By: Dawn DiMare Thiery Considered a revered epicenter of fine art, the well-to-do city of Laguna Beach isn't known as a bastion of new music discovery (unless you're looking for surf rock or reggae à la Sublime). Grant Owens--a disc jockey at member-supported KX-FM 93.5--is trying to change that. For the past six months, he has faithfully flipped on his studio mic every Friday at 9 p.m. to host the recently expanded show We Found New Music. The concept of the now-two-hour show is as simple as its name: During each episode, Owens plays the newest releases and features live sets from subterranean indie, pop and electronic gems just begging to be discovered.
After years of recommending bands and cobbling together mixtapes for friends, Owens decided to showcase the artists he loves by hosting his own radio show. He began broadcasting via Echo Park-based Intraffikradio in 2011. In November, he brought his show to Orange County and the newly launched KX-FM. The unique geography of Laguna Beach makes it difficult for listeners to clearly hear stations based out of Los Angeles or San Diego. The community radio station--led by program director, founder and morning show host Tyler Russell--fills that gap. It spins tunes from a "generational alt-rock" format, spanning from the 1960s to today. Artists know that they can come into the Laguna Beach studio to promote a new album, local show or national tour.
We Found New Music is becoming a sort of rising star among the others broadcast on the station, mostly because, for once, the local music community has a real outlet through which to get their tracks to the masses (well, at least the quasi-masses). Owens, whose passion for music began at a young age, dreamed of becoming an opera singer while growing up in Laguna Beach. In his junior year at Laguna Beach High School, he landed the lead role of Joe Hardy in the musical Damn Yankees! He went on to major in vocal performance at the University of Southern California, but he switched his focus to learning more about the industry itself. After a stint as an intern at Astralwerks Records, he now works in the international production division at Universal Music.
Each segment of We Found New Music features a "band of the week," a recap of the week's new releases and music headlines, and a guide to the best concerts for Orange County and, yes, even Los Angeles-based listeners.
Owens' position at Universal Music gives him a direct link to bands and their management teams, enabling him to host such groups as indie folk-rocksters Yellow Red Sparks, Las Vegas-based Imagine Dragons and Canadian electropop band Bear Mountain. Australian electronic artist Pigeon will appear on a future episode.
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Owens also oversees a Facebook group and website dedicated to the show. Listeners submit tracks from their favorite cutting-edge artists that the DJ sifts through, in addition to the large amount of new music that's released every week. This allows him to tailor his playlist to what his audience wants to hear.
While he is passionate about being a DJ, Owens' dream is to sing in a band of his own. In the meantime, he's not shy about recommending people check out a few of his inspirations, including buzzworthy British acts such as Alt-J and Disclosure, as well as upbeat indie popsters St. Lucia. The sudden rash of good aural taste coming out of Laguna Beach could provide the South County music scene with a major step forward.
WE FOUND NEW MUSIC airs on KX-FM 93.5; www.kx935.com/show/wefoundnewmusic. Every Fri., 9 p.m. The show can also be found at www.soundcloud.com/wefoundnewmusic