IN THE PRESS
San Antonio music has a new home at KPSA, an online radio station and app
Deborah Martin, Staff writer
July 7, 2022
KPSA, a new app and website devoted to San Antonio music, is a one-stop shop for acts such as Doug Sahm, Buttercup and Girl in a Coma.
The seed for the site was planted more than 20 years ago.
Back then, Johnny Carrera worked in IT for the Northside Independent School District. One summer morning when no students were around, he was listening to “The Lisle and Hahn Show” on KISS-FM while installing computers and networking equipment at O’Connor High School.
A musician called the show and asked co-host Steve Hahn why he didn’t play local music, saying that would help build audiences for live shows.
“And this is what Hahn said, I can remember it like it like it was yesterday,” said Carrera, 58, who also is a musician who most recently played with West Kings Highway. “Hahn said, ‘Why should I play your music? What you have to do is go put the posters on telephone poles and get people to come see you, and become famous, and when you’re famous, I’ll play your music on the radio.’
“And the guy says to him, ‘How am I going to get famous if nobody hears my music to come see our gigs?’ And Hahn goes, ‘That’s your problem.’”
Carrera got angrier and angrier as the conversation went on and started yelling at the radio. He also made a vow.
“I promised myself, if I ever get a chance to start a radio station, I’m going to play nothing but great, local San Antonio music, and tell people who they are and get them to go see them play,” he said. “Let’s help make local musicians famous.”
With KPSA, he’s on his way to making good on that promise.
The site and app, which he worked on throughout the pandemic with his cousin Anthony Garcia, went live about five months ago. Right now, the station’s ratio of local to national artists is about 70 percent to 30 percent, he said, and will be at 80 to 20 soon.
“I’m taking out national music as I’m putting in more local,” he said. “We want to be a dominantly local music station.”
The music is only interrupted by station identification, sometimes rendered by the likes of musicians such as Joe Reyes, and brief calendars letting listeners know who is playing where.
The station’s home base is Jojodancerphotography Studio, Garcia’s work space in the Blue Star Arts Complex. Garcia is a musician — his most recent band was La Chichada — as well as a photographer. Like Carrera, he’s devoted to San Antonio music and to promoting San Antonio musicians, whom he often photographs.
He and Carrera also filmed a series of solo sessions with more than two dozen musicians in the studio, which can be found on the station’s website.
One of the things Garcia brings to the table is his knowledge of current acts such as Honey Bunny, Kassandra Ayala and Mr. Pidge, all of whom are played on the station. ‘
“There’s so many good bands now,” said Garcia, 52. “I’m so glad I’m around to witness this. It reminds me of the ’90s. There was this explosion of good music on the scene.”
The station also respects the city’s distinctive musical heritage.
“Austin is known as music capital of the world, but you can’t really think of too many Austin people who made that possible,” Carrera said. “There’s famous people who live in Austin and claim to be from Austin, but they’re not from Austin. In San Antonio, I could list tons of names — there’s Doug Sahm, there’s Christopher Cross, there’s Randy Garibay. The whole West Side sound is all San Antonio
“It is is incredible, the history this town has, and very few towns can say that.”
Both Carrera and Garcia are versed in that history, and even have a personal connection to some of it. Their uncle, Jack Barber, played with the Sir Douglas Quintet and hosts a show on KPSA that airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and then repeats at 4 p.m. Sundays.
Other shows hosted by San Antonio music scene vets are in the works as well. Somewhere down the line, if all goes according to plan, the station will start hosting events, too.
Since KPSA is available to anyone anywhere with access to a smartphone or a computer, Carrera is hoping that it extends the reach of San Antonio artists well beyond the city, perhaps putting them on the radar of national labels and producers.
“If one of these great bands get signed for a big national deal because of the radio station in some way, that would have made it all worth it,” he said.
In addition to providing exposure far and wide for San Antonio musicians, the station also gives them an old-school thrill.
“I remember back in the day, hearing your stuff on the radio meant you had made it big time,” Garcia said.
Ernest Hernandez III, 58, who plays with King Pelican and is good friends with Carrera, is a KPSA listener.
“I tuned in for about half a day yesterday and listened, and I was really impressed by the flow,” Hernandez said. “It appears to me he’s putting some serious thought into how he curates a longer set of songs. He’s pulling from such a diverse pool of music — it goes from a very indie sound to a song from someone like Garrett T. Capps. I think it’s all working out well.”
Hernandez gave Carrera an MP3 of some of King Pelican’s newest music, and he has heard it played on KPSA: “I went, oh, boy, that’s fun!”
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