WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rackett, The Replacements, and James Brown.


New York, NY




WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rackett, The Replacements, and James Brown.






WNYC Radio 160 Varick St. New York, NY 10013 (212) 433-9692


Producer Johan Lenox Enhances Chamber Music With Pop and Nostalgia

Johan Lenox has one of the more unusual resumes in the music world. He’s probably best known as a producer, working with hip hop stars like Travis Scott and Big Sean. But he’s also a singer, pianist, and a composer of contemporary classical music. He’ll produce uncategorizable work with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid, write music for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and cover a Nirvana song, all as part of his omnivorous musical diet. Lenox’s 2023 release is called Johan's Childhood Chamber Nostalgia Album, which leans toward ambient music with an unfocused childlike spirit. Johan Lenox and a small chamber music trio play in-studio. Set list: "Hopes and Dreams", "Boy With Blurry Eyes", "When I Was Your Age" Web Extra: "Dumb" by Nirvana


Minneapolis-Based Progressive Bluegrass Band Barbaro, In-Studio

The Minneapolis trio Barbaro grows out of the American bluegrass tradition, but the key words there might be “out of”, as Barbaro doesn’t race through banjo breakdowns and flashy fiddle solos, although they can do those things. The band is something of progressive version of bluegrass – using traditional instrumentation like fiddle and banjo, but drawing inspiration from electronic music and writing songs that may sound pastoral and folky but which often carry a bit of a bite. Barbaro plays new songs from their rootsy chamber music album, About The Winter, and chats about horse racing, in-studio. Set list: "Subtle Hints", "Gardens", "All My Friends"


Mountain Man Looks for Peace and Joy Through Vocal Harmonies (Archives)

Mountain Man, the Appalachian a cappella trio, features the timeless sound of three voices singing in harmony, with an occasional strum of the guitar. They released an album in 2010, a trio of college friends who’d gotten used to singing together, but then went their separate ways after college. All three of them toured for a long time as Feist’s backup singers, and lately Amelia Meath, one third of the trio, has been keeping busy as half of Sylvan Esso. Meath, along with Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Molly Sarle are back, with their first album in eight years, Magic Ship. As our colleague Justin Sergi writes, "their immaculate precision of timing and tuning and phrasing, comes from love and friendship and the elemental, historic 'fun' of singing three-part harmony with your friends." "It is a precision that can, perhaps, only be born from family. Which is what they are: family." The family of Mountain Man joins us to perform songs, chat about community in North Carolina, the internet, peace and joy, and Molly's cat, Magic Ship. Set list: Watch "AGT":


Storyteller, Songwriter, and Scholar No-No Boy Finds Place

The musician known as No-No Boy is a Vietnamese-American singer and songwriter, real name Julian Saporiti, whose music incorporates the sounds of American folk but adds various Asian instruments and scales, as well as field recordings and found sound. Saporiti took the name No-No Boy from a post-war novel about the treatment of Japanese-Americans after the notorious internment camps set up during the second World War. And his songs often tell stories of marginalized Asian communities that are wrestling with their place in the American melting pot. No-No Boy’s latest album is Empire Electric, and it brings Julian and his band to our studio. Set list: 1. Jakarta 2. Little Monk 3. Two Candles In the Dark


Migration, Movement, and Joyous Swing in 'Rivers In Our Veins' by Allison Miller

New York-based drummer, composer, and educator Allison Miller has played with singer/songwriters like Brandi Carlile, Ani DiFranco, or Natalie Merchant, but she’s best known for her own bands, and her own music, which is usually labeled jazz, but you’ll hear elements of rock, funk and folk in there too. She’s the bandleader of the chamber jazz band Boom Tic Boom, and is part of the all-star jazz group Artemis along with many other collaborations. Allison Miller’s latest album, Rivers In Our Veins, features a new band, including several members of Boom Tic Boom but with tap dancers as well. Allison Miller presents the full multimedia Rivers In Our Veins on Nov. 25 at Roulette. Commissioned by Mid Atlantic Arts Organization and Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Rivers In Our Veins is inspired by five major rivers of the Northeast United States – the James, Delaware, Potomac, Hudson and Susquehanna – their history, how they serve the communities around them, and how those communities need to better upkeep them. Allison Miller goes deep with research about rivers and social movement — migratory movement — along rivers, as well as what she learned from the River Keepers. [Much more about Rivers In Our Veins.] Her top-shelf band, with violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Todd Sickafoose, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, trumpeter Jason Palmer, and pianist Carmen Staaf, along with two phenomenally talented tap dancers, perform selections from Rivers In Our Veins, in-studio. Set list: 1. Hudson 2. Of Two Rivers (Part 2) 3. Fierce


Singer Laufey Honors Roots of Jazz In Modern Torch Songs

Icelandic singer and songwriter Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir, known by the mononym Laufey (pronounced Lay-vay), is having a breakout year. Now based in L.A., the young singer with the timeless-sounding voice crafts songs which look to the great American songbook and the jazz-inflected pop of the mid-20 century. Her roots are in both classical music (she’s a trained cellist) and in jazz and her mission is connecting multiple generations, especially her own, to both jazz and classical music. She plays modern torch songs from her latest album, Bewitched, in-studio. [P.S. Check out Laufey’s online book club.] Set list: “Promise”, “California and Me”, “From the Start”


Songwriter and Producer Raia Was Makes Lustrous and Cathartic Alt-Pop

The songwriter, pianist, vocalist, and producer Raia Was has become known for her dark art- and alt-pop. She was raised here in New York, and some of the city’s darkness, risk-taking, and energy flow through her songs which may oscillate between brooding intensity and cathartic euphoria. [“You Are" was featured in HBO’s Euphoria.] Raia Was has just released her second record, called Captain Obvious, on a new cooperative record label called Switch Hit Records, and it brings her and her dream band of collaborators play in-studio. Set list: “What It Feels Like” “Any Evil” “So Close” "Easy To Force It” Watch "What It Feels Like": Watch "Any Evil": Watch "So Close": Watch "Easy to Force It":


Speedy Ortiz Delivers Pop Stingers For the Times (Archives)

The 2018 release from American pop band Speedy Ortiz, Twerp Verse, speaks smartly to political and social situations of the present from a feminist perspective of truth-telling and is designed, on purpose, to make us uncomfortable lyrically and musically. With songs that airdrop aggressive, unpredictable chord progressions and disorienting rhythms behind enemy lines, this record is music for popping out from the cover of safety, armed with teeth and claws. Speedy Ortiz plays some of these tunes, in-studio. (From the Archives, 2018.)


Cumbia Punks Son Rompe Pera Do Not Play Their Dad's Marimba Music

Son Rompe Pera started as a street band in Mexico City, but the marimba-playing cumbia punks have spent the past six years honing an electrifying and buzzy mix of modern cumbia, tropical dance beats, hard-hitting punk, psychedelic guitars, traditional Mexican and Colombian rhythms, horns, and a pinch of dub and hip hop, (Kennedy Center program notes.) Their 2020 record Batuco, named after the band’s marimba player father, leaned more toward a folkloric, traditional sound by way of nine covers. However, their 2023 record, Chimborazo, delivers 12 originals that really bring the marimba to the mosh pit, including a song where the title is a Chilean expletive and is based on a dream about an alien abduction. Son Rompe Pera slays, in-studio. (-Caryn Havlik) Set list: "Selva Negra", "La Muerte del Amor", "Chucha" Watch "Selva Negra":


Writer, Rapper, Singer Dessa Defies Expectations and Offers Deeply Human Insights

Singer, rapper, and writer Dessa is a member of the long-running hip hop collective known as Doomtree, though hip hop is just one part of what she does. She has also performed concerts of her songs with the Minnesota Orchestra, published well-received books of essays and audio plays, and hosts the podcast Deeply Human. Dessa, along with harpist Aviva Jaye and saxophonist/keyboardist Joshua Holmgren, play new songs from her 2023 album, called Bury The Lede, in-studio. Set list: "Hurricane Party", "Blush", "Tell Me Again"


Pascal Le Boeuf's New Music and Jazz Hybrid Plays With Tension and Release

Pianist Pascal Le Boeuf’s background is in both jazz and electronic music, and he has established himself as a sought-after composer of contemporary classical music. His work communicates tension and release, leaves space for improvisation, and explores the limits of a continuous high-energy work lasting as long as possible. There’s also a lot of trust and collaboration built into the process. Le Boeuf performs in what might otherwise look like a classic jazz trio – piano, bass and drums – if it weren’t for the additional strings playing with them. Then, he also manipulates the strings inside our piano, and beats the outsides of the piano as well. Pascal Le Boeuf and his band play music from his 2023 album, Ritual Being, in-studio. Set list: “Transition Behavior”, “Wanderlust”, “Obliquely Wrecked”


Pachyman's 'Switched On' Honors His Puerto Rican Roots

Pachyman is a one-man dub band; that one man is Pachy Garcia, and though he’s based in LA, he grew up in Puerto Rico, at a time when Jamaican music – especially dub reggae - was having a big impact on the island’s music scene. Pachyman’s new album is called Switched On, and is an homage to the era when musicians first began manipulating synthesizers to emit gloriously off-kilter bleeps, bloops, and whooshes - think Switched On Boleros and Switched On Bach. The new record brings Pachy and his dub-drenched sound system from another dimension to our studio. Set list: "Trago Coqueto", "Lovers", "Switched On" Watch "Trago Coqueto": Watch "Lovers": Watch "Switched On": Switched-On by PACHYMAN


Chanteuse Ute Lemper Merges Past and Present on 'Time Traveler'

German singer and actress Ute Lemper’s career defies easy description. She’s a musical theater legend – starring in the original Paris production of Cabaret and adorning the sides of NYC buses when she starred in the Broadway run of Chicago. But she’s also a singer who has recreated the songs of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and Kurt Weill, and sung contemporary songs by Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, and Philip Glass. And in recent years, she’s been writing songs as well, taking inspiration from Hiatus Kaiyote, John Legend, Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Annie Lennox, Erykah Badu and/or Robert Glasper. Ute Lemper’s new album, Time Traveler, is a collection of her original works and she’s brought her band in to our studio to play some of them. Set list: "Time Traveler", "Envie d’Amour"/"Magical Stone", "The Gift"


Irish Songwriter CMAT Distills Deep Dives Into Relatable Pop

CMAT might look like one of those specialized tests you have to take to get into a post-graduate program, but this stage name is actually the initials of Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, a Dublin pop singer whose cleverly-titled debut LP If My Wife New I’d Be Dead was a hit in Ireland last year. With cultural references that range from Belgian football manager Vincent Kompany to Gilmore Girls, (she also loves Patsy Cline), CMAT knows how to take a deep dive down a topical rabbit hole and make it into relatable pop. She distills her maximalist tendencies down to an unplugged, intimate setting, playing songs from her brand-new record, Crazymad, For Me, in-studio. Set list: “Where Are Your Kids Tonight?”, “Rent”, “I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby” Watch "Rent": Watch "I wanna be a cowboy baby": I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby! by CMAT


Singer and Guitarist Buffalo Nichols Envisions The Blues for the Present

Milwaukee-based blues singer and guitarist Buffalo Nichols, on his self-titled 2021 debut, showed how timeless the blues can be, both musically and emotionally. On his latest album, called The Fatalist, Nichols uses contemporary 21st century sounds and techniques to remind us that the blues have been and are always with us, intimately tied to present-day 2023. Buffalo Nichols plays some of these new songs, in-studio. Set list; “Turn Another Stone”, “The Long Journey Home”, “The Difference”


Two-Spirit Song Carrier Jeremy Dutcher Celebrates and Explores Their First Nations Roots

Jeremy Dutcher, the classically trained Two-Spirit song carrier, composer, activist, is a Member of the Wolastoqiyik People of the Neqotkuk (formerly known as Tobique First Nation) in Eastern Canada. Dutcher burst upon the music scene in Canada in 2018, winning the prestigious Polaris Music Prize for their debut LP, where Dutcher performed with archival recordings of their Wolastoq ancestors. Dutcher has just released on October 6, called Motewolonuwok (People of great spiritual power), and it continues Dutcher’s exploration of their First Nations roots: celebrating the culture, addressing the endangered language and land rights, and correcting the record. Jeremy Dutcher's trio plays in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: "Skicinuwihkuk" (Indian Land), "Pomawsuwinuwok Wonakiyawolotuwok" (The People Are Rising), "Qonute" (Honor Song) Watch ""Skicinuwihkuk": Watch "Honor Song":


June McDoom's Homespun Blankets of Fancy DIY Sound

Growing up in a Jamaican family in Florida, June McDoom was surrounded by reggae; but she found herself drawn to the sounds of 1960's and 1970's folk. Now based in New York, she has released her debut EP, which surrounds those songs with touches of psychedelia, and arrangements that in their own homespun way seem to echo another sound of the 60s – Phil Spector’s so-called "wall of sound". In her intimate acoustic musings, June McDoom’s voice rarely rises above a breathy croon, following its own melody regardless of the kaleidoscope of sounds behind her. McDoom and her band play in-studio. Set list: "On My Way", "Stone After Stone", "By June" Watch "Stone After Stone": June McDoom by June McDoom


Rival Consoles' Warm Ambient Electronic Music, In-Studio

The London-based electronic music composer and producer Ryan Lee West records under the name Rival Consoles, and he’s always been concerned with creating an organic, living quality to his experimental electronic music. He draws on both the arena-sized grooves of EDM – electronic dance music – and the more intimate sounds of ambient music without ever settling on one or the other. Rival Consoles plays in-studio. Set list: “Pulses of Information”, “Articulation”, “Quiet Home”


Time-Warp Ambient Groove of LANZ and Kris Allen

Ballard is the name of the new album credited to LANZ & Kris Allen. Lanz is Benjamin Lanz, the trombonist and composer who plays with The National and Beirut and numerous other bands. Kris Allen is a sax player, bandleader and educator. But when you put them together, it's like Brian Eno and Sun Ra went to a My Bloody Valentine show, through perhaps a krautrock or post-rock filter. The result is a trippy batch of instrumentals built from highly processed electroacoustic sounds, sometimes maddeningly catchy and other times ambient and cool. LANZ & Kris Allen, along with drummer Robin Baytas, play some of this music, in-studio. Set list: "Panenka", "Let Me, Please", "Rabona" Ballard by LANZ & Kris Allen


Cooking Pepper Soup with Michael Olatuja

Bass player and songwriter Michael Olatuja has a career that spans continents and styles. He grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, spent his teenage years playing on the London jazz scene, and has spent much of his career here in New York, playing with everyone from Diana Ross to Shakira to the band for the Broadway hit Frozen. His latest album, called Lagos Pepper Soup, is a tribute to those three cities, and his cinematic Afrobeat sound contains jazz roots of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen, but also perhaps a bit of orchestration from his work with Broadway and Angelique Kidjo. Michael and his band play songs from the new album in-studio. Michael Olatuja plays at Joe's Pub on Sept. 27. Michael teaches you the recipe for pepper soup here: Set list: “Brighter Day”, “The Hero’s Journey”, “Lagos Pepper Soup” Watch “The Hero’s Journey”: Watch "Lagos Pepper Soup":