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Get Familiar: Echobox

Get Familiar: Echobox
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Echobox Managers from Left to Right - Lorenzo, Rachella, Mohamed, Chalice

Echobox is an independent online radio station by the community, for the community. Their network of founders, each having been involved in Amsterdam’s radio scene and with a wealth of experience in the music industry, came together to create a new streaming platform. Now, joined by over 150 radio makers from Amsterdam and beyond, they have carved their own lane in the airwaves. Passionately focusing on the “radio” part of the online streaming world, they have subverted contemporary tropes of online radio by focusing on an audio-based stream that focuses on sound. We recently sat down with the team to get familiar with what it takes to take on a project like this.

What is your background before joining Echobox?

Rachella: I've been working in music for the last 10+ years, starting off as a DJ and hosting events. Over the years I've worked at 22tracks, BLiP agency as an agent for leftfield electronic music. Now I do the program at Echobox and I'm an advisor at Amsterdamse Fonds voor de Kunsten

Lorenzo: After attempting a universitary study of art history in my early twenties and ultimately dropping out, I decided to turn my passion for cooking into a profession, that resulted in me working as a chef in several Amsterdam restaurants full time for many years until I decided to slow the restaurant life down and make time for yet another passion of mine, music and it's broadcasting though independent radio. I had started collecting vinyl records and DJing several years before and was broadcasting a monthly reggae show on Red Light Radio. I ultimately started working at RLR as a studio manager with the ambition to learn the ins and outs of (web) radio and a will to grow in this wonderful business.

Mo: Well looking at studies Im a philosopher, but not doing anything actively with that at the moment. It's always been music first for me. I started as an MC and promoter in the late 90s. Next step in that process was setting up Mo Manager (Bookings and Management) in January 2008 which is still my main thing till the day of today. Been involved in radio making for quite some years now too, so yeah all about music, always!

Chalice: My background is pretty varied. I studied Literature & Philosophy which doesnt lead to a direct career path. Ive had countless jobs and career ventures (including painting & decorating, running a small fashion label, modelling and teaching) but I’m a radio nerd through and through. I started making radio at University and kept coming back to that. I worked for BBC Radio 2 and 4 for a couple of years, which was dead fun. From there I joined an independent news company and ended up producing & voicing news bulletins and providing radio guests for different radio stations across the UK. Coming to Amsterdam I started working with Red Light Radio as well as producing a monthly show.

What does community radio mean to you?

Chalice: I discovered my love for radio whilst at Uni. A couple of friends and I started a show on our student radio station - shoutout to LiveWire at UEA! It was on at 8pm on a Friday or something like that… in a tiny falling down studio above the student union. Realising that radio exists in this strange liminal space - thats what really captured my imagination. I loved hanging out and passing the broadcast baton on to the next show… it was so ritualised and a world that existed only in that mouldy asbestos-ridden radio studio that stank of stale beer and the self-righteousness of undergrads who still believe theyre going to change the world. But it was visceral and raw. Live radio allows you to connect to the listener in a way that other mediums dont. Its immediate and its intimate and its messy. I fell in love then and havent escaped.

Lorenzo: A curated platform that allows 'underground' DJ's, musicians and radio hosts living in Amsterdam and beyond, to broadcast their music and talk about their matters of interest to the world with. The basic requirements to join such a community should of course be quality, hard work, but most of all sincerity.

Mo: Theres different ways to define ‘a’ or ‘the Community’. You can approach it from a geographical P.O.V, so basically the people from the neighbourhood. I see it  as something that goes beyond that: it’s more of a big group of people that share certain ideas, music, art, views on different current topics. This group of people also support and help each other to be better and achieve more. It’s a group that is ever growing and theres always room for like minded people but also new ideas and views. So for me, it’s a very dynamical thing that is always changing and developing.

Rachella: Connecting musically minded people. Giving a platform to sounds of the city and receiving those from other cities as well. Taking back the 'airwaves' and sharing content which is created by the city. 

Echobox x Zgjim Elshani silk screen poster. Limited series of 40 pieces

What voice do you feel that Echobox has?

Rachella: I think we are still growing into our voice as new faces, voices and sounds are still being added to our team and program. But the base is a warm and open heart and voice.

Lorenzo: Professional, friendly and inclusive.

Mo: Echobox has the voice of all the makers! The voice of being independent and doing it the way we want to do. Amsterdam is a starting point and place where it all comes together, but our community is not geographically determined. So in the end this is a voice that comes from around the globe, from people that love to share their music, knowledge, art and more without boundaries.  

Chalice: I feel Echobox has really tapped into that old school pirate radio world; the world that the ships out in the North Sea during the 60s were occupying. Its radio in the truest sense - theres no visual aspect, it airs during the day to keep you company at work and during the evening to welcome in nightlife. But its rebellious, its a reflection of its time and its location. Its Amsterdam and that means many different things and many different voices all at once.

What is your role at Echobox?

Mo: As the General Manager at Echobox Im responsible for the overall course, identity, team management and finance. 

Lorenzo: Station Manager, I oversee all of the studio's daily runnings, most importantly all the technical aspects of EB's broadcasting, both online and offline. I maintain the back-end of our website and streaming system, edit, manage and archive all show recordings, maintain all studio equipment and attend to the wishes and needs of our Radio makers, from making coffee to setting up the studio for live performances. I am the one who is physically the most present in the studio and regularly see most of our radio makers in person, allowing me to give technical and production advice, and most importantly, receive feedback.

Rachella: I am Head of Programming.

Chalice: I’m head of broadcast so I ensure that our programme is an overall cohesive story. I am responsible for making sure the broadcast goes on air as planned (which also means I am responsible when the inevitable dangers of live broadcast come up haha). I work really closely with all our makers to provide any productional support and to make sure our listeners know whats coming up and what theyre tuning in to!

What made you choose to be a pure audio stream and not go for video streaming when coming up with the concept?

Mo: From a personal point of view, I’m not a fan of video streaming anymore. Im not a fan in general of everything being available all the time, everywhere, for anyone, unless its food, clothes, shelter and love! The audio makes you focus on the music and not the video of a DJ, most of the time chatting with other people in the studio or being busy on their phone. One of the things we did before starting was having talks with a lot of different radio makers and DJs. We asked them what they liked and disliked about independent radio and how it was set up. One of the most common answers was them disliking the video stream. So that was a quick decision made. 

Rachella: This was something we all agreed about pretty soon: we wanted radio to be radio. To keep the focus on audio and only use video when it adds something to the value of the show. Personally it also gives me a more comfortable feeling inside the studio, not being aware of a camera. 

Lorenzo: I feel that the video streaming of Radio shows takes much of the magic away and is generally not visually interesting. Radio, whether is broadcasting music or discussing a topic during a talk show, leaves a lot of space for the listeners to use their fantasy.

Chalice: Part of our philosophy is to create a radio world with its roots in old school FM broadcasting - one that the listener can tune in and out of wherever and whatever theyre doing while maintaining a left field and underground ethos. We didnt feel visual streaming was necessary. Audio all the way baby!

Echobox radio makers visit the new studio 

How did you get your first set of residents and how is the family growing now?

Rachella: Something we agreed on quite early on in our process was to have an open pitch call. And we continue to use this as a policy…

Lorenzo: Our policy is to give everyone an equal chance do make radio at echobox, so after publishing an open call we sent all the 300 interested radio makers a quite extensive application form to fill and send us, the EB whole core team did a fist selection based on their answers and then our programming team had personal talks with the candidates in order to make a final decision. All candidates were treated and judged by the same criteria whether they were experienced radio makers with 10+ years radio experience or whether they never entered a radio studio before. I feel that this is the best way to treat everyone equally and create an atherogenic radio community that mirrors the society that surrounds us.

Chalice: Well our first set of residences is basically 99% of our makers… we rarely do one offs and mostly direct those that are interested in playing on EB to shows that facilitate guests but have a permanent and practiced structure. In this way we get to showcase the amazing creativity and talent that exists in and passes through the city whilst keeping a strong and consistent listening experience. 

Mo: It would have been an easy one for us to just rely on our enormous network and ask all the people we know to come and do a show. But we didnt!! Next to the audio thing there was another element that was very important for us and also looked to be very important for the people/community we spoke to. If you want to be there for the community, the radio station should be as open and approachable as can be. That's why we decided to gain our makers through an open pitch. Everybody was free to send in a pitch, no matter their age, experience, ideas and background. Even the bigger names in the music scene needed to follow this procedure if they wanted to have a show. This worked out great and we got over 300 pitches which we all read and discussed as a team.

We still have program gaps that need to be filled, meaning a new round of open pitches. But I do have to say that’s not the only way we grow cause a lot of shows bring in guests. We also do Echobox Presents… where we bring in 3 names, that are mostly not connected to Echobox.

What are some challenges that you have gone through over the past year?

Chalice: I dont think any of us quite understood how much we were trying to achieve and how much time and energy that would require… we were overwhelmed with pitches, which was amazing, but was so much work. Once we had our initial set - around 150 shows - we spent countless hours then sketching out what the initial programme would look like, then we had to check in with everyones availability… and then put together a show profile for each one and input on our website. The maintenance of a 3.5 day broadcasting week is an incredible task too - one we were prepared for but we are still a very small team and currently all working on a voluntary basis. We love it and for every one challenge theres at least three rewards, but the challenges are ongoing. Thats community radio though! 

Rachella: We've bumped into a lot of challenges, as a team, a station and personally. For me personally time management and working in a group/structure were things I've learned a lot about in the past 2 years however I'm really happy to see myself and the team grow into these roles. We are constantly learning along the way. 

Lorenzo: We've all gone through many challenges, creative, technical, organizational and financial, even though we're not a commercial station we still have to pay rent, lease and buy equipment, online services, etc. Hopefully in the future we might be able to pay ourselves the many hours we all work for this amazing project.

Mo: Ooeeff! There were a lot of challenges like finding a good studio, finances, sticking to our own course, the amount of time it all required and many more smaller things. There is no blueprint for running an independent online radio station, so a lot of it is trusting in your own experiences, vision and hard work. There are blueprints for setting up a stream, technically, but this is something different. Everything needs to be thought of well and then executed just as well. A lot of time, but Im having a blast!

What for you have been some highlights over the last year?

Chalice: The first day of broadcast was insane and electric. Ill never forget that. Weve done a 24hr livestream, collaborated with Operator and Future Intel to put on an event, got this T-shirt coming out which were beyond excited for. Main highlight though if I had to choose? Were making fucking good radio with some incredibly talented and dedicated people. And its here to stay!

Mo: The first EB get together in Skate Cafe with the makers before we started broadcasting was very special. It became very real when we met most of the makers in person at the same time. Another one is going live for the very first time, July 29th 2021, a special day in my memory! Echobox Presents Amsterdam was also special, as it gave a clear signal on how we like to do things as we think they should be, not just following trends. And then theres the new studio and the collab with Patta that are def highlights of our first year as well. 

Lorenzo: Our first day of broadcast was simply magic, our first public event in Skatecafè, the 24h non stop broadcast we did last December, but most importantly the many radio shows I witnessed first hand in the studio, several of whom really moved me.

Rachella: Our radio making course at Nowhere has been a big highlight for me, it reminded me again why we're doing this, which simply just sometimes gets overshadowed by just running from project to project. At the course we got to talk about radio, truly hear and see why people are attracted to radio and hear their ideas/visions and then try to create it together. It was really special. 

Broadcasting on location at Skatecafe

Are events something that is part of the Echobox DNA?

Rachella: Absolutely, it's meeting our community offline - we finally can do that again. 

Lorenzo: Yes, for sure, even though we've been very limited by Covid this past year and have not been able to organize the number of events and the way we would have liked to, the future looks brighter. Events are a chance for listeners and radio makers alike to meet and connect and are the ideal way to consolidate a community that already 'knows' each other virtually, and even a better chance to enlarge the community.

Chalice: Something Im really excited to work on is our series of remote on-location broadcast days. Starting with the pre-release party at this week well be broadcasting our programme at different and very varied places all around the city. Thats the one of the realest ways we can focus on the community part of our station - bringing it to the community itself. So stay tuned for that!

Mo: 100%! Ive been involved in doing events for over 20 years, so its in my DNA and Im not the only in the team. Events are very important for us as it is one of the best ways to connect with our family and community in real life. And also bring what happens on the air to the people to see and feel. We started out in a difficult time, during the pandemic, but now we got things are looking better and we are able to do more and connect more. So looking forward to all that's coming…

What can we expect to happen off the airwaves in the future?

Mo: Events are very important for us. It varies from club nights, to art exhibitions, to setting up talks and broadcasting on location with a crowd. Actually it's one of our goals in the upcoming three years to make Echobox a strong offline platform that is involved in music, art and culture. A couple of concrete off-airwaves things that are coming up: Patta x Echobox shirt release event on June 10th, Echobox x Holland Festival June 17th, Echobox x Fiber June 19th and Echobox x Dekmantel Selectors Both Party Aug 26th. 

Rachella: Next to that we are working on creating moments where the community can come together and share knowledge.

The Tales from the Echobox articles have been a mainstay over the past year, how did the partnership with Patta come together?

Chalice: This was the brainchild of Vic one of our original co-conspirators. We were trying to think of ways that our listeners can get to know our makers more. They are so varied and diverse and bananas interesting. The idea was that we could showcase an interesting and contrasting trio each month: representing our local residents, our broadcasters (radiomakers that live abroad), the DJs, the academics, the eccentrics… Im actually the one on the Echobox side of things helping putting it together and its been so fun! I look forward to reading the final product every month…

Mo: I go way back with Patta! Literally since day 1, could write a book on all the stuff weve been through, Gee knows! Hahaha. I used to do all the productions for Patta’s music events and used to book the Patta Soundsystem when it was set up more as a DJ team. Doing things together with Patta was something that has been there since 2004 and just kept evolving, so asking them to collab and being supportive of the project was a logical step. Here we are 18 years later still working on new stuff together and helping each other out. Patta went from local to mega international but we still connect and share the same views; the fact they are still open and approachable something I think that's very important.

Lorenzo: Besides, the fact that all members of the Patta core family are personal friends that I've known and hung out with for more than twenty five years, Patta goes far beyond being a clothing brand and sneaker retailer and has grown to be cultural community, one that in my opinion best mirrors and represents the things I love about this city and its people. Echobox shares that goal so we thought about a collaboration from day one, I'm glad it is a reality now.

Behind the scenes at the Echobox x Patta photoshoot

You recently moved into a new studio space, has the energy stayed the same?

Rachella: I think with the new location we can fully let the Echobox energy in, as it is now not a shared space.

Lorenzo: Yes, but we really feel much more professional…

Chalice: Haha yes and no - I am glad that some aspects of the energy has changed! The first location was only ever supposed to be temporary - a necessity to start broadcasting when we wanted to and kindly gifted to us by our inimitable general manager Mo of Mo Manager. It was brilliant in a way as it was a familiar space - one that all our initial brainstorming had taken place in so it felt right to start broadcasting from there. But it forced Mo Management into a dark corner… it also limited sound insulation. The buzzer would go off during talk shows, you would have to try and silently eat your lunch, things like that. The fun, the buzz, all that is still here and more. The new space has just opened more - better broadcast quality, more options in terms of live setup, switching over shows has never been easier. Its a party!

Mo: New Studio brought some new energy! We used to share my old office, meaning the radio was literally in my studio and shows were live on Thursday and Friday while I was there working on Mo Manager stuff too. To start it was good; I heard a lot of shows live and got to chat and meet up with makers. But after 6 months its was a little much… the new space came in just at the right time. We built a new studio with a soundproof wall that allows us to chat and work on the other side of the. I got my own little space just for the agency and the office space for the radio is big enough to work in all together which we do every Tuesday. So it’s a win win!

What are some of the more fringe shows that you can find on Echobox?

Mo: There is quite a lot of them to be honest… But if I have to mention a couple I would say: Misplaced Objects by Anahit, ASMR by Thalia, Always Ultra Blöd Heine, Sampled Stories. Just to name a few. These are shows that you will not hear quickly anywhere else, or sound familiar when you would listen to it. But I dom have to say that these types of show can only survive next to the other ones we program so the mix of more edgy shows and shows that feel more like a radio show you know (and are still different) ensure to whole thing makes sense.

Rachella: What might be fringe to some isn't to others of course but some really special shows that we have are, Always Ultra, Misplaced Objects on musique concrete, Screamo Listening sessions, Time with Yukarita, Hidden Fruits of Terra and Diaspora Radio. 

Lorenzo: ASMR, Immaterial.Archives, Vergaarbak, Always Ultra, Misplaced Objects...actually all the shows are somewhat fringe in their own way, we tend to keep away from what is mainstream. 

What steps have you taken to ensure the longevity of your radio station?

Lorenzo: A solid team, a professional studio to broadcast from, a clear visual image and communication, but above all I feel that a solidly curated programming is key.

Chalice: Location was one. Thats a tick for now. Funding is one that we are still working on and this Patta collaboration is a very important part of that. Mostly it comes down to our makers and our listeners. We recently rolled out a survey to get some feedback from everyone tuning in and that was really enlightening. We have started to action some changes to improve accessibility and transparency. Keeping strong as a team, thats key too. We spend every Tuesday together in the office, reviewing the past week, looking ahead to the next, reviewing any events, collaborations or anything else coming up, but also just checking in with each other. Were a little pirate rabble riding those airwaves together and staying in tune with each other is the only way it works!

Mo: Looking at it from my position I think having a philosophy, believing in it and sticking to it is key. Next to that a healthy and clear structure is needed. Everything we do needs to be on a certain level before we move on to the next thing. I often use the metaphor of building a house or skyscraper: you need a plan on paper and then start building, starting with the foundation. If that's not solid shit will go down. And even though it’s solid you gonna start with the first floor not the tenth. So being patient and always thinking long-term is how we approach things. Step by step, with quarterly and yearly goals. Within this journey not being afraid if sometimes a floor comes down: if the foundation’s strong enough it wont be a problem, just another learning moment.

What are some of the best things that you have seen in the chat room? 

Rachella: It goes from super interesting questions during talk shows to family members supporting to random thoughts. The last one I screenshotted was Fix Everything: we just wanna state that for all the people who expected 'post-punk' that ambient and neo-Rnb both are. Now you sit on that. 

Chalice: I did a show a few weeks ago where I asked the listeners about their favourite sandwiches. Honestly it went off. People really be feeling some type of way about sandwich preferences. At one point there was a quasi-philosophical debate about the pros and cons of crisps (chips) in sandwiches and even a borderline mathematical equation on how to achieve the perfect of crisp-to-filling ratio. Facilitating these really hard-hitting debates, thats why I got in to broadcasting in the first place.

Can you recommend one Echobox show each so our audience can get familiar with your personal taste?

Mo: I would say West Indian Fire by Matteo Fave & Wiesel. The name says it all: its a show focussing on music from the Caribbean area and it always makes me feel good even though the topics of some tunes can be heavy. Go check it out!

Lorenzo: I'm a big fan of The Roel de Boer Show, Roel is a veteran vinyl record collector and one of Amsterdam's best kept DJ secrets, his eclectic selections manage to keep my full attention and open my ears and soul to unexpected musical realms. His taste is impeccable and his selections always convey love and sincerity. Big up Roel each and every time.

Rachella: I really really recommend listening to every show, or just having Echobox on wherever you can, there is so much to discover and so many different types of shows.  If I would recommend some in my personal taste; NORTHSOUND, C.R.E.A.M, Het Kan Wel, Dimelow FM, UUUSE, Confusion Unit, Rhythmic Culture Radio and Jamrock. 

Chalice: Hidden Fruits of Terra. He covers the weird, the underground and the challenging and curates them in a way that isnt necessarily cohesive from a genre perspective but makes a genreless audio soup of hidden delights. Hes also got a background in Philosophy, so that speaks to me!

Through their multi-faceted studio in Amsterdam, they have been able to showcase talk shows, live music, DJ sets, interviews and everything in between. Every Thursday to Sunday, their packed roster of residents ranges from some of the most recognisable people in the Amsterdam scene, as well as providing a space for guests passing through town and a platform for new and upcoming talents to share their sounds, music archives and ideas on an inclusive program.

The Patta and Echobox partnership goes back to projects started before this collaboration; since then the relationships between both teams have continued to grow and evolve. Echobox strives to provide a platform based on diversity, equity and inclusivity, for radio makers experienced and new, and during the year so far, Patta has been getting familiar with some of them through the ‘Tales from the Echobox’ series. Now as they enter the next stage of their relationship, Patta and Echobox have joined hands to create a crowdfunding T-Shirt in which all the proceeds will go toward the radio station.

The Patta x Echobox T-Shirt features a Patta Script Logo on the front and the back is adorned with a radio wave inspired Echobox print designed by Experimental Jetset. The Patta x Echobox T-Shirt will be available exclusively on shop.echobox.radio on Monday, June 13th at 13:00 CEST.

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