Subterranean Radio Brings Houston Music to Chicagoland

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It started like most things do, when your humble narrator was obsessively Googling himself to see who on the Internet might be talking about us. That's when we came across Subterranean Radio, hosted every Thursday from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. on WRLR 98.3 FM in Round Lake Heights, Ill. Turns out they'd played the Black Math Experiment's "You Cannot Kill David Arquette" as part of a segment called "Songs my Friend Jason Will Hate."

Hosts Mick Cullen, Carl Cutler, and Rae Helene gave us some good-natured ribbing about the song when they featured it, and because we never, ever turn our noses up at any mention good or bad, we sent Cullen a thank you note. Over the months since then, we've come to the conclusion that Subterranean Radio is, bar none, the best place to hear up and coming indie-rock in the entire world.

The selection of tunes they choose run the gamut from highly experimental to more typical indie bands. We discovered Chromeo and O'Death from them, as well as Erland and the Carnival.

Rocks Off listens to Subterranean's podcast replay of the show every Monday morning as we do inventory on the day job, and it has become the litmus test for new bands with us. If they were any good, they'd be on Subterranean.

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Cullen and Rocks Off have forged an ongoing partnership based on a mutual love of great music in a time when the industry seems to be actively suppressing new and original work. Periodically, he sends us stellar music videos to fuel our column on what we consider an endangered art form in desperate need of aid to survive. In return, we started sending him the best of the local bands we review.

Over the course of this exchange, Houston has grown to have a pretty significant presence on Subterranean Radio. The Midwest has always seemed to us to warmly embrace the Houston rock sound; in fact, we just cashed a royalty check from having an album played in an Ohio Hot Topic (Don't ask, we have no idea how that happened).

Just this past week we heard songs by Houston heavyweights like the Tontons, Something Fierce, and the Mathletes. Previously, the Folk Family Revival's Unfolding made it into the playlist on our suggestion, and Alyssa Rubich's C'est La Vie as well after we told Cullen that it was our favorite local release of all time and he agreed about its worth.

Rubich actually made Subterranean Radio history as the first solo female performer to grace the show's studio when she traveled to Illinois - Round Lake Heights is about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee - to sing and play live on the show.

So just how did the cream of the crop in Houston come to be featured halfway across the country? What appeal do we have that has earned us our place there? Rocks Off got Cullen to tell us. Continue to Page 2 for our interview.

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