how three Melbourne writers talking about music have become a Triple R institution

how three Melbourne writers talking about music have become a Triple R institution

On Melbourne’s Nicholson Street, also home to another north side landmark, Tram 96, is one of the city’s best-loved institutions. An incarnation of this great city. Not a building but a whole personality. Triple R is a community radio station that, since its origins in RMIT in 1976, has done exactly what it says on the box: it has been part of the community.

Clem Bastow, Christos Tsiolkas and Casey Bennetto are Superfluity, piercing their ears on 102.7 FM and online from 8pm every Tuesday. I talk to them because I want to trick them into becoming my friends, but also because this year they aired their 500th episode after 12 years on the air. An astounding feat by anyone’s standards, but also a testament to how great this station has been in their lives for decades.

“We call it community radio because someone at one point thought the community aired this radio station,” Bastow says. “But what I gather is that it is also the radio that provides a sense of community.”

Tsiolkas – who is, like his co-hosts, also a great writer – tells the story of a boy who feels isolated in the suburbs. “Find it on the dial was revealing,” he says. “I liked it because of the music, but it was also the first time I heard someone say that there will be a demonstration of gays and lesbians, there will be a demonstration on apartheid. It was a sense of “It’s down the street, it’s in my town, it’s in my place.” I could be part of it. “

Many of us share that experience. Although the station is adjacent to Brunswick, and therefore prone to cold coffee jokes and biking along Merri Creek, it is part of everyday life for people from Craigieburn to Pakenham. Who among us hasn’t driven into the suburbs and saw someone else with a Triple R sticker and thought, “My people!” like we’re not middle-aged and eating something we found in the glove compartment?

Related: Triple J Tuning: Why Australia’s Youth Station Is Losing Its Young Listeners

The superfluous is, in the way most Triple R shows are, partly music and partly education. His origins are in the beloved tradition of mix tapes and your dad makes you watch something he found on YouTube. Tsiolkas says that Casey went to him and said, “What do you think of a show based on what happens when you are with good friends and you all love music, and someone says, ‘I’ll play this piece of music’, and you you say, ‘This reminds me of something else. Can I put the record?’ “

They call it “free association radio,” where someone plays a track and causes another host to play a related track. The “related” element can be dissolved as much as it wants. A common word, a melody from the same decade or something that also played at an uncle’s wedding in 1993.

The choices change at the last minute. The old tracks have new life. The songs feed deeply hidden moments from the past.

“There is no context,” says Bastow. “It gives us the opportunity to play a lot of things that maybe we wouldn’t play if we had an afternoon driving show. It’s a great opportunity to play a Gold FM track and then queue up something incredibly new and interesting, and go somewhere else. “

It’s a timeless premise which means the show is different every time. Bennetto, a legendary Melbourne musician, even writes a new theme song for each episode (unless he does). This way it’s kind of a snapshot of the whole station – a wonderful mix of just about anything, ready to shock you by making you love something you didn’t know about five minutes ago.

Related: “You’re at the heart of someone’s secret”: DIY community radio offers solace to closed Melbourne

After so many shows (Tsiolkas and Bennetto are Superfluity OG and Bastow has been on the air in different ways at the station for 20 years), all three hosts are still excited to be in the studio together.

Not just for the jokes or the celebrities but because, at the risk of terrible clichés, Triple R is part of the tapestry of things. Melbourne is identifiable. Its combination of science programming, music, talkback, politics and ghost stories captures something of the purpose of the city, setting it up alongside lunch on the lawn of the State Library and seeing your drunk math teacher on a tram.

Of course, September in Melbourne is not just the football of the finals, but also Radiothon, the station’s annual donation campaign (prizes, prizes, prizes!). With no funding outside of sponsored messages, here’s how Triple R stays on the air. Each year, the community – in this city and beyond – digs deep to support an institution that is more like a friend.

“I’ve been a presenter for nearly 20 years and I’m still excited when I subscribed during Radiothon and someone reads my name,” says Bastow, “I’m famous for 30 seconds.

“This speaks volumes about how important the station is in all of our lives. Just because we introduce ourselves doesn’t mean we’re not listeners too. “

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