If you're a musician in Kansas City with any desire to hear yourself on the local alternative FM airwaves, you know the name Jeriney.
It belongs to a 27-year-old, 6-foot-1-inch scenester with a severely angled black-and-purple haircut and piercings in her nose and in the flap of skin connecting her upper lip to her gums (a "smiley"). She's sighted frequently wherever her favorite local bands play, but never in the front row.
Jeriney is her real name, by the way. But don't ask for her last name.
According to the intro to Homegrown Buzz, her Sunday-night show on KRBZ 96.5 "the Buzz," Jeriney is "the goddess of local music herself."
It's a little bit true — after about five years of giving lots of local bands their first-ever airtime, she's often tapped to host or help organize local music events, like the recent Rock Out Reach Out concert at Crosstown Station. And musicians constantly hit her up for advice on how to make it in the business or just onto her show, which attracts upward of 20,000 listeners a week.
But the surprisingly shy person behind the smart-mouthed radio personality would never call herself a goddess. "I didn't write that," she makes sure to tell me when I drop by the studio for a live broadcast of Homegrown. She might call herself a "pop princess," though.
Growing up in Diamond, Missouri, a tiny town of 800 near Joplin, Jeriney didn't have access to anything but pop. Her parents usually indulged her need to have music on at all times. When she accompanied her dad on delivery drives in Arkansas, "he let me control the radio." (That's when the future Incubus devotee got her first taste of alt rock.)
But from an early age, Jeriney's interest in music went deeper than her boy-band fandom. She danced ballet from the age of 3, played the flute in middle school and high school, and thought she'd one day teach music. Professors at William Jewell College in Liberty derailed that plan fast. "I got to Jewell, and they said I was the worst flute player they'd ever seen," Jeriney laughs.
She eventually switched her major to communication, with an emphasis in electronic media but with no intention of actually going on the radio. "I'm all about jobs where I'm behind the scenes," she says. (Or in disguise: She was a mascot in high school and college.)
Nervously, Jeriney first opened her mouth on the air only after weeks of prodding from a fellow student who worked at William Jewell's student radio station. Instantly hooked on this new outlet for her snarky tendencies, Jeriney climbed the ranks at the station and spent one year as program director. By sifting through the station's mail and determining what music would go on the air, she was introduced to local music.
The experience would lead her to 96.5 after she graduated in 2003.
Although she usually clocks in six days a week, Jeriney is currently a part-time member of the small Buzz staff. But for two hours every Sunday night, she wields true radio power. "Homegrown is my baby," she says. "That's what keeps me at the station."
Perched in front of three computer monitors, Jeriney comes up with a playlist totally on the fly each week. She might pull some fresh tracks (like from the not-yet-released Audiovox EP) straight from her e-mail inbox. She might dash out to her Jeep on a cigarette break and grab some demos that band friends have given her at the bars over the weekend. She also takes call-in requests.
About an hour into the show I sat in on, Jeriney was laughing a lot and mixing it up, playing very different-sounding tracks back to back. "I'm gonna kick it back up with the [Beautiful] Bodies and take it back down again with In the Pines," she tells her volunteer helper, Liam Sumnicht, off the air.
"Maybe I should play 100 Years War after In the Pines." She does. And she follows up 100 Years War — which might be the most metal band ever played on the Buzz — with the soothing voice of Lawrence singer-songwriter Dri.
Depending on how much she and her guests talk, Jeriney can work in 24 to 28 local songs during the show's 7 to 9 p.m. time slot.
"Normally, all of the songs are figured out through this crazy equation that I do not understand," she says about the predetermined format that 96.5 and other radio stations adhere to most of the time. "I can do whatever I want."
Of course, Jeriney can't play anything with language that the FCC would object to, and she has to keep 96.5's musical format in mind. "One thing I've always been told is to make it sound like it could be on the Buzz at any time, like it could fit between the Killers and the new Modest Mouse," she explains.
That means she'll probably never get to give her pals in Coalesce any Buzz love. But the powers that be allow the reluctant goddess enough flexibility to please a lot of other local bands — and local music fans — every Sunday night.