The best way to describe No Excuses, a bi-weekly radio show on Newtown Radio hosted by Andi Wilson and Duncan Cooper, is after school: perhaps in a teenage bedroom, two friends playing each other music, trading youtube clips. The energy is infectious, and in the crush of DIY streaming options on places like Know Wave and K Chung, its quickly becoming one of my favorite internet radio shows.
The format is simple: for the first hour the resident duo play their haul of fresh selects, the second hour is given over to a guest, ranging from indie press-crowned musicians like Mutual Benefit and Ryan Hemsworth, who is Skyping in a mix on the next show, to unknown artists (such as myself, having done it once). Cooper is a senior-editor at the FADER and produces music as Wildarms under the umbrella of Cascine, with whom he’s released two EPs in just over a year. Wilson also worked at Cascine, and is a staff writer for the San Francisco-based music blog Yours Truly.
Despite their music biz resumes, No Excuses is purposefully scrappy. “I think were open about doing a ‘bad job’,” Cooper jokes. And with internet stations like East Village Radio having to shut down because they could not afford to pay royalties, staying below the radar may be more than an aesthetic decision. Recently, I got a chance to talk to the No Excuses crew about the simple fun of playing new tracks for friends, and why its sometimes good to be wildly unprepared.
Whats the No Excuses origin story?
Andi: I started working at Cascine a year ago as a project manager and that’s how I got to know Duncan. I used to do college radio for KZUU at Washington State University. I was the general manager for two years and DJed for four years at that station, and I really missed being on the air. It kind of pushes you to find new stuff every week. So I tweeted one day “I really miss having a radio show” and Duncan responded “Lets collaborate.” It started that way, from a tweet.
Duncan: When I was in college I was also the general manager of the radio station. I knew that Andi had taste in music that I really liked. I imagined it would be cool to bring our two perspectives into a show.
Why Newtown Radio, what do you like about the show?
A: Honestly, I think it was mostly because I had a connection to Newtown, and I really like how the station is run. They always have rad people coming in and its commercial free, which I support. Compared to my job managing 70 DJs and enforcing the rules, it’s been liberating doing a radio show where we can do whatever we want. I put my playlist together the day of, because I want to bring in the freshest stuff or exactly what I’m feeling that day. I think that brings the best energy to the show.
D: The most fun part for me always is that we have no idea what each of us are gonna play, and I would say nine times out of ten I don’t know the music that Andi plays, it’s totally new to me.
You’ve had some high profile artists on the show like Unicorn Kid and Mutual Benefit. What was the decision to have guests?
A: I’ve known Jordan (Mutual Benefit) since before any of the hype. I feel like we would have had those people on our show no matter what, and I probably wouldn’t have asked him if it were any other way. Our goal is not necessarily to have a huge star every week. I would have a tiny ass producer that I love from Soundcloud as a guest, we’d be so excited.
D: Personally I’ve invited a ton of people who I’d love to be our guests who are not well known music properties. I think its really fun to have that mix. A certain quality of the show that I want to keep going is that there is an unpredictability.
But you’re also public, as in you have a Twitter. What kind of audience are you trying to find?
D: The Twitter is a little bit necessary because our show isn’t very frequent. I would never remember when our show was if we weren’t tweeting about it.
A: When we created the Twitter account, I just followed people we knew and have relationships with. And its like “Hey check this out, you might like it.”
D: The Twitter thing funny too because today we were talking during the show, we were joking about who we should get next, and we knew that Ryan Hemsworth followed us, and so Andi in the middle of the show tweeted at him asking if he’d like to be a guest. He responded a text to speech thing with an audio message, so we played the message on the show. I feel like were taking the most minimal amount of a public face, because thats creating interesting things that are reflecting back into the show.
What are your plans for future? Are you trying to build this into something?
A: Just in the studio tonight, we were like, “Oh my gosh, we should book a showcase”. We know a lot of people that would probably be down for it, and it would be a lot of fun. Its not like everybody listens to the radio. It would be cool to bring it into a new setting for people.
D: I think that the two of us could easily do this at a venue just as much as we could do it at Newtown. And we could totally be weird MCs or something. Maybe thats where this will go in the end. I do want to keep pushing what were capable of doing. There’s always a potential of making it bigger, and I think we want to make it grow in ways that are still fun and low pressure.
Something about building a community?
D: Part of it too is an enthusiasm for your work thats completely separate to ideas of business. In some very modest way, I think that what were trying to do is be very enthusiastic. We try to pick guests that are enthusiastic and it's fun to cultivate that: to use the modest positions we have to encourage the enthusiasm of other people. Theres no reward for anyone.
A: We’re all going home tonight, and were a little bit tipsy, and we’ve had a great time for the past two hours, and we have this recording of it, and there you go. We’re not thirsty.