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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

DJ Sessions: A Visit To KCRW

Here & Now host Jeremy Hobson (center) is paying a visit to KCRW DJs Anne Litt and Travis Holcombe. (Rachel Reynolds/KCRW)

Here & Now host Jeremy Hobson (center) is paying a visit to KCRW DJs Anne Litt and Travis Holcombe. (Rachel Reynolds/KCRW)

While Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson is in California, he decided to swing by KCRW in Santa Monica, to sit down with DJ Sessions mainstays Travis Holcombe and Anne Litt.

Songs Heard In This Segment

Jungle, “The Heat”

Courtney Barnett, “History Eraser”

Clean Bandit, “Rather Be”

The War on Drugs, “Eyes to the Wind”

Guests

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

And time now for another edition of the HERE AND NOW DJ Sessions.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST DJ")

TOM PETTY: (Singing) There goes the last DJ.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DJ PLAY A LOVE SONG")

JAMIE FOXX: (Singing) DJ, won't you play this girl a love song?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROLLOVER DJ")

NIC CESTER: (Singing) Dance, little DJ, come on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PON DE REPLAY")

RIHANNA: (Singing) Come, Mr. DJ, song pon de replay.

HOBSON: And today, instead of bringing the DJ Sessions to us, I have come to the DJ Sessions. I'm here at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, with Travis Holcombe and Anne Litt. It's great to see you guys in person.

TRAVIS HOLCOMBE, BYLINE: Welcome to KCRW, Jeremy.

ANNE LITT, BYLINE: I know. So glad to finally meet you.

HOBSON: Well, and you really are in the basement right now.

LITT: We're in the basement of the cafeteria at Santa Monica College. And that's where the beautiful smells wafting down the halls come from.

HOBSON: And how many CDs, records would you say are down in this basement?

LITT: Sixty thousand?

HOBSON: Seventy thousand?

LITT: Sixty thousand, something like that.

HOBSON: Do I hear 70?

(LAUGHTER)

HOBSON: Our producer is saying 70,000. Well, anyway, it's great to have you with me here. And let's get right to some of the music that we're going to talk about today. This is a group called Jungle. And here is the song "The Heat."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HEAT")

HOBSON: Now, Travis, you brought this to our attention. There are a dozen members in this group or a lot of them anyway?

HOLCOMBE: No. Well, there's two core members. And it's - they're kind of mysterious. They go by the name of T and J. But I believe like the full band has seven members, but they scale it down depending on, you know, where they're going and everything. But they're coming out with an album this April and gearing up for a really crazy summer, playing all the festivals and everything across Europe and America.

HOBSON: Well, and tell us about the song that we're hearing because it's a very interesting sound.

HOLCOMBE: Yeah. I mean, it's sort of hard to pin down exactly. It's soulful, it's a little - I've heard it described as retro-futuristic funk.

(LAUGHTER)

HOBSON: I hear futuristic for sure, yes.

HOLCOMBE: Yeah. But the thing that struck the first time I heard them was - I'm a big fan of TV on the Radio, especially their first two albums. And the way that they do the vocals and vocal harmonizing reminds me a lot of what TV on the Radio did early on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HEAT")

HOLCOMBE: Really, like every song that they put out has been phenomenal. And Anne actually got a chance to go see them over at South By Southwest this past few weeks.

LITT: Well, I'll say this. It was so packed, we had to watch them from the street through the door.

(LAUGHTER)

LITT: So I didn't - I did see them. I wasn't in the room, but it was certainly loud enough. And they sounded fantastic.

HOBSON: All right. Well, let's take it - totally different direction here. This is something from Courtney Barnett. This song is "History Eraser."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HISTORY ERASER")

COURTNEY BARNETT: (Singing) I got drunk and fell asleep atop the sheets, but luckily I left the heater on. And in my dreams I wrote the best song that I've ever written. Can't remember how it goes. I stayed drunk and fell awake. I was cycling on a plane. And far away, I heard you say you liked me. We drifted to a party - cool. The people went to arty schools. They made their paints by mixing acid wash and lemonade. In my brain, I rearrange...

HOBSON: So tell us about this.

LITT: Well, Courtney Barnett is from Melbourne, Australia. And what I love about her is this sort of laid-back attitude, confidence, swagger in the stories that she tells. I mean, she sounds like a total slacker when she's telling - I mean, the stories are complete slacker stories, but they're told poetically.

HOBSON: What do you mean they're slacker stories?

LITT: Well, you know, it's like I woke up and it was Monday.

(LAUGHTER)

LITT: My TV's broken, and then I had an asthma attack and, you know, it's like stuff - it's just - it's all fairly mundane, but it's really fun and really inventively put together.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HISTORY ERASER")

BARNETT: (Singing) In my brain, I rearrange the letters on the page to spell your name.

HOBSON: OK. Here's another one. This is from you, Travis. This is "Rather Be" by the London-based group Clean Bandit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RATHER BE")

CLEAN BANDIT: (Singing) If you gave me a chance, I would take it. It's a shot in the dark, but I'll make it. Know with all of your heart, you can't shame me. When I am with you, there's no place I'd rather be. No, no, no, no, no, no place I rather be. No, no, no, no, no, no place I rather be. No, no, no, no, no, no place I rather be.

HOBSON: A great beat there, and is that a cello I hear or violins, or what are we hearing in the background?

HOLCOMBE: Yeah. It's weird. I didn't even realize that it wasn't like a sampled strings. But two of the members are - they have a cellist and a violinist in this group. You know, it's probably a little bit - or it might be a little bit early to be talking about the summer jam of 2014. But I do think that this song actually has the potential to be that. It just gets stuck in your head. I could easily see it being huge.

HOBSON: We're talking with KCRW's Travis Holcombe and Anne Litt. And you're listening to HERE AND NOW.

And, Anne, why is London so much better at dance songs than the United States? I could be wrong about that, but I feel like they do a great job.

LITT: Oh, I think a few people around here might take you to task on that one.

HOLCOMBE: Well, I feel like - I think it's easier for dance tracks to get charted in the U.K. because it is a smaller market rather than in the States, you know, you need way more people to get behind the song in order for it to get a lot of attention.

HOBSON: And between One Direction and One Republic, I think you have to have the word one in the name of your group these days.

(LAUGHTER)

HOBSON: Anne, we have one more from you. This is "Eyes to the Wind" by the War on Drugs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EYES TO THE WIND")

WAR ON DRUGS: (Singing) I was sailin' down here on the wind when I met you, and I fell away again, like a train in reverse down a dark road, carrying the whole load just rattling the whole way home.

HOBSON: This isn't Bob Dylan, right?

LITT: It's not. You know, it's this weird amalgamation. The War on Drugs is really the project of one guy called Adam Granduciel. He's out of Philadelphia. This is the third album. And he is a great partner of Kurt Vile's. They collaborate a lot, and I hear some of that in there as well. But to me, this is just Bruce Springsteen. It's Dire Straits. It's all those songs I listened to when I was a little kid.

And apparently the story is that he came back after touring really heavily his second album, and he got back to Philly completely depressed. And it was out of that that this album "Lost in the Dreams" came out, and there's some dark stuff on it. But overall, it's this shimmering, beautiful, sometimes fuzzy but very melodic album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EYES TO THE WIND")

DRUGS: (Singing) Haven't lost it on a friend, just bit run down here at the moment. Yeah, I'm all alone here, living in darkness. All right.

HOBSON: I want to ask you both while I have you here, what made you get into this line of work, to become DJs?

LITT: Well, I kept a notebook in my room when I was a little kid, and I would listen to the rock radio station and write down every single song that they've played that I could figure out. Or if I didn't know the name of the song, I'd write down the lyric so I could remember it. And then I discovered the University of Richmond college radio station. And I didn't know what they were doing, but it was exciting to me at a college radio, and I love KCRW.

HOLCOMBE: I grew up in Atlanta, and there was a show on the Georgia Tech student-run radio station called The Breaks that came on on Wednesday nights. And that totally, like, opened my mind up to all kinds of music that I'd never heard on MTV. I mean, that was, you know - commercial radio and MTV was pretty much the only music that I had. So hearing The Breaks, I was exposed to, like, DJ Shadow, drum and base music, all kinds of underground hip-hop. And that really inspired me to want to become a DJ.

And then when I got to college, then I did college radio. And I honestly didn't think I'd do radio after that, but things just worked out, and I got lucky and wound up here at KCRW.

HOBSON: Well, you guys are both fantastic. I'm so glad we can have you on the show regularly. And it's great to finally be here in person with both of you at KCRW. Travis Holcombe, Anne Litt, thank you so much.

LITT: Thank you.

HOLCOMBE: Thanks, Jeremy.

HOBSON: And you can see the full list of songs we've heard at hereandnow.org.

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

And, Jeremy, while there, I'm looking at a picture, I feel we lost you to Travis and Anne.

(LAUGHTER)

YOUNG: I fear you are not coming back. There's an adorable picture. You look like you've been hypnotized by them at HERE AND NOW.

HOBSON: With the KCRW crown.

YOUNG: There it is - hereandnow.org. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.

HOBSON: I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • TylerD

    Hi…Who is the musician from Philadelphia you just played…didn’t catch the name? Had a Bruce Springsteen-meets-Bob Dylan sound, for lack of a better descriptor!

    • KD

      The War on Drugs.

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