Last week, two USC and UCLA graduates went head-to-head on which school has the better music scene. Our editor reviewed the passionate arguments and declared UCLA the winner.
I'm not here to argue UCLA's superiority over USC, only to say that both fall short in comparison to my alma mater, Loyola Marymount University. While USC and UCLA are the famous schools, LMU is the cool one.
LMU is so cool, in fact, that even Wikipedia doesn't know the extent of the tiny Jesuit university's contribution to music. The school's notable alumni entry makes reference to Eric Erlandson of Hole, and a few others. The entry barely scratches the surface.
USC and UCLA folks can name-drop connections to Low End Theory all they want, but resident DJ Nobody is an LMU Lion. We were actually classmates who worked at campus station KXLU together. Also in our class was Omid, who you may have read about in the Weekly last December. Back then, the beat-maker was known as the student behind the compilation Beneath the Surface. That album is now considered one of L.A.'s seminal underground hip-hop releases.
But LMU produced more than beats. The school's music scene is largely tied to KXLU. That's 88.9 FM on the terrestrial dial. It's a student run college radio station that you can hear on a regular radio throughout much of the second biggest city in the country. That alone makes LMU special. What the station has historically played, however, is what makes it integral to Los Angeles.
In the '80s, before “alternative music” was even really a thing, KXLU DJs were championing punk, post-punk, industrial and other styles of music that weren't being played on commercial stations. In the 1990s, after Nirvana broke and indie became cool, the DJs dug deeper in the goldmine of underground sounds, playing artists like Beck, Modest Mouse and Jurassic 5. There's not enough room here to list all of the bands the station championed early, but that's okay because listing them all would just make other college radio stations jealous.
Moreover, the station's DJs were doing big things. Jason Bentley was at KXLU before moving to KCRW. Jimmy Tamborello, aka Dntel and also a member of Postal Service was a KXLU DJ, and for a time was the music director. Late '90s indie bands like Strictly Ballroom and Beachwood Sparks emerged from the radio station. So did the metal band Crom.
KXLU's influence didn't end with the advent of Internet radio. To get an idea of what the current crop of DJs (some are students, some aren't) are doing, I emailed Mukta Mohan, the current General Manager of the station and a member of the DJ collective Honey Power. Mohan says that right now, KXLU books and promotes shows at venues including The Smell and Pehrspace and also works with Goldenvoice and FYF Fest to present concerts at larger venues like The Echoplex and the El Rey. They're also working on a music festival to take place on campus next month on March 30.
Current DJs are involved in a bounty of projects. They play in bands (Corners), run labels (Big Joy Records) and work for music festivals (FYF Fest). LMU, in general, has spawned a fair share of artists and bands in recent years, including Allie McDonald, Mojo Stone and News of the Fire.
LMU's contingent of music lovers stick with the tunes well after finishing school, a fact I can personally attest to. Years after graduation, I'm still lugging my vinyl to clubs. Other current and former DJs play around town to places like the Short Stop, Oldfields and Little Joy. You don't have to go far to find LMU's music scene. We've managed to infiltrate neighborhoods far from the Westchester campus. Trojans and Bruins can keep talking sports. It's the Lions who have music covered.
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