This time last year, two motivated individuals were driving around Calgary in a minivan loaded with radio equipment, setting up in garages and backyards every Saturday and broadcasting the finest hip hop and electronica, though at great personal risk. “We were able to cover about half of the city, depending on where we had set up,” says co-founder David Gutierrez.
Gutierrez started Phresh FM with his friend Jeff Agnew. These days, the station has moved to a safer, more effective online format, but the founders’ dedication to showcasing underground talent is as strong as ever.
Pirate radio has long captivated the ears and imaginations of underground music fans around the world, but formidable legal concerns and licensing have pushed many stations towards the Internet, where transmissions are not restricted to a physical area and DJs are free to spin whatever tracks they want without worrying about fines for getting caught. Moving from an FM band to the Internet posed a few troubles but has proven easier in the long run, according to Dave. “A few things were kind of tricky. None of us are professionals, but I think on a scale of one to ten, [switching formats] was about a two.”
Streaming audio has also allowed Phresh FM to expand work towards daily broadcasting with the ultimate goal of making a legitimate FM station, but founding one has tremendous start-up fees and big financial penalties for spurning the CRTC. However, Dave has also expressed an interest in partnering with large festivals to offer extremely localized broadcasts for attendees to hear their favourite artists from anywhere on the grounds.
Their ultimate goal of becoming recognized by the CRTC and landing a station ID is a costly dream. Right now Phresh is starting out by taking the non-profit route and focusing their energies on becoming more than an underground name. “Our focus right now is getting ourselves out there and keeping to our word as much as possible…which is to support homegrown talent”, says station manager Kofi Wiafe.
Phresh currently broadcasts from five affiliated studios, each with its own manager and radio personalities. Many of the station’s DJs are also producers, so Phresh has a large pool of original music that listeners won’t hear on any other radio station. “We give everyone a chance, from professionals to newcomers,” says Dave. The Phresh website allows listeners to submit their own mixes and apply for a position as a DJ or radio personality, so it’s a great place for up-and-comers to get their feet wet.
Go to phreshfm.com to catch live broadcasts of hip hop and EDM, interact with the DJs and radio personalities and get involved.