Behind the Mic: Scarlett Letter

Fluttering between three jobs, classrooms, the KCR studio and the rave scene, Scarlett Santamaria of “Scarlett Letter” is a social butterfly always on the move.

Scarlett, a 4th year communications major, is the host of the aptly named “Scarlett Letter,” an underground electronic music show that brings in guests to share their music and their stories. The show is now on its second season and airs Thursdays at 8 p.m.

Scarlett Letter brings in DJs, producers and experience creators every week to play their music mixes and discuss their own personal experiences, as well as contribute to the larger dialogue about the EDM world. The topic of the show is not a casual interest of Scarlett’s – it’s pretty much her life. It all began when Scarlett was 16 and attended her first rave, Scream, at the Worldbeat Center in Balboa Park, San Diego.

I remember going in and everyone was really happy and really nice, and all these lights and the music and I thought, ‘Wow. This is amazing,’” she recalled.

Born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Scarlett moved to San Diego when she was 12 years old. Despite her bubbly nature and willingness to talk to anyone, she said she always felt like an outsider. That feeling could have left her defeated and stripped of passion, but she discovered the rave scene and found her home.

“I used to be a scene kid, like I used to dress up crazy. I’ve always been a weirdo,” she said. “I’ve always been an outcast, and I’ve been able to just embrace it and not be ashamed of the weirdo that I am. I feel like I was able to find that outlet through going to raves and just being myself. I think that’s what is beautiful about it and why I’m so passionate about it.

Photo courtesy of Scarlett Santamaria

The goal of Scarlett’s show is to allow listeners to get to know the guests on a deeper and more personal level, uncover electronic music they might not have heard before, stay up to date with upcoming EDM events and learn about the music scene from people living it, not from stereotypes.

“I think that some people have the negative notion that electronic music is just noise and that all DJs do is press play, and that people that go to these events are young and do drugs. I want to change that,” Scarlett said. “The scene is very welcoming and is full of amazing, creative, friendly and talented individuals.”

Last semester, her show was structured in a way that allotted more time to playing the guests’ music than interviewing them. This is something Scarlett wants to change this season.

She wants to make sure the people she brings to the studio have sufficient time to talk about their journey, passion and the obstacles they have had to overcome in order to get to their current status.

“I want people to know that these artists work hard and to hear the challenges they’ve had to face to get where they are,” she said. “We all have a story and you’d be surprised how much you can relate to them.”

Scarlett’s own story has its origins in DJing.

Her father was a popular DJ in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. When she was born, he shifted his focus to parenting and leading a more conventional adult life in order to provide for her. “Of course, I happened and he stopped,” Scarlett laughed.

Eight years ago, he began to DJ again and this time, he taught Scarlett everything he knew. The two had a mobile DJing business together but after feeling like she was ready to branch out, Scarlett started her own business entity separate from her father’s.

She has played many gigs from private birthday parties to Petco Park, the San Diego Padres’ baseball stadium. She said she has enjoyed the experience, both the technical and social aspects.

“I was still under 21 and I felt super cool being a DJ,” Scarlett said. “It was a really great experience getting to know people, being in the event and being part of the production.”

Despite calling the experience “really fun,” Scarlett has shifted gears and no longer focuses on her DJ business. She is turning her attention to new ventures such as Scarlett Letter and getting involved in event production.

With so many interests and projects, Scarlett pays extra attention to detail to make sure she is producing work of the highest caliber.

“I am not the type of person that will half-ass anything,” she said. “I will give you my hundred percent. I want to create something good.”

Scarlett Letter has grown into something beyond her imagination. What she thought would just be a fun show to act as a platform for her friends’ art has turned into a partnership with sponsors.

Photo courtesy of Scarlett Santamaria

Techniche is one of Scarlett’s partnerships and describes itself on its website as “a Southern California underground dance institution with global reach and universal aspirations representing Tech-House and Techno…” DJ and Producer Myxzlplix headed the Techniche team that helped Scarlett with her show’s logo, banner and promotional pictures, to name a few things. She said she’s incredibly grateful to them for believing in her and helping her turn her show into what it has become.

Be sure to tune into her show on Thursdays at 8 p.m. She’ll save a spot for you on the dance floor. Also, be sure to check out her YouTube channel.

Is she a pineapple on pizza gal?

“Yes! Sometimes I love a combination of sweet and salty. People that don’t like pineapple on pizza are basic.”

Written by: Monica Vigil

Behind the Mic: Moonlit Mayhem

Just like the moon’s gravitational pull causes the rise and fall of ocean tides, Moonlit Mayhem aims to create similar passion-filled sound waves.

Mario Sutka is the host of Moonlit Mayhem, which airs Thursdays from 10 p.m. to midnight. The music show, now on its fourth season, is free-flowing and listeners never know what they’re going to get— just the way Mario likes it.

“It’s experimental to a degree,” said Mario. “Not the music that I play, but just the formatting. Really, it’s just whatever I’m feeling off the top of my head.”

And he’s not just trying to supply his audience with new songs. He’s offering them a range of emotions packaged up as melody and lyrics. How do you form a human connection when there’s air waves between two people? Mario’s on a mission to find out.

During the show’s first season, Mario and his co-host at the time used to plan the music in advance and save the last five minutes for songs they chose on the spot. He soon realized that he favored the freedom and flexibility of picking the music while the show was happening.

The music began mirroring his mood in real time and almost acted as a radio diary of what his emotions were during a given show. His aim, however, isn’t to archive his own feelings. It’s to expose good music and wavy vibes.

“Once in a while, I’ll interview my friends that are in bands around San Diego. It’s really the DIY rock scene in San Diego, but I do listen to everything,” he said. “There’s a bunch of people I got to know when I went to community college and now I have a platform to promote their stuff.”

In between songs, you won’t hear Mario getting into lengthy discussions. He prefers to let the music do most of the talking. The self-proclaimed music nerd plays a healthy mix of pump-up jams and chill songs in order to produce a balance for his listeners.

“To me, a piece of music is wonderful because ignite a fire in you or calm you.”

Mario being Mario

Mario from Moonlight Mayhem

Mario is the marketing director of KCR, in charge of the radio station’s social media and Music on the Mesa (MotM).

MotM is hosted Thursdays at the farmers’ market. A KCR booth is set up from noon to 1 p.m. and staff members play music, give away concert tickets and talk to inquisitive minds about what opportunities they can find at KCR. It’s how Mario first found out about the radio station.

He is now in charge of running the event, and though it is one more responsibility he is committed to, he doesn’t see it as a burden. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“I like my alone time but I like being around people. I need a good blend and Music on the Mesa gave me that.”

Mario is all in when it comes to KCR. He hosts Moonlit Mayhem, a two-hour show every week and did a season in the summer. He’s on the board of directors and the face of the organization on Thursdays in the farmers’ market. Mario could be considered, by all means, a college radio superstar.

However, it wasn’t always this way. He used to be a division 1 swimmer at California State University, Bakersfield and had grown accustomed to seeing himself as a swimmer first, anything else second.

He sustained a career-ending injury during his freshman year and his world seemingly began spinning off its axis. The identity he’d built for more than 10 years was suddenly gone.

“I thought I’d just cut my losses and come back home,” he said about the life-altering event.

The transition was onerous and at times, discouraging, as most students who have had to return to community college after attending a university can relate to.

Mario chose to focus his perspective on the silver linings that came with returning to his hometown of San Diego, such as attending SDSU and being clearer with his goals before graduation.

“I just kind of want to use my show, crazy enough as it sounds, as a beacon where it’s ‘Hey, somebody’s out there.’ Not to be a super emotional water sign or whatever, but it doesn’t have to suck. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

So how does someone alone in a studio generate a bond with listeners they don’t get to see? Mario’s still trying to figure it out, but he knows music has the power to do it.

Be sure to listen to his show, chat him up at Music on the Mesa and follow KCR College Radio on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Since he’s, you know, in charge of the accounts now.

Moonlight Mayhem babe

Happy Mario

What does he miss most about being in elementary school?

The childlike wonderment he had about everything and the optimism about what was yet to come.

 

Written by: Monica Vigil

Behind the Mic: Soundwave Transmission

When you hear the word “library,” genre-transcending music and quirky banter isn’t the first thing that pops to mind (at least I don’t think. I’m not going to pretend I know what you’re about).

However, that’s exactly where senior Michaela Hoover and sophomore Fabrizio Lacarra Ramirez began their friendship turned co-hostship of KCR’s very own “Soundwave Transmission.”

“I was trying to get some papers done,” Michaela says of the reason she went to the library that fateful day when she met Fabrizio. “I literally sat down next to him and we started talking for like an hour. I got no homework done at all and we’ve been really good friends ever since.”

This fall semester was their first season of “Soundwave Transmission,” a music show that prides itself on not sticking to any one genre and never playing the same song twice.

“It’s just a ‘good music’ show. Any song that’s good, we’ll throw it on the show,” explains Michaela. “Any song that gets us excited, any song that makes us feel fresh and invigorated, it goes on the playlist.”

“It makes it kind of special because every time you listen in to the show, that’ll be the only time you hear a song for our show,” adds Fabrizio. “So it’s like if you missed the show this week, you’re not going to get those songs and you might miss out on some stuff that you really like. So listen, basically.”

Fabrizio is in charge of curating the archive of music. During their downtime, the two hosts add music to the general playlist and Fabrizio then creates the song list for a given week’s show. He’s found a system that efficiently does two things: provides musical variety and satisfies both hosts’ preferences. The former is a given. The latter may be trickier when you describe your music tastes as a “Venn diagram” as Fabrizio does. However, he’s mastered the art of song selection.

“I like a little bit of jazz and more hip-hop, some electronica and more indie music whereas she likes a lot of jazz, Spanish music or music in different languages.”

During the creation of playlists, Fabrizio consciously pulls one of his music songs from the master list, one of Michaela’s, one of his, one of hers, etc. etc. repeat.

Because this is their first semester hosting for KCR, they had to overcome some challenges that exist with starting a radio show. The biggest? Remembering not to swear.

“The first two or three shows, I was cussing at least twice,” says Michaela (Don’t worry Brett, she pressed the button). “I would beat myself up for it and I’m better at it. I don’t think I’ve cussed in a while.”

“We almost had a slip up today, but I caught myself,” Fabrizio laughs.

Michaela chimes in. “I totally set him up to say something gross.”

Another lesson they learned was embracing the uneasiness of transitions. Fabrizio says they now accept their style and are “awkward on purpose.” Michaela describes the duo as “pretty dorky” and says they were trying really hard to be cool the first few episodes, but eventually came to the conclusion that they were better off embracing their own quirky voices and using that genuine approach to have a better show.

If you, the reader, are thinking “Dang, this show sounds awesome. I can’t wait to listen to it next semester,” then get ready to have your heart broken. Go ahead, sit down, grab some tissues. I’ve got something to tell you.

Michaela is headed to Spain next semester, so the duo will become an uno for the time being. Fabrizio will continue the show in the spring and keep up the same style and concept, planning on bringing in different guest hosts each week. While he has no plans on experimenting with “Soundwave Transmission” because he considers it to be their “baby,” he will also be co-hosting another show in the spring called “AJ Squared.” It is there that he may try his hand at new risks and creative ideas.

The hosts’ biggest goal this semester with “Soundwave Transmission” was to introduce their audience to new music while hosting a safe space in the radio waves.

Their go-to order at Taco Bell?

Michaela: Cinnamon Twists

Fabrizio: Nacho Cheese Dorito Taco

 

Written by: Monica Vigil
*Fabrizio doesn’t know what time the show will be next semester, but this semester it was Thursdays at noon. Follow their Instagram and say what’s up: @soundwave.kcr