Six people are gathered in a small room on the third floor of a handsome Italianate in Pendleton, right across from that tattered former diner. It’s a production meeting, one where the talk is focused on an ambitious calendar of summer events to get the word out. As to what that word is, it has everything to do with what transpires across the hall, in a room strewn with drums, cables, and microphones, where one of the most interesting experiments in the city is unfolding over the airwaves.
This is INHAILER Radio, a Cincinnati music station that’s about more than just music.
To understand the genesis of INHAILER we have to go back to February 2017, when indie rock station WNKU announced it was being sold to a religious broadcaster and fans grew dubious they would continue playing the likes of Butthole Surfers and Diarrhea Planet, let alone Vampire Weekend. That’s when Coran Stetter, lead singer of indie band Multimagic, leapt into action.
WNKU was always more than a place that played music, after all. It was an opportunity for local bands to get exposure and a purveyor of art in all its forms. Indeed Greater Cincinnati lost a vital community asset with the sale, prompting Stetter to wonder if he could replicate the station’s impact in the digital medium.
Then on May 1, 2017, Stetter and his volunteer team moved into the third-floor space at 1212 Sycamore Street, and INHAILER Radio was born. It’s been broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ever since.
Here are the bands I’ve heard since I started typing: Post Animal; Yeasayer; Speedy Ortiz; Craft Spells; Francis and the Lights; Beck; Vance Joy; Kristoffer Bolander; The Derevolutions; Portugal, The Man.
Raise your hand if you know every band on that list. Most of them? Some of them? A few? (Just Beck?)
That, in a thudding, spastic nutshell, is INHAILER’s primary benefit: It introduces you to music you haven’t heard before. And not through an algorithm that might mistake your passing interest in Metallica for a raging obsession with '80s thrash metal. No, these songs are curated by volunteers who actually sit and listen to the music they’re playing.
Cincinnati bands are interspersed as well. Mind you, not with apologetic preambles—“don’t judge me, this is local”—but as if they were any other band playing any other song. It makes all the difference.
Still, in Stetter’s mind INHAILER wouldn’t be a success if it all it did was play great music, whether national, local, or emanating from tiny violins at city hall. No, INHAILER must be more than that, a true community broadcast platform open to all types of media and committed to social activation.
It’s early, but we’re already beginning to see that play out. The hourly snippets of local and national news are a good example. As are the first talk shows/podcasts: Lost on the River, focusing on the past and present of Cincinnati music; and Interchange513, about the intersection of music, culture, activism and people making positive change in Cincinnati. (The latest episode of Interchange513 features city council member Tamaya Dennard and is worth a listen.)
The work is obviously ongoing here. Stetter and his team aren't close to building out INHAILER the way they want to. (He says they only just exited their beta phase.) But it’s clear what this thing could become, and we should all hope it gets there.
So, rather than ending on a pithy note, I’ll just say this: Go to INHAILER’s website (or download the app) and listen in for three or four songs. I’m betting you’ll be a supporter by the end of them.
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INHAILER Radio is located at 1212 Sycamore Street (45202).