Any deejay, on KCSB or otherwise, knows that life on the radio can get terribly lonely. Far more often than not, you roll into the station, cart in your music—CDs, vinyl albums, digital files, what have you—and spend the next couple hours spinning a few tracks and saying a few words. Maybe you’ll answer the phone occasionally, but beyond that, your human contact remains, given radio’s power as a communication medium, ironically limited. But none of this holds true if we’re talking about Kittens vs. Godzilla, KCSB’s effervescent transition between Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening. The show maintains a proud tradition, says co-host Yazmine Dadashi, of turning the control room into a venue for “the most ridiculous dance parties.”
Dadashi doesn’t have to worry about the noble isolation of the lone broadcast artist, since she’s joined nearly every week in the studio by the remainder of the show’s three-woman team. In the session I sit in on, the other two co-hosts have taken their usual positions: Caitlin Borzi sits in the front of the studio at the mixing board and main microphone, while Sarah Sloat takes one side of the couch in the back, using her laptop to vigilantly scan song lyrics for potential violations of the FCC’s indecency rules. “Having three people gives us more energy,” Sloat explains. “We’re happier to be here.”
“I sometimes sub other shows by myself,” Borzi says, “but it’s not as much fun.”
“You have to have a solo dance party,” Sloat suggests.
“Yeah, you just do the seat dance!” Dadashi says.
Any Kittens vs. Godzilla listener will recognize the rhythm of this conversation, since all three of the team chat on-air about the music—Borzi at the deejay’s mic, Dadashi and Sloat sharing the couch mic—in the brief moments between tracks. There’s not much time for talk, though, since they’ve got so much to play: Each co-host comes prepared with music, and the show’s playlists are formed live by rotating evenly between each of their selections. This prompts friends listening in to match which host to which track. As all three are housemates sharing an Isla Vista residence with five other girls, those friends who happen to constantly be exposed to their particular musical preferences at home have a definite advantage.
It was ever thus since the program’s earliest days on KJUC, the AM station where all KCSBers start. Back then, the show was called Brunch with Beyoncé, a humorous poke in the ribs by the non-Beyoncé-playing three at KCSB’s oft-restated non-mainstream ethos. They seem to have dropped that name as their on-air identities formed. Though officially listed on the programming schedule as “eclectic,” that paradoxical genre of no genres, what thematic coherence the show’s playlists have comes from the fact they comprise only “music we’re excited to share with each other,” as Dadashi calls it. The rest immediately agree, but the subtle variance between their tastes keeps things interesting. “I’m the ‘Godzilla,'” she adds. “I play punk, I play louder stuff. They’re the ‘Kittens.’ They play the folk and blues.” Hence their program’s seemingly cryptic but resoundingly memorable revised title.
After stepping up from KJUC in the spring of 2009, Kittens vs. Godzilla had to endure not one but two graveyard time slots, the first from 4 to 6 a.m. and the second from 2 to 4 a.m. In what seems like a miracle, they all managed to turn up for them and still retain a few happy, if vague, memories of their wee-hour broadcasts. “Our conversations didn’t make any sense,” Borzi recalls.
“Yeah, but we had a lot less inhibition!” adds Sloat, looking up from her scan of yet another set of possibly questionable verses and choruses. “And I do miss being in safe harbor.”
Musically speaking, these ladies run what feels like as free-form a show as it’s possible to do and still project an image of coherence. As Borzi fires up a dubstep remix of the Inspector Gadget theme song, we get into a discussion of German reggae. Scheduled to study abroad there next academic year, she’s been researching and playing German music of all types, much of it on the show. Sloat has plans of her own to spend time traveling England and Argentina, which will, alas, break up the team for a stretch, leaving Dadashi, the Godzilla, to maintain the show by herself for a while. Needless to say, she hopes to find a few substitute Kittens in the interim.
In a way, this fits in with something of an internationalist aura around the show: friends and listeners from far-flung lands like Costa Rica and the Czech Republic tune in via KCSB.org‘s live stream, phoning in and texting their props, song requests, and suchlike. It’s hard to imagine a little jet-setting breaking up Godzilla and the Kittens for good, though, seeing as its roots reach back to Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, where Borzi and Dadashi met. Sloat later joined the group out of a common musical interest, discovered when she heard Borzi playing Bright Eyes in the sometimes dreary setting of San Miguel Hall, UCSB’s oldest large (or largest old) dorm building.
For the second half of the show, they’re joined by The Steelwells, a Fullerton band passing through town on their way to a northerly gig. Having never hosted a live band on the show before, the girls jumped at the chance, despite not being particularly familiar with their music. “I think they’re like an upbeat version of the Fleet Foxes,” says either Godzilla or one of the Kittens, adjusting all the mixer levels in preparation for this voyage into uncharted territory.
The Steelwells, in the event, turnout to be a young quintet of guys bedecked in the requisite sloppy-yet-immaculate hoodies and facial hair configurations of our musical time. They pile into the studio adjacent to the control room and play a solid, laid-back set of four songs, answering questions from their hosts — how they got started playing music together, whether they’ve managed to accrue many wild road stories so early in their career — in between. “So you know this show is called Kittens vs. Godzilla, right?” ask Dadashi, Sloat, and Borzi collectively. “Well, which of you guys would be the Kittens, and who’s the Godzilla?”
“Oh, Andrew’s definitely Godzilla,” replies one Steelwell, gesturing toward the band’s leader. “He runs the show.”
Kittens vs. Godzilla airs Saturdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on KCSB, 91.9 FM.