just seemed crazy to us that no one was putting it on the web for anyone in the world to hear.