Musically Inclined: An Interview with Orlandez, host of Night Grooves
This August, Orlandez celebrates the one-year anniversary of Night Grooves, which first aired Friday, August 5, 2016. A while back Andrea Dunn of Radio Rio had the chance to sit down with Orlandez and chat about his first months on air, deep cuts from the '70s, and the necessity of independent media.
Andrea: Greetings! Let's start with a description of your show Night Grooves.
Orlendez: Well, it's a nice little mix of a little bit of everything, mostly ranging from '70s, '80s, current rock, jazz and soul. A little bit of indie here and there, but for the most part, it's pretty funky. Just a nice little beginning to your weekend, you know, getting it off to a good start. I definitely try to keep it diverse because I'm just sort of a musical sponge — I listen to anything at anytime if you threw it my way. I have noticed, though, that since I've had the show, it's gotten quite soulful, quite groovy.
A: Have you ever felt that it's an obligation for a Friday night show to get people ready for their weekends? My show used to be on Saturday from 5 to 7, and I felt like I had a little bit of an obligation to not be too sleepy. People are tuning in now, they're making their dinner, they're getting ready to go out, you know...
O: It's one of those free evenings when you're not obligated to do anything necessarily. So it's just got a lively type of feel, when you actually want to have some downtime, you can relax for once and let your hair down.
A: Exactly. Let me ask you, are you a St. Louisian?
O: Yes, I am — born and raised. All 26 years of my life have been spent here. I'm a Cardinal's fan — Imo's Pizza, all the way. The City museum, all that good stuff.
A: Growing up here, do you feel like St. Louis, with its musical history, has had any influence on where your tastes lie?
O: Greatly. Very much! St. Louis is like those other great cities like Chicago and Memphis that have a great effect on how you listen to music. It's one of those places where, anywhere you go, you can hear, if not live music, street musicians playing, or just somebody with their car window down and they are playing maybe KDHX or something of their own. And the great venues as well. St. Louis definitely has had and continues to have a great impact on me. I am glad to call it home.
A: How about KDHX? Were you brought up listening to the station or did you come to it later?
O: I kind of came to it a little bit later. Growing up, my dad was a big influence on me musically. He listened to a little bit of anything. A little bit later, though — I'd say my teenage years or so — I started listening to DJ Needles and a little bit later Caron's show Wax Lyrical. Papa Ray's show is great. But I think a little bit later after that, my taste started to diversify quite a bit and I started to come along to KDHX. Really, it was great. That's why I'm so glad to be here, because it's one station where there's no format. There's something for everybody — that's what I always love about it.
A: Do you find yourself listening to the station a little differently now that you have your own show? Once you start, as a DJ yourself, you listen to other DJ's techniques — the way people set up their shows, the way they flow, things like that. Are those catching your ear a little bit more?
O: Definitely. I have been picking up on how different people do things, something as little as introducing a song and actually having some facts with it as well. I am always one of those guys where sometimes my friends are like, "Ok, we get it, music is your life." But I'll be like, "Oh yeah, there was that one record Curtis Mayfield released on Curtom in 1970! It was a first pressing, and that's the one that's got 'Move On Up' on it..." and blah blah blah. And they're just like "Dude, Oh my god!" But it's great to be here amongst people in that same vein because I hear a lot of those same kind of things. It really gives the listeners a great feel as well because when they're checking out something new — I don't want to say it's like being a teacher necessarily — but just throwing out great research and awesome stuff beyond it being just a song or album gives more of a flavor and feel to what you play. That's one of the things I like about a lot of DJs here, because if you listen to other radio stations, it's, "Ok, here's Led Zeppelin 'Stairway to Heaven'," and that's about it. And I'm like, "Tell me more!" I'm one of those people who always want to learn a little bit more about something when I'm hearing it. I have come to find out there are a lot of other people like that too.
A: Well, that's the beauty of a station like this, where we have the freedom to do that, and I think people look to the station for that little bit extra. People definitely tune in for the music first and foremost, but to be able to have the open mic where you're allowed to give that added context. And then people can call you; they can email you...
O: It's a very interpersonal type of feel. I've had tons of great conversations with people during my show on the phone. I've learned a lot from them as well. I have had some people request to hear some song and I'll be like, "Oh, I haven't heard that." Like the Nick Waterhouse album that came out last September. I'd heard of him — he's like a newer soul guy — but somebody called in around then and was like, "I don't know if it fits your format, but if you can play it, that'd be great." I checked it out and thought, "Oh man, this record is great. Thank you for teaching me something." Again, that's the beauty of music. I never claim that I know absolutely everything about music. No one knows everything about music. It's impossible. Somebody's making a new gem right now that we don't know about. For that to be very reciprocal and have somebody tell you about something as well, it's really great. So that's one of the many things I love about KDHX.
A: So you mentioned your dad, I remember one show, it might of been his birthday, and you were sending a shout-out. I wish I could remember the song....
O: It was REO Speedwagon's "Roll with the Changes." I may have followed it up with The Stylistics or something like that. But that was my home, coming up. That was my dad's record collection range — everybody from Peter Frampton to Donald Byrd to Prince! It was all over the place.
A: I keep this running list in my head that I want to write down someday and send to certain people — but I have this list of these moments in my life where certain people have introduced me to certain artists and genres. I call it my musical gratitude list. My parents are on the list for sure. They never pushed music on me but their influence was always there. But they had their vinyl record collection. And it was just a great thing of flipping through as a kid, even just pulling out the covers that struck my eyes as a child, things like Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, you know...
O: Oh yeah, those very intricate and loud, flashy covers.
A: Yeah, they always had animals on them. But those were the gateways to listening to music, and throughout my life, I've had this great group of friends who have helped me get to know a little bit about everything.
O: You realize there's just so much out there.
A: Exactly, there is! And you really never learn it all. But I just remember, say, my friend Philip introducing me to the Kinks. I'm always so grateful to those people, because those are the doors that were opened and lead you further and further in...
O: It molds you into not only the kind of musical person you are but the kind of person you are as well. It's funny you mention that about the Kinks. I was thinking about one of my good friends who I use to work with, Pat. We were not too far off the same age. I was maybe 19, he was maybe 20. He was like, "Yeah, you ever checked out this Brian Eno guy before?" And I was like "No, I don't really know much about him." Well, that changed my life. I mean Another Green World by Brian Eno is just one of those records that's just — And it'd been out, of course, since '75, but I was like, "How am I am just finding out about this?!"
A: I know. Those are the things I kick myself with. I am so embarrassed, "Why have I not listened to this?!" For me I also have my list of shame. Even Led Zeppelin — I mean, of course I know all of their radio hits, but I've never dived deep into their catalogue.
O: Yeah, the deep stuff — like "The Crunge"!
A: Yeah, and it was just like, "Am allowed to do that?" I remember I came to the Velvet Underground very late in life. I was like 20, and my friend Cindy, she said, "You can't start listening to them now! You're too late, you are too late."
O: That was the same with me. "Andy Warhol." That first record, I bought that album when I was like 20 or 21, and it was one of those where I though, "I am just catching up onto this!?" I could have been like, "Yeah, I knew what that was about." "Femme Fatale" and Nico and all that kind of stuff. The good thing with that, though, is that it's never too late. You might think it's a little bit late, but as long as you are getting into it in some sense, it's like meeting a mutual friend. You already have that bond and you equate it with someone who put you onto it. It's one of those things that provides a great memory — not only the music but the person that gave you that info. Again, that's the beauty of music. You might hear something and you think about that old friend or that old lost love or acquaintance. It's great.
A: So you are a young man. I won't say how many more years older I am than you are...
O: No such thing as age — it's all on the mind.
A: But on Radio Rio, my favorite genres come out of the '60s and '70s. And I think the 1970s were one of the richest decades across the globe — for film, for music. It was just this amazing time. But the '70s doesn't get as much respect as it should. I think if people went back and re-inspected what was created in that time they'd be blown away.
O: It is a golden period. There was so much that came out in the '70s, you can kind of get bombarded with it in a way, and that can go for films as well. I'm not even gonna lie — I mean, The Godfather is my favorite film — and all these other classics.... There is so much that's out there. You think of the '70s, you think of one or two things and that's kind of about it, because people talk about them so much, but there are so many other things that happened in that decade that are great.
A: So on Night Grooves, of course, you draw from many different time periods, but you there's definitely a lot of '70s stuff in there. What's the draw there for you? Can you pinpoint it?
O: Ever since I was kid, my parents were like, "You were definitely here before. This is right, but it's not right." From the '70s, specifically, everybody likes the hits. You can't lie. You can't be like, "I'll never listen to another Motown song ever again." That's just not true. Like you were saying with Led Zeppelin, it was the same thing with me. When I first heard them, it had just been the hits, but then I started to flip over those records and hearing all those other songs as well and those end up being some of my favorite songs. It was like that with me for everybody. I remember as a kid I was especially like that, and it hasn't really changed much. I've always been that person who, if there's a new album that I hear and it's featuring a hit, I'm going to listen to every other song but the hit. Those are some of the greatest tunes that I've ever heard before. And it's kind of, I don't know, not sad necessarily, but one of those things where people just, nowadays, when a new album is released, there aren't many album cuts. There are just singles and that's it. It is what it is, but that's really the gist of the show in a way: it's more album-cut oriented rather than just single- or hit-oriented — something the listener may already have in their library, but they don't know it. I remember, on one of my first shows I was playing I think a Steely Dan song and a person was like, "I have had that record for 20 something years and I didn't even know that song. I'm gonna go listen to that now." I think that's really the gist of it all — especially from the '70s — it's that B-side feel. Flip those records over.
A: I feel like KDHX is the home of the B-side. "We will take you to the B-side!"
O: Yeah, I'd like you to have a little bit access to it, not too obscure, but something that's always been there that you never really appreciated.
A: Right, well your show seems like the perfect format for that, where you are definitely playing something familiar and a lot of the artists you play have a very distinct sound, like Steely Dan: you know who it is when you are listening to it, but that serves as a gateway to going beyond just the hits, which is great. I think people rely on that from us. I always like to mention the first time I ever volunteered to answer phones here during a membership drive; some guy said he had to swerve off the road, had to stop his car on the side of the road, because Doug Morgan had just played a Jimi Hendrix song. "I can't believe you just play that on a radio!" he said. That kind of moment where it is familiar, but you don't get to hear it that often. There's this recognition: "Of course there's this deeper catalogue of music from people like Jimi Hendrix!" But you never get to hear it. It's so great to have a show that will take you back into that realm or remind you.
O: Absolutely. Doug is the king of that. I talk to Doug on the regular, he's great. His show The Record Sto' is a big influence on my show — to give props where props are due. But something I get a lot of flack about is that I am a big live-album person. I like to play a lot of live cuts totally distinct from the studio version.
A: It offers a different experience. Doug Morgan is one of those people who has brought up your name for so long: "You got to get this guy on air! He is young, but he has this catalogue in his head. It's amazing!" He has always touted you: "He must be on the air." I am very glad it's finally happened. So tell us what you do for your day job?
O: Of course, musically inclined, I work for Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop. I have been there for seven years. I do quite a few things there — I'm a manager and I also handle the marketing and promotion for the store as well. Going back to St. Louis being a very influential part of my life musically, that really was the beginning of it. My father was first, of course. I went through his records. He has about two stacks of records in his old apartment building that we used to live in. I was like five or six, and they were way up — I couldn't get to them. I asked him, "What are those things up there?" He was always like, "Don't worry about it. You don't need to know." One day he brought them down, it was Isley Brothers, Chaka Khan, very soul heavy. I started to going through them and a few days later, he brought me my first turntable, which I still have. I remember playing those suckers until they were all worn out. After a while, I got, not burnt out on them, but I was familiar with all of them. And then, when I was eight, he took me to Vintage for the first time. Every time I would get some allowance, I would spend my money over at Vintage Vinyl, so now it's just turned it into a paycheck — spending my money at Vintage Vinyl.
A: It's all very dangerous.
O: Oh yes, seven years worth of that! The collection is just accruing, constantly.
A: I use to work at Dusty Groove up in Chicago. And one of the reasons I do the Brazilian show is because I got this amazing education at that store. It was an absolute deluge of stuff I had never heard before, and it just rocked my world across the board — Brazilian, soul, all of it. It was one of those intense times. And I couldn't stop spending money! It was terrible!
O: And that's the thing, too. When you are familiar with all that stuff, the rock and the jazz and the soul — and then get hip to the Latin jazz section or Gal Costa something like that. The thing with all of those international records is that there are so many musicians on them and they each did records themselves. It's like a never ending game — you have to find all of them. I was in Columbia [MO] a few months ago and I found an Arthur Verocai album and I was like, "I've been looking for this album for ages!" Working at a record store, you never stop learning. It's a constant. I've been telling myself for seven years now that I'm gonna stop on records, but then next week comes along, and I'm saying, "I can go without eating for today. This double-LP reissue of something I totally had already just came in and I need to buy that again! — so I will just go without food." In a way, that's really a sense of me, that place. It's really had a huge influence on me. Some days I still wake up and I'm like, "I work here?!" It's a beautiful thing, and that's also a huge part of St. Louis I believe: we get so many people who come through and purchase LPs. And it's so great seeing — I don't want to say re-creations of me, but younger kids, like ten or eleven, coming in and they're going through those 2.99s and asking about, I don't know, a Grateful Dead album. And I'm thinking, "Oh, your mind is just about to be blown." It's just great to see that.
A: Do you have any regulars who come in and ask for your advice?
O: There is this one kid who used to come in quite a bit. I still keep in contact with him — his name is Luke and I think he left town to go to school. I need to start doing this more: putting blurbs on our favorite albums and why we like them and that kind of thing. We would keep a catalogue of whose write-ups would sell, and I noticed that my stack would get high and I thought, "Is somebody buying all these at once?!" And then I actually ran into him and he was like, "So you're the guy who's been writing these up! Man, I can't go wrong with your suggestions!" It was stuff from Pat Metheny to Hall and Oates or something. It was really cool.
A: And now that you're a DJ, you will have a new little army. You will have these people looking to you.
O: It's kind of already started since I made a Facebook page for the show. At first I just started with inviting friends and stuff to like it. I post some musical news in there and, during the show, what I will be playing. I like to have interactions with listeners. I love feedback. I love that. Just talking music. I honestly don't think I know anything better than that — and I went to college! So that's saying something there. Sorry Mom and Dad! That degree was great and all, but I am just saying this is my heart and soul.
A: How about live music? You get out to many shows here?
O: Quite a bit. A lot of mainstay venues — Off Broadway and the Pageant, of course, as they're not too far away. Seeing shows is another great way to get hip to so many great acts. I've seen so many openers that are favorites of mine now.
A: Do you tend to go to shows of bands that you know or do you go even if you might not know the band?
O: For the most part, I tend to go if I know them. But there's was this group — Moon Taxi — that was coming and I was reading up on, and they're whole description just sort of fit me to a T, so I checked them out and they were amazing. They're from Nashville, progressive rock, that kind of thing — and I was just oogly-eyes. But for the most part, I like to keep it pretty familiar — but, again, the openers often become my favorites. Like the Districts, a great young group, hard-hitting rock. I saw them when they opened for White Denim a couple years ago. And Charlotte Day Wilson. She's totally multitalented — plays sax, bass, guitar. I was like, "Oh my god!" But yeah, through concerts I learn about a lot of good stuff.
A: You cover it all.
O: I try. Such a tough job. [laughs]
A: Yes, such a tough job. And so nice that it comes so easy to you.
O: I know — can't you hear the stress in my voice! Just ridiculous.
A: Is there anything you would like to add? We are so glad to have you as part of the KDHX crew, so once again, welcome.
O: I am just gonna say the gratitude this place has given me ever since I have been here, it's like a whole other realm. It's really an honor for me to just be here, to be able to spread joy and happiness through music is just a completely blessing. It's kind of beyond words. I am really just glad to be a part of this crew and this organization. St. Louis — I won't even say that they don't know what they have, because they do know what they have. That devotion shows every pledge drive. But it's great that we have this station here. We are quite fortunate to be able to deliver music to the listeners and the listeners are the fortunate to get it. It's great on both ends.
A: Agreed. Without independent radio — or independent music stores — we'd be regulated to mainstream stuff that wouldn't take anyone very far.
O: Yeah, technology these days is really great but people know the difference between easily getting this stuff online and experiencing it in the actual physical form. They're dedicated — to listening, to being there — they know how unique and magnificent that is. It's great we have these platforms where we can actually speak about these kind of things. Just turn people onto it. It's an amazing thing.
If you can't wait until the next Friday at 7pm to tune in to Orlandez on Night Grooves, remember that every show on KDHX is available for streaming for two weeks through our archives.