Take a peek behind the scenes at KLSU

Even in the age of Spotify and Apple Music, when people have access to almost any song at their fingertips, college radio is evergreen. As KLSU Station Manager Nick Frewin says, “The radio allows you more insight into the music you don’t know about. You’re going to hear new stuff.”

Located in the basement of LSU’s Hodges Hall among the offices of other student media outlets, KLSU is a longtime force at the university and in the Baton Rouge area. The station is powered by almost 40 student artists, DJs, administrators and music writers with limited influence from faculty. 

It is not uncommon for KLSU staff to be part of Baton Rouge’s local music or visual arts communities. Recent graduate Rain Scott-Catoire, or DJ Penny Lane, is the lead singer and pianist for local band Karma and the Killjoys. Visual artists on staff often design KLSU shirts and merchandise.

Many of the students KLSU attracts are pursuing degrees in journalism, but not all. Any student, regardless of major, can work at the station. Often, students come to work at the station because they genuinely love music and want to share their tastes.

Shifts are divided into “regular” and “specialty” shifts. Regular shifts are from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and are paid, while specialty shows are done by volunteers and run on weekend nights from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

These student-crafted shows provide listeners with music they would not find on Top 40 stations. KLSU shows have a little bit of everything—from classical to punk to ska and beyond. Frewin says there was even a recent request for 1820s labor union music. 

Summer is a time to experiment at the station. The staff is whittled down to less than 10 people, with many DJs picking up extra shifts to fill air time. However, Frewin looks at this optimistically. He says summer is a time to “reinvent and see what sticks.” Staff members play around with what kinds of shows they are airing, while also planning new methods for fundraising and social media outreach.

Getting limited funding from the university, KLSU hosts one fundraiser a year in the spring semester, when listeners are invited to call in and contribute. While alumni and students are common donors, so are many people from the community who never went to LSU but are frequent listeners of KLSU programming. 

For Gabby Mejia, also known as DJ Monarch, summer in the booth did not feel very different from her school year shifts. Mejia has been working at KLSU since February of this year, and her main focus for the summer has been working on her radio personality.

“I’m still getting used to talking with no one here, and figuring out what people even want to listen to me talk about,” Mejia says. 

According to Mejia, her most successful talk breaks are the most authentic ones: when she spoke about herself. “I talk about my life. You can relate to it and people will listen when you’re personable,” she says.

Sure, music is more accessible than ever before, but most people don’t know where to look for music outside of their comfort zones. College radio provides an avenue for discovery, with the personal connection of DJs like Mejia and Frewin who want to share their own connections with the music they are playing. 

Looking forward, Frewin wants to encourage more campus events and outreach projects. “Unfortunately, I think not enough people on campus know about us,” he says. He wants to bring back on-air call requests, a practice that has not been in place for about seven years now.

“My main focus for this school year is getting KLSU back into the eyes of the community,” Frewin says.

This focus has only sharpened after the pandemic made the station more insular. He aspires to host more events on campus, including bringing DJs into the Greek Theatre during orientation week. His sights are set on anything that would attract the freshman class, and build a future for KLSU early on in the year.

Having just become station manager a month ago, Frewin is now in the final run of his show, “Dad Rock,” but he is still planning to DJ even as his job at the station changes.

“I won’t get paid for it because I’m the station manager, so it’s kind of like you have to really want to do it,” Frewin said. “But I really want to.”