Down two flights of stairs and behind a grey door at 40 Peacegate Way in Tisbury, a closet-size room buzzes and hums with the eclectic musical broadcasts of a dedicated group of volunteers. Their hands splayed over a glowing mixer board, their voices murmuring into a large fuzzy microphone, the DJs of WVVY take turns all week long “bringing the wattage to your cottage” at the low-power frequency of 96.7 FM.
If you spend any time spinning the knobs of your car radio, you’ve probably landed on the station’s broadcast once or twice, but if you’re not careful it can slip right through your fingers. Sometimes there’s nothing but static, but when the transmission comes through it’s liable to launch you on an unpredictable sonic odyssey.
In between the wild shredding of the band you’ve never heard of and the weird B-side of the band you thought you knew everything about, there lies a rich continuum of music curated by a talented group of hobbyists with nothing to gain but listeners and nothing to lose but a little bit of free time.
WVVY started as the pirate station Free Radio Martha’s Vineyard, then went legitimate at 93.7 FM before landing on its current home at 96.7. The station, located in the basement of Deca construction’s multipurpose building, beams a signal to an antenna on Cook Road in Tisbury, which amplifies it, on a good day, all the way to Falmouth.
On the music gamut between your college roommate’s iPod transmitter and Boston’s Kiss 108 FM, WVVY is in the sweet spot. Listeners trade the overproduced barrage of commercial radio for the closest thing the Island has to a college station, complete with all the clunks, whirs, long pauses, and deep breaths of a real human on the other side of the airwaves. Call in, and the DJ actually answers — they’re always down to talk.
The station is a 100-watt nonprofit on a shoestring. It runs on donations and sweat equity. In an era mourning the “death” of old media, it might seem strange that small radio shows around the country still have loyal followings. But for listeners, it’s simple: These DJs guide you to music you wouldn’t find on your own. Here’s a sample of the station’s offerings:
‘Soca Reggae Samba Mix’ with DJ Sanman International and DJ Tai
Gary “Sanman” Francis and Joao “Tai” Cabral meld their backgrounds and musical heritage to create a unique lunchtime listening experience. Sanman brings the beat from Trinidad while Tai mixes it up with his eclectic Brazilian tastes, and they’ve accumulated online listeners from all over the world. Mr. Francis says their goal is “to let [listeners] know about different cultures of music.” One example is soca music. “People, when they hear soca music, they’re like, what’s this? The soca music is something you’d more hear in New York,” Mr. Francis said. “You wouldn’t hear it on Martha’s Vineyard, so it’s something new.”
“And kind of rare,” Mr. Cabral added. “There’s similarities with Brazilian culture and Trinidadian culture — and we use the reggae to connect them both.”
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Mr. Francis said. “I’ve been doing this all my life, since I was a kid I’ve been doing this. Just playing music.”
‘The Rock ’N’ Roll Rick Double Hour,’ with Rock ’N’ Roll Rick
Wednesdays, 5-7 pm; rebroadcast Mondays, 10-noon
Rick Padilla of the Island band Mercy Beat rips it up every week with a rowdy studio presence and rockin’ cuts old and new. With a characteristic radio roar, he uses classic stompers like the Ramones as touchstones for musical tangents in every direction. Recently heard: “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” by the Vaccines.
‘Lost Treasures’ with Les More
Thursdays, 9-11 pm; rebroadcast Mondays, 2-4 pm
“Lost Treasures is based on the premise that music is history and records are moments in time captured forever,” Mr. More said. “I play obscure vinyl primarily from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. I play all genres of music, focusing on blues, soul, early rock, garage, and surf bands. There is usually a theme each week. The station is an important independent voice for the people of Martha’s Vineyard — community-based radio created as an alternative to the mainstream. Listener-supported, commercial-free, and volunteer-run, WVVY reflects the unique feeling and spirit of being an Islander.”
‘Glacial Erratic C-Side Rock Show’ with DJ Molly
Mondays, 8-10 pm
“You’ll hear whatever it is I’m digging most that week, whether it’s a particular genre or record label or time period,” DJ Molly said. “I work hard to put together a cohesive show, and my hope is that listeners hear the same connections that I hear from song to song to song — similar vocal styles, a snatch of rhythm, some common thread that spans continents and decades. I play what I think sounds great and exciting, and I hope that listeners start their week feeling like they’ve discovered something new and cool, too.”
‘The Mix-Up’ with Toby Codding
Fridays, 10-noon; rebroadcast Saturdays, 6-8 pm
Mr. Codding used to DJ at the Hot Tin Roof, and also owned Rainbow Zen, a record store in Vineyard Haven. Now he takes his deep library of music to the airwaves, both new music and classics, including the gems that he finds on his frequent trips to Jamaica. Mr. Codding has been with the station since its pirate days, and carries an oral history of Island music to boot.
‘American Circus’ with DJ Stavros
Fridays, 4-6:30 pm; rebroadcast Thursdays, 9:30-noon
Station program manager Steve “Stavros” Saxonis helps keep the station organized, but also gets down to boogie business with a sweet spot for the Big Easy. “The show encompasses rock ’n’ roll, blues, alternative, punk, surf, soul, R&B, garage, alt-country, and New Orleans sounds through the decades to the present,” Mr. Saxonis said. “I take pride in bringing the underground bands to the show, giving the listener a new take on the past or present … many sounds under the big circus tent. It’s an upbeat, energetic, raucous music variety show.”
For the full schedule, and to stream online, visit wvvy.org.