The Mixtape Vol. 85

It’s radio but it isn’t. Catherine Grenfell gives us a look into The Eye

It is an attempt to make radio cool, relevant and exciting again, The Eye is pushing boundaries, trying new types of content and drilling deep in to how people engage with social media and then applying the same rules to a new kind of radio.

Well, it's radio but it isn't... It's about showcasing African culture to the world, pushing our country forward in the right direction, creating an authentic voice in the digital space and it’s also an excuse for the people behind The Eye, Catherine Grenfell and Jon Savage, to play the music that they like.

So far they’ve made great radio with the likes of Gigi LaMayne, Jack Parow, Yasiin Bey & Ferrari Sheppard, Reason & Suggasmaxx, Ready D & Patty Monroe bringing their own personal music stories.

And the disc-jockeys behind the brand have pretty interesting stories themselves, with Cath working in radio for 15 years now, including her own show on 5FM, launching bands and their careers, teaching radio and judging the SAMAs. We asked Cath to make us a mixtape and explain what’s playing and why we should listen.

Why did you decide on that name, The Eye?

This is going to sound weird but we were never going to be called The Eye, but the universe kept telling us that we were supposed to be called The Eye so we stopped resisting it after a while. I think it is a powerful name and has a lot of different meanings in a lot of different ways. Like a good song, it would be boring for us to try and explain it, so we prefer people to make their own meanings out of it.

Why does radio need more indie options?

I think that there is room for radio stations that have a wide variety of music as well as content that is meaningful and tells a story. A lot of commercial radio stations have lost this, and there are still many people out there that want that option.

What's your sound story?

In radio we've always been pretty much told that you need to play specific type of music and that you need to stick with a particular sound. For The Eye we've decided to go in a totally different direction. We play pretty much everything, from old school classics, to new music, to jazz. There is no particular order in which we play music, we can go from Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby... One More Time’ into an AC/DC track. It works because it's all about good music and loving music in general. We had an email from a friend who works in an office where everyone always fights about the music that gets played and since they've been listening to The Eye there are no more fights. Because everyone's music tastes are catered for. And that is really what it is all about.

What were the lessons you took from working at 5FM?

The main lessons I took from 5FM, is more from a while ago, when people did hard interviews with politicians to celebs. There was way more insightful content. I also learned that music is extremely personal, and giving people what they want, rather that feeding them music you think they want.

How difficult is it starting a radio station in SA?

Let's just say it isn't all sexy. It's sort of like being in a band - 99% of the time is hard slogging, cables, carrying shit, making sure things work and working on ideas, booking people, dealing with schedules. But that 1% when we are broadcasting these epic live shows makes everything worthwhile!

Who's in your corner and has been pivotal in helping you to set this up?

At the moment, a lot of people are gravitating towards us because we are doing something quite real and authentic and powerful. But we are focussed on just making this thing work before we open up the doors to the inner circle. Having said that, Unknown Union, who are one of the coolest and most progressive clothing brands in the country, are creating a brand of cultural significance that we absolutely love and we have become partners very quickly. What we are doing in radio, they are doing in fashion! They have become partners in The Eye as we share the same global vision of bringing the coolest parts of Africa and showing them to the world. We even built the radio station inside their store and have created a hive of musicians who just come and hang out here to listen to the Eye and try on some clothes.

What can we expect from The Eye in the new year?

We are going to focus on bringing more content to the station, podcasts and personal stories. We also want to look at new and upcoming talent as well as empowering young people to tell personal stories. We are going to focus on playing playlists from listeners that they have created around a specific theme, which means something to them. For example, "Songs I listen to when I'm Dancing Naked", "Songs I listen to when I've had a breakup" etc.

What's on this mixtape you made us and when should we play it?

It’s pretty much a variety of music that you would hear on The Eye. Everything from Chuck Berry to the new The XX. Hip-hop to disco, we got you covered. And you should listen to it because it’s so flippin rad!