Meet Your Community Affairs Director: Skylar Epstein

Meet Your Community Affairs Director: Skylar Epstein

December 10, 2021 in Features


Major and year?
Senior and Government Major

Which song, album, or artist initiated your love of music?
When I was younger, there were a lot of albums and songs that I loved that came from my parents. My mom had Pink's I'm Not Dead Album on my iPod, and I'm sure that listening to Dear Mr. President and Runaway probably did something to me. I talked about this on One Perfect Song, but I also grew up listening to a greatest hits album from Blue Oyster Cult. Flaming Telepaths, The Red and the Black, and Astronomy were game-changers for me. I definitely got into music on my own terms through emo and pop-punk though. This is going to shock absolutely no one, but I was (and still am) devastatingly into My Chemical Romance. The first CD that I bought for myself was Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, and it's still one of my favorite albums. For me, something about the drama and the theatrics of MCR just unlocked something in my brain. I could completely fall into the angst and the emotions, maybe because the actual content of the song (being arrested for murder, doing drugs in New Orleans, getting into a shootout in a moving car, etc) wasn't anything I had to worry about relating to. The album that got me into different genres and smaller artists though was Dessa's A Badly Broken Code. I heard Matches to Paper Dolls first off of that album, and I had never heard anything like that before. From there, I started listening to Doomtree, Open Mike Eagle, etc and then segwayed into other genres. I've always loved punk, but I've been on a great folk-punk kick recently.

How did you first hear about or get involved with KVRX?
Two things really: Twitter and tabling. Which is so funny because this was before we had a really active Twitter.

For the tabling half: Colton Morris, who was the Volunteer Director at the time, was tabling and just yelling out at people who were walking by on speedway. He points at me and just yells "do YOU like the sound of your own voice" and I was like huh yeah I do. So then I looked up KVRX on Twitter, went to the station for some one-off pizza meet and greet event that we have never done again, and got the info about the first general meeting. I went to the meeting, Maddy and Rueben (who were PR Directors at the time) were talking about throwing a party, and I, a freshman, thought to myself “thank god, there are college parties here and I don’t have to spend four years staring at a wall.” So I really did kind of trip and fall into KVRX, through a super lucky series of events. I also thought that the idea of being a college radio DJ, having a radio show super late, and talking into the void about music was super romantic. And for the record, I was totally right.

What is your first KVRX memory?
We had a 'back to school show' at Cheer Up Charlie’s that they told everyone to go to at the General Meeting I lurked in the back of for ten minutes, and I ended up going to this because the other prospective DJ’s I met at the station and put together a little group. This was the first "college concert" that I had ever gone to and I was just blown away. I was way in the back, so I couldn't see anything. I didn't even realize that TC Superstar had background dancers until after the show because I spent the whole thing looking at taller people's shoulders and trying to hear whoever was playing the saxophone. I had been to the station before this night, and talked to a few people (I think Jane, Wes - not Wes Simms though, Luis, and Taylor), but I count this as my first real KVRX memory first because it was right before I joined (and one of the key moments where I looked around and thought that whatever was going on was cool, there were disco balls involved, and I wanted to be a part of it), but also because this is the first time that I met Mo, Katie, and Kent! There were other people who went to that show and didn't end up joining KVRX, but we all stuck with it. So, that's really where it all kind of started for me with KVRX I think - my first show and my first friends. It's very funny and nostalgic to me that it was TC Superstar and Cheer Ups.

Which shows have you had on KVRX?
My first show was a freeform show and it was called Blue Skies (which I think would have made a cool DJ name if Skeeps didn't stick like glue), my second show was also freeform and it was called What's in the Bag. My third show was called All My Hexes Live in Texas, and it was a Goth show. This is definitely the show that I learned the most doing, and I am still so proud of the show poster I made. I also had an interview show that I started as the Volunteer Director called Flight of The Bumblebees, where I hung out and interviewed new DJs. Then, I had a punk show called Found Footage, which was a specialty show where I played music from bands that were published in the Book Your Own Fucking Life zine that was put out by Maximum Rock n Roll in the '90s. Now, I have an emo show called Live from the Murder Scene. I've had kind of a mixed bag of shows! Sometimes, I kind of wish I created one show and stuck with it (so I could make a T-shirt or something - shoutout Audio Oddities), but I've learned a lot doing each show and had a blast genre-hopping. The most ridiculous thing I ever played on-air though was the 21 Jump Street original score, which I played to prove a point to someone who suggested a 21 Jump Street-themed show as a joke that I am here to mess around, but I’m very serious about it.

Which KVRX staff positions have you held?
Volunteer Intern, Volunteer Director, and Community Affairs Director, which is Volunteer but evolved. I actually think the way I got into doing Volunteer was kind of funny since it was It kind of happened at our Spring 2019 (I think) ExploreUT event, which is a big thing where schools across Texas come and tour UT and we get to gush about how cool and unique the radio station is. I was one of the only DJ volunteers who was there all day, and I remember asking Colton (who was the Volunteer director at the time), who was going to take over as Volunteer Director since he was graduating. He just turned to me and said “oh you are. You’re going to do it”. And I was a bit taken aback because I wasn’t even an intern or anything like that at the time, and I had really only been in KVRX for one semester. So I asked why, and it was actually kind of cool because he said (and I quote, as verbatim as I can get from memory) “we need an extrovert”. So that was how I got field promoted to being the Volunteer intern and ended up being the Volunteer Director. For Community Affairs this semester, I forgot to actually apply for anything before the Fall semester started since I got caught in the whirlpool of taking the LSAT over the summer so Hope texted me and asked if I wanted to come back on staff and be Community Affairs and I was like right that yes put me in the ring. So thank you Hope for that one - you are a god amongst DJ’s and I would follow you into hell.

How has KVRX affected your interaction with music?
Being in KVRX has without a DOUBT changed the way that I interact with music. I think that when you spend so much time thinking about music and talking about it, it’s impossible not to get really invested in how you consider what you’re listening to. Despite my years of heckling, no one has started a band with me so I’m still largely in the dark about the technical aspects of music. I know when I think something sounds cool or works well, but the nuts and bolts of a song are not always my focus when I’m listening to music. I still listen to music on an emotional level first, that much hasn’t changed since joining KVRX, but now I think that I work harder to find connections between the songs that I listen to, and understanding music and albums as part of a larger body of work/discography instead of listening to one individual song off of an album and forgetting about the rest of it.

What's up outside of KVRX?
Lots of stuff and not enough at the same time! Life outside of KVRX is exhausting and exciting and ever-changing. As is life within KVRX! Right now, I'm trying to 1. write my thesis 2. graduate 3. go work abroad, and learn Spanish 4. go to law school 5. kick ass, I guess. In the present outside of KVRX, I intern for a prison literacy nonprofit here at UT, am the Zine editor for the Hothouse literary journal, and work as a writing consultant for the UWC. Right now, the goal is to graduate, create some space to breathe and get back into making art and reading books I didn’t find on a syllabus.

What is your favorite part of KVRX?
For sure the people that I've met. I think about this all the time, and I know that I would not be the same person I am today if I hadn't met certain people in KVRX. Ariel, Lydia, Maddy, Emily, and Ben are some of the first people that come to mind because I look up to all of them so much, but my friends who are still in KVRX with me right now are also genuinely inspirational to me. I think that KVRX is a very work-hard/play-hard environment, and the experience of seeing people who are so passionate about what they're doing, and who put so much depth and thought into each decision they make was really formative for me. My first experience on staff was when Ariel was station manager, and I remember meeting with Ariel and Lydia at Spiderhouse (may it rest in peace? May it live on as the Ballroom? Who’s to say) to talk about interns, mentoring, and making a plan of attack for the next year and feeling very deeply like I was a part of something. So for me, there was always a sense that we have something really special with the people and the place here at KVRX, and we have to protect what we love about it. I think that's a pretty special thing to find on a college campus since it's really easy to feel like things are frivolous, temporary, or that they just exist as something to do. I say a lot that KVRX is the light of my life, and in a lot of ways, it actually is. To me, it really is an honor that I've been a part of KVRX, and that I've had the opportunity to meet the people I have. I'm very lucky that I fell into an environment where people encouraged taking what you love seriously and sharing it always. All of this is to say that my favorite part of being in KVRX is the people and that my favorite part about the people in KVRX is that the connecting thread between them is this unkillable sense of passion and determination. Being in the booth does totally rock though, and I have an absolute blast being on air. There’s nothing else like being in the radio booth and getting to spin absolute yarn about music.

What advice would you give to new DJs?
Have fun with it! Listen to other people's show playlists, even if you don't always listen to their shows. Be open-minded and willing to listen (actually listen) to other DJs. Also, a sense of humor about things, in general, is key. Be kind to others, be kind to yourself, do your best to be understanding, et, and Cetera. Keep in mind that college radio is inherently a little dysfunctional and grungy, and therein lies its charm. And for the love of god...hang out at the station. There’s nowhere else like it. Listen to CDs from the library. Talk to everyone who walks in. Lean into the mess and the joy of being a KVRX DJ. Also...logistical DJ will think that “no really, I’ll remember to cut the volume before this song cusses! It’s okay that I’m not playing a clean version because I am a smart person and I will remember to cut the volume before the cussword and everything will be cool and good” You will think this! And you will be wrong! And it will be very embarrassing!

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