When Indie88 first crackled to life on our radio dials, I made friends with my presets again. And I have Raina Douris, the station’s music director (and afternoon host) to thank for that. We spoke with Douris about giving the Toronto music scene a home, pursuing a career in radio and her talk-show walk-on song.

SDTC:  First off, tell us a little about your day-to-day at Indie 88. What does a typical Thursday look like for you?

Raina Douris: There’s no real typical day for me, but let me give you an idea:
Usually, I’ll have a meeting or two. Sometimes an Announcer or Digital Meeting, where we talk about what’s going on that week. Wednesdays, we have Music Meetings, where we decide what to add or drop or move on our playlist—and then it’s prep time. I usually spend around two hours prepping my show. And then at 4pm, it’s show time. 4-8pm, I’m on-air. After that, I schedule music for later in the week—and then I go to shows. And then, eventually, I sleep?

SDTC: What inspired you to pursue a career in music radio?
RD: I’ve always wanted to be “on”—on-air, somehow, in some capacity. In my second year of university, I got an e-mail about interning at 102.1 the Edge, and I went for it. There was a meeting we all had when we all started on the Edge Intern Army, where our boss said: “Only two of you will end up working in radio,” and I decided one of those two would be me. I loved music, I loved radio… and that was it. Once I was there, I just went for it as hard as I could.

SDTC: What specific things, people, or words of wisdom do you credit with really helping you along the way?
RD: In high school I would run my mouth all the time about politics, and one day my grade 11 Economics teacher asked me if I wanted to be part of a panel talking about the Iraq War on CBC’s “Metro Morning.” They were coming to my school, and wanted to talk to students. I said yes. Andy Barrie was the host at the time. I stopped him on his way out of the school, and told him I wanted to be on-air. He said I had what it took, and asked me to thank him when I got my first Oscar. I may never win an Oscar (a girl can dream!) but I never stopped wanting to make him proud. Also—Fred Kennedy. He’s a host on the Edge, and he was the first person who ever made me feel like being an on-air personality was something I could not only DO, but could EXCEL at. He was (and still is) one of my greatest mentors. Next, every single person who has given me a job, even when I didn’t deserve it…
And lastly, my high school art teacher, Frank Smith. I remember him watching me work on a piece in grade twelve. The piece was late. He saw me rushing and he stopped me and said: “Raina. No lazy lines.” That’s advice I’ve always been able to apply to everything. No. Lazy. Lines. If you want it to be good, you have to WORK.

SDTC: What’s your favourite thing about your job?
RD: I get to talk and play music all day—my two favourite activities! Sharing stories and music? It doesn’t get any better than that. Going to shows for free is pretty great, too.

SDTC: What’s the most challenging thing about your job?
RD: Long hours. Weird days. It’s overwhelming in the best way possible. I’ve missed family holidays, I’ve neglected friendships and relationships. That’s hard. But when you love something, those people get it… and you have to do it.

SDTC: What’s the most surprising song request you’ve ever gotten?

RD: Yeesh, that’s a hard one. Every day I get strange requests. Bands who have never played outside their garage, bands I’ve never, ever heard of. However, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I get a request for Organized Rhyme’s “Check The OR”— because it rules.

SDTC: What’s an up and coming indie band you’re really proud to give exposure to on the station?
RD: PUP and Alvvays are two bands I am really glad we got a chance to play. But Indie88’s a special case. When we launched, there were so many local bands that deserved airplay that weren’t getting it, so we got to do that right away. The Darcys. July Talk. There were tons! It was amazing to finally play those bands on the radio.

SDTC: Why is Indie 88 an important part of the media landscape in Toronto?
RD: Toronto has an incredible music scene. It’s bubbling over, all the time. That music and the community needs somewhere to live.

SDTC: What are some favourite songs from high school you’d still spin on Indie 88? What are some you want to forget you loved?
RD: Oh man. I never want to forget I loved anything. Even the Limp Bizkits of my life still hold a place in my heart. But it’s nice to play Ben Fold’s “Army” now and then.

SDTC: What advice would you give to young indie musicians who are trying to get their songs out there?
RD: WORK WORK WORK. PLAY PLAY PLAY. Seriously. If you send me an e-mail saying “I’ve made a song in my basement, I’ve never played a show,” that’s great, but you have to get people to care. Your music might be PHENOMENAL! Okay, so go show people. Play shows. Build buzz. Practice.

SDTC: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career in radio?
RD: First off, don’t think of yourself as a “young woman.” Think of yourself as a talented, fucking awesome person who can compete. Not just compete, actually. CRUSH. You are the BEST, you are the FUNNIEST, you are the SMARTEST. Maybe that sounds egotistical, but that’s how you have to think. Don’t be afraid to speak up and disagree and be passionate. Don’t let someone tell you all you need to do is sound “sexy”—yeah, it’s FINE to be sexy (don’t discount sexy! Sexy can be great!) but you are WAY more than that, and a good Program Director will see it. Or, you’ll become the program director yourself. WORK ALL THE TIME. Do your homework. Take the unconventional jobs. Say yes to opportunity. There’s nothing you can’t do that a guy can—you can be EQUALLY or MORE entertaining.

SDTC: What would be your talk-show-walk-on song?
Ooooh, Jeff The Brotherhood’s “Mind Ride.”