There’s a soft buzz coming from the car radio, a faint hum of interference as you drive around the Island searching for the perfect song to get you in the mood. Sometimes the automatic tuner slides right by it, other times it settles in somewhere amongst the buzz to 93.7, the home of Vineyard community radio station WVVY.
WVVY may not have a strong signal but what it lacks in wattage it makes up for in local characters. The station embraces its charge of all things Vineyard, and is a hodgepodge of Island deejays whose individual voices broadcast a unique blend of music, spiritual guidance, sports radio and talk shows.
This past Wednesday morning Rockin’ Roll Rick and DJ K-OS (pronounced chaos) were at the mic in the WVVY studio off Peacegate Way in Vineyard Haven.
Outside the walls of the cramped studio no bigger than a large closet the deejays are known as Rick Padilla and Keith Bassett, but once they enter the studio everyday responsibilities are left behind.
Like many other WVVY hosts, it is hard to nail down exactly what kind of music they play.
“It’s not soft rock, but you know when you turn a rock over and there’s fuzzy stuff growing on the bottom?” Mr. Basssett said, wearing a Wolfmother T-shirt and attempting to explain their niche. “With the occasional creepy-crawly under there.”
Mr. Padilla gave his introduction spot.
“From Tisbury, Maaaaaasachusetts,” he said, stretching out the first syllable for 10 seconds until it rose to a scream. “I could have done that for longer,” he said afterwards.
Mr. Bassett finished the intro by adding, “This is WVVY,” and then segued into Bicentennial Man by the Black Lips.
The station plays a mix of funk, blues, folk, jazz, Brazilian, all things Louisiana, and a number of genres that don’t fit into any category. Station manager Paul Munafo refers to the programming of WVVY as an “eclectic blend of deejay consciousness from the heart.”
“We have something really cool here,” Mr. Munafo added in an interview at the station. “We have this little chunk of the airwaves and we’re reluctant to give it up.”
The radio station has had its ups and downs since its inception in 2007, but Mr. Munafo said he was confident the station was on the upswing. Its greatest challenge is its low frequency (100 watts) and low listenership.
“We don’t have enough listenership, we need people to tune in, but in order for people to do that I want them to turn on the radio and know they’re going to get a signal and not just a buzz, or Mike FM bleeding in from the Cape,” he said. “I don’t want that anymore, I want reliability.”
Reliability is on its way, Mr. Munafo said, as the station is in the process of upgrading equipment to make sure the buzz is nonexistent.
More variety is also on the horizon, he said.
“I’d like more programming on the air with issues that are important to Islanders that other stations can’t carry because they’re beholden to corporate entities. We don’t have that constraint. We can produce what we want to.”
Everyone at the station works as a volunteer. In fact, deejays pay a $10 a week fee to use the studio. Mr. Munafo is always looking for more hosts, especially for shows that cater to the African American community and classical and opera lovers. When no one is hosting a show the station reverts to a server with more than 7,000 songs played randomly.
One new show in its second week of production is The Show with Carolyn, with Carolyn Sands. Ms. Sands is hosting debates about international and local issues and playing music from Vineyard bands.
A novice on the air, Ms. Sands said deejaying for WVVY has been a good way to get the jitters out of the way.
“I think it gives people a chance who never would have had a chance to be on radio,” she said. “VVY is awesome because it lets anybody have the opportunity to present what they think radio should be.”
Gregory Marcella hosts Kitchen Table and has been part of WVVY since the beginning. His show focuses on all things Americana, but what he loves most is playing music no one has ever heard before. Mr. Marcella has 80,000 songs in his digital library.
“I just try to find bands no one knows about that play good music and blend the music so people aren’t listening and saying, ‘What the hell is this, what’s that?’” Mr. Marcella said. “It’s so rewarding for me, I haven’t gotten sick of it,” he added, noting that every show is dedicated to his daughter, Ivy.
In addition to the music shows ranging from Brazilian beats to reggae, electronica with Zebra Zonic Electro Adventures Across the Digital Spectrum and a heavy metal show called A Small Victory, which Mr. Munafo said will make listeners actually like the genre. There is also talk radio.
Rob Myers and Eleisha Weisner host Let’s Talk Facts Folks, a sports talk show airing on Saturday afternoons, that isn’t always about sports. This week Mr. Myers has also been busy putting the finishing touches on Best Fest, a benefit party for WVVY taking place this Saturday, Sept. 10.
“When you have a music and arts festival that’s to benefit a community radio station it’s really the perfect match,” Mr. Myers said this week. “They all go well together.”
Best Fest begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Washington Park near the Oak Bluffs harbor. At 8 p.m. the festival gets on the move beginning with a parade down Circuit avenue led by a 20-piece marching band from Providence, The Extraordinary Rendition Band, and then dancing throughout the night at the Lampost.
Festival attendees need not be afraid of someone in a large gorilla suit or puppets walking around the field; they’ll be asking for donations for the radio station.
“I don’t think [WVVY] has lived up to its potential yet. Ideally it would be this awesome community building tool,” Mr. Myers said. “We have a gigantic megaphone and with great power, comes great responsibility. I feel we’re the gorilla glue that binds the community together.”
Best Fest is free to the public with a suggested donation of $5. For more information, visit the festival’s Facebook page.