If you’ve never heard The Left Lane, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that surf rock and psychedelic rock don’t have much in common. If you’ve tuned into the show once or twice but never listened closely, you still probably wouldn’t guess that both subgenres share qualities with widely beloved, strictly canonical pieces of classic rock. But if, like quite a few other members of the Sunday-afternoon KCSB audience, you’ve become one of the show’s regular listeners, Chelsea Lauwereins has surely set you straight on both of these matters.
Lauwereins, an environmental science major at UCSB and KCSB’s promotions director, hosts what is perhaps the most Californian show currently on the schedule. Surf rock will, for obvious reasons, forever maintain its roots in this reasonably laid-back coastal state, but even when The Left Lane ventures farther afield sonically, it keeps close to home geographically. Nevertheless, exceptions are made in cases of extreme quality. “The Strange Boys, they’re from Austin,” Lauwereins explained, “but they’re so good! Besides, they’ve played in California — close enough.”
Given the program’s Californian aesthetic, I’d assumed the host was either a lifelong resident here or a recent transplant eager to plunge in to the local lifestyle. My assumptions, as usual, weren’t quite correct: born and raised in Virginia, in Southern California by way of Nashville, and cultivating a “weird, strong desire” to move to Montana after graduation, Lauwereins’ only allegiance is to the music itself. That’s not to say that she has no enthusiasm for other things Californian. “I like the attitudes here,” she added. “It’s more relaxed. People are more open to things.” Every so often, she even put the surf rock aside in favor of actual surfing.
Though it’s now a solo project, The Left Lane was originally conceived last year, under a different name, as a two-woman show. “My roommate heard we could do a show on KCSB,” Lauwereins explained, “and she was into psychedelic rock. I was into surf rock.” The pair’s musical tastes complemented each other well — until, that is, the co-host was temporarily lost to that thief of many a KCSBer, UCSB’s Education Abroad Program. “It was hard at first, not having a co-host. If I could make it or was out of my mind, she could always come in. Now, if I ramble, there’s nobody to stop me. Without someone in here, you don’t know if your jokes are funny; maybe only I think I’m funny.”
Even if she’s been left without the audience surrogate a fellow broadcaster can provide, her previous year on the air armed her with enough knowledge of psychedelic rock to keep the playlists interesting. Even more importantly, she was able to build up enough experience to outwit that bugbear of KCSB music DJs, the tricky move from genre to genre: “I also have a lot of stuff that’s kind of in the middle, to transition,” she said. “You can’t play Dick Dale and then play the Entrance Band. It’s just not going to work.”
Fair enough, but what brought her to play both of them in the first place? The answer sends Lauwereins back to her childhood. “I was never one of those teenybopper, Britney Spears types,” she remembered. “I was always like, ‘I want to listen to The Doors!’ Pop is always so peppy. Sometimes you want more Halloweeny music, or a surf song to chill out to.” She’d settled into classic rock, only to have her musical worldview unexpectedly expanded by a visit to a Laguna Beach surf shop. Just stopping in to buy a t-shirt, she happened upon a live performance by eclectic Long Beach surf-country-rockers The Growlers. “I was like, ‘Who are these people?’”
When she listened only to classic rock, a problem arose: “All those people are dead or really old, so it’s not the same. But when I heard The Growlers, I pictured The Doors.” Composing her Left Lane playlists with a strong favor toward new releases, she’s come to realize that there’s not as much musical distance between The Doors and The Growlers — or anyone else on the current surf- and psych-rock scenes — as there seemed to be. This figures into her plans for the show: “I want to play a Doors song, then a Growlers song, then compare them. It’s a way to introduce people to new music. My dad gets this from me a lot. I’ll play him something and insist, ‘This is just like Simon and Garfunkel!’”
Exercising her dual position of DJ and Promotions Director at KCSB, Lauwereins has been able to use her love of concerts to improve the state of Santa Barbara live music. “I used to drive to every single show I wanted to go to in L.A.— which became kind of a problem,” she said. “A big part of my premise on the air is to talk about upcoming shows. The idea is just to get the word out.” Based on the hugely increased attendance she’s seen in S.B. at Growlers shows alone, the word seems to be getting out. Ready to use KCSB’s studio gear for more band interviews and live performances, she’ll be getting it out even more aggressively in the future. “It’s good exposure for them! And it’s really fun for me.”
The Left Lane airs Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on KCSB, 91.9 FM.