Julia Wejchert and Kate Ida are the founders and hosts of femchord, a radio show and music blog featuring women and non-binary people involved in all aspects of music. Julia and Kate were college roommates and both have a master’s in gender policy and an obsession with music. They broadcast out of Arlington’s WERA and are available on the web at femchord.com.
THE FEM: Something I think that’s really evolved in the music business recently is the process of discovery. It’s really easy in today’s age to listen to only what you know and never hear about anything else. How do you find new music?
KATE IDA: We look at a lot of artists signed to small, local labels. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the DC area, but any label that primarily champions hometown musicians. What many people who aren’t involved in music don’t realize is how much of the music on curated playlists that many streaming services offer, or on major music publications like Pitchfork, is actually fueled by major labels’ extensive PR capacity. It’s not that these artists don’t deserve the recognition they get, but there are so many talented artists making amazing music that are signed to small labels or are putting out music on their own on Bandcamp. Take Lucy Dacus as an example. She put out her amazing album No Burden on a small, Richmond, Va.-based label. She was eventually signed to the larger Matador Records, but I first heard her album by perusing the artists signed to Richmond’s Egghunt Records when looking for local artists to feature.
JULIA WEJCHERT: Another thing that has really helped me find new music, and expand beyond the music I’d find otherwise, is having a theme for each episode of femchord, and certain parameters for the music we play. Each week we try to find new music from women-driven artists that fits the theme of the episode (usually centered around the guest’s role in music), and also intentionally seek out diversity. I look everywhere from blogs to social media or even just googling the theme to find songs that fit.
The different parameters keep me from being lazy and falling back on people I already know or those similar; instead I have to explore different genres or see who friends and artists and other outlets are listening to who might work. And if all the artists mentioned are men or white women, for instance, then you keep looking and read more articles and look up more bands, and it makes the music you find that much better because you didn’t just skim the surface. All of this has really helped me expand my scope of music. For example when we did a show related to the accessibility of music I read articles about artists working on that, and found some people I’d never heard of before.
THE FEM: What’s the process like for your interviews? How do you find people you want to talk to, how do you get in touch and then how do you conduct the interview itself? Has it evolved over time?
KATE IDA: Most of our guest selection is a combination of perusing the Internet and word of mouth. A great example of this is our recent guest Lynn Casper, who runs the Homoground podcast. I had been reading a DC-events blog called Brightest Young Things and came across an article by Kate Ross on safe spaces in DC nightlife for the queer community. We had Kate on the show to talk about the series and about creating safe spaces for the queer community at DC music venues. She then recommended that we reach out to Lynn.
JULIA WEJCHERT: I think when we started out we each had a list of people in mind we were eager to talk to, but as the show has gone on and we’ve had a lot of those people on, new ideas for guests often come from other guests’ recommendations or they’re people we come across in the music scene—locally or otherwise—that seem to fit femchord, like Kate said.
We usually get in touch via email first, or sometimes social media if they don’t have a visible email, and ask if they’d be interested in being a guest. We’ve also had people get in touch with us through social media and through our contact email—firstname.lastname@example.org—to express interest in being part of the project.
As fast as conducting the interviews, we do most live in the radio booth, with one of us taking the lead on each interview. Because we broadcast live, we ask our guests pre-interview questions to get general background so that we can dive in to the most interesting topics on air. Occasionally, we use a portable recorder and do the interviews at other venues. We’ve done interviews at guests’ houses, our apartment (“the femchord house”), our cars, venue bathrooms… literally anywhere convenient and quiet enough.
THE FEM: You broadcast through Arlington’s radio station WERA and use their studios. I know you both have written about the arts before, but did you have any broadcast experience going in? What was the process like of getting on the air?
KATE IDA: Neither of us had any broadcast experience in the past. As previously mentioned, femchord’s inception was in the fall of 2015, but we didn’t begin broadcasting until February 2016. In that time, a number of things occurred. Firstly, we pitched the radio station our idea, which had to go through a selection and approval process. Additionally, we both took a on-air broadcast and audio editing classes at the radio station’s parent organization, Arlington Independent Media. Those classes covered everything from how to use the studio’s equipment to FCC regulations.
JULIA WEJCHERT: Yeah, after we took those classes we just dove in. The first show was a little scary… it was live and unlike anything I’d done before, but after that first one I got much more confident. But I still try to listen to podcasts and radio shows I like to pick up on both content and stylistic elements of good audio.
THE FEM: What’s one artist (or more than one if you can’t narrow it down) that you wish more people had heard of?
KATE IDA: This is again an area where I can’t stress enough to look at smaller labels. One of my favorite albums of this year was put out by Mal Devisa on the local cassette label DZ Tapes. We were doing a show exclusively looking at DC labels when we interviewed Janel Leppin, DC artist and founder of her own label, Wedderburn Records. I was looking at the DZ Tapes roster and found Mal Devisa, and I was blown away. I remember sitting in the booth with Janel chatting and Mal Devisa’s song Fire came on. Janel stopped talking, looked up, and said, “Who is this?” Her voice is captivating.
JULIA WEJCHERT: Yeah, I agree there are a lot of people on smaller labels that more people need to hear. Mal Devisa on DZ Tapes for sure, Lady Pills, Den-Mate on Babe City Records… there are a lot of artists whose music I fall in love with and then I go to stream their music and they only have 1,000 plays or less and it blows my mind. As Kate mentioned earlier, artists on smaller labels often don’t get the national exposure those on major labels do, but they’re making fantastic, skilled, authentic, innovative music. If we can help people find those musicians, that’s what it’s all about.