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Kyle Olson | Things that Are Square

23 May 2007 Host Spotlight

by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett: What brought you to KUCI?

Kyle Olson: I had heard tale of KUCI since my freshman year at UCI, and I just never got around to checking it out. Finally, my junior year, my friend Sierra transferred to UCI and we agreed to take the training class together.

BDB: And you’ve had your show for… how long?

KO: My first radio show was in the summer of 2002, so I think I’m just about to finish my fifth year.

BDB: Describe the format of your show.

KO: The KUCI schedule has the descriptor “Music for indoor kids.” I mostly play rock music, but will occasionally dip into hiphop, experimental, and electronic to keep things from becoming monotonous. I always tried to keep it a fairly eclectic show for people that like all kinds of music. It is essentially whatever I feel excited about that week. We just wanted to play music that we were passionate about in order to share it with other people, who would hopefully find the music as fulfilling as we felt it was. Nothing is less cool than being enthusiastic about things.

BDB: How did you come up with that?

KO: It got named “Things that Are Square” because when Sierra and I started it, we didn’t want to do a “cool” show. The name of the show came from a sketch on the slightly dada-istic TV show, “The State.” It was a sketch about a high school motivational speaker who was trying to get the audience to understand the importance of tying your shoes. A guy in the audience claimed that he and his friends felt that tying your shoes was for squares. The motivational speaker fires back, “There’s only three things that are square: cheese, plates, and bears.” It was just one of those shared comedic moments that you enjoy with your friends, and the phrase stood out enough for both of us that we latched onto it.

BDB: What is your favorite music at this very minute?

KO: At this very second I’d have to say Antony and the Johnsons’ “I Am a Bird Now” and Dan Deacon’s “Spiderman of the Rings.” The first is heartbreaking and emotional, and almost operatic in its beauty. The latter is an amazingly fun and spastic mash of keyboards and effects-laiden vocals with lyrics about castles and bears. Both sides of my psyche are being catered to: the sensitive gentleman who appreciates intimate and personal songwriting, and the idiot who wants to flail about in public to jittery electronic music performed by a guy in a Loony Tunes sweater.

BDB: What was your fave last week this time?

KO: Last week was probably the new LCD Soundsystem album and John Cale’s “Paris 1919” album. I was feeling cool last week. Krautrock/NY dance anthems and anachronistic avant-pop by a dude from the Velvet Underground. My cred: it is epic.

BDB: What do you do when you’re not at KUCI?

KO: When I’m not DJ-ing, or Music Director-ing, my biggest extra-radial activity is a book review website that I launched about four months ago with some folks I know: hipsterbookclub.com . In my mind, that site is the book version of KUCI, with lesser-known books and authors being reviewed and discussed instead of the omnipresent best-sellers. Once again, it’s just people being passionate about what they enjoy, making the “hipster” in the title ironic. Some would argue that ironically naming your website is a hipster thing to do, but those people are jerks. In addition to the booksite, I spend a lot of time reading, finding new music, going to concerts, working, doing crossword puzzles, Netflixing (that is, too, a verb), and sleeping. I sleep a lot.

BDB: Your web site is inventive. Did you create it?

KO: My radio site was cobbled together with my limited, self-taught html skills one lonely Saturday. The basic idea of it was my love for found photos. I love seeing pictures of other people you find at swap meets and garage sales. There’s a great website with tons of them at bighappyfunhouse.com. When you stumble upon someone else’s photos, especially the decades-old pictures at that website, they’re basically these charming short stories in themselves. They�re often these really revealing glimpses into the life of someone you’ll never meet and have no right to know these things about. Sort of creepy and voyeuristic, I guess. Sometimes you just wonder, “Why did someone bother to take a picture of this?” but that moment had to have meant enough for them to take the time to take a picture and have it developed (before the age of instant digital camera-ness). Additionally, I just love the colors and design of everything in those old pictures. You get the horrible orange-and-green of the ’60s, terrifying childhood toys, bizarre mall Santas (when they seemed to be even more lax with the background checks involved with that occupation), and so on. They’re real life moments. I just enjoy the human aspect of it, I guess.

BDB: Who is your ideal listener?

KO: Really adorable girls who have glasses, enjoy reading, and are funny and intelligent, and won’t make fun of me for reading comic books. Just kidding (sort of). Basically, I just want a listener who is open-minded enough about music to follow me through some genres or styles. I know that when I shift genres to hiphop or something, a lot of people tune out. I think, “If you’ve enjoyed the music I’ve played over the last hour, why won’t you trust me that this is *also* worth your time?”

BDB: Who would like your show if they gave it a chance?

KO: People who say, “I like all types of music,” and actually mean it.

BDB: Who should not listen to your show?

KO: Jerks.

BDB: Most influential band?

KO: My personal musical history, and the bands that shaped me into who I currently am, as a music fan, is sort of embarrassing. I obviously don’t listen to all of these bands anymore, but they certainly have had an effect on how I’ve enjoyed music over the years. It’s embarrassing, but in the interest of openness and honesty, a timeline from my youth until now would probably look like: K-Earth, Weird Al Yankovic, Crash Test Dummies, Green Day, Primus, the Aquabats, NoFX, Mr. Bungle, System of a Down, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Bright Eyes, Aesop Rock, Tom Waits, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Mountain Goats, Matmos, Belle and Sebastian, Mirah, Why?, Fog, Akron/Family, Boredoms, etc. Just sort of… add those up, I guess. Things get a little muddled the closer it comes to the end, with more bands coming quicker/at the same time. Then again, that’s when I came to KUCI, and had such a wealth of music, and the knowledge of more music, available to me.

BDB: Anything else?

KO: Man… the question where I can say absolutely anything I want stumps me. Some would use this space to say how much KUCI means to them, and point out what a unique and important thing it is in Orange County. Some may offer some sort of sage advice or words of wisdom. I will use this space to say that I think ice cream is delicious. I’d go so far as to say that the deliciousness is what makes me like ice cream as much as I do. The fact that it’s cold is also nice, but the deliciousness… that’s what sells it. Wu-Tang forever.

— May 23, 2007


Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of “Writers on Writing,” which airs Thursdays at 5 p.m PT. She’s also author of “Pen on Fire” (Harcourt, 2004). Learn more at www.penonfire.org.