MOSS MIXING FOR URANGA. 2020 / ALL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY MOUTHFULL
Broadcasting online from Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, Mangawhai, Melbourne, and more recently, Berlin, Mouthfull Radio is an independent non-profit online radio station and community collective. Similarly to more established overseas platforms, the station serves as a digital third space for an ever growing community of open-eared show hosts and listeners who often congregate together in the station’s website’s chatroom.
“Mouthfull has created a sense of community that hasn't existed since the early days of student radio,” explains Paul Berrington, aka DJ B.Lo, the founder of the Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington party and record label Strange Behaviour.
“There's some truly fabulous leftfield music being played on the shows, often by young people with a real passion for what they do. In my opinion, the musical freedom the Mouthfull team has developed is healthy. It allows the hosts to express themselves outside of the generic demands of nightclub DJing or radio funded by advertising. To me, that's important for independent music in the long run.”
EMMA KIKO (BABY KIKO) BROADCASTING LIVE FROM COMMONSPACE, 2021
Since November 2021, Paul has hosted the regular Islands show on Mouthfull. “Airing at 4 pm on Thursdays, it is kind of like a [student radio] drive show,” he says. “Yet that's where the similarities end. Mouthfull's philosophy allows me to push the boundaries, eschewing the singular sense of genre you'd expect from most radio, even independent radio. I can include all the music I love, and it still works. I've even produced shows that pay tribute to the likes of Pharaoh Sanders, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Low's Mimi Parker.”
Although Mouthfull operates from several locations across the globe, the story behind the station began in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington in 2017 when the collective’s original founders, Jack Gittings, Ollie Hutton, and Andre Smith, were attending Massey University. Inspired by the indie-rock-focused Eyegum Music Collective and a then-resurgent interest in underground house and techno music, the three friends started organising gigs.
Their primary goal was to fundraise for a series of short films they were producing as part of their studies, but as they began organising events featuring performers such as Ursula Le Sin, Being, Heavy Chest, and Jasper Lindsay, they felt something changing inside them. “We realised we enjoyed the gig side of it more than actually making the films,” remembers Jack.
Alongside the gigs, Mouthfull maintained a Tumblr page where they would post ten-song playlists curated by their friends and musicians who performed for them. In a sense, those playlists laid the foundations for what would come later. As Jack puts it, “We wanted to showcase everyone we were surrounded by.”
While they were fundraising, the three friends connected with Urban Dream Brokerage, an organisation that helps arts practitioners access short-term leases for vacant inner-city spaces. They plugged Mouthfull in with a concrete shell space on Clyde Quay wharf. “We could do what we wanted with it, but on the condition that we could get kicked out at any time if they sold or rented it,” Jack continues.
ART ON THE WALLS AT THE CLYDE QUAY WHARF SPACE / PHOTO BY EMILIA GRIBBON
Not long after, Jack and another of their friends from Massey, Tyler Barrow, moved to Melbourne to immerse themselves in the city’s 24/7 arts, music and culture scenes. While they were gone, Ollie and their friend Olivia Gallagher used the space to host art exhibitions, film screenings, yoga classes, book launches, and gigs. “It was a place for the young arts community to hang out,” Jack reflects.
Having been introduced to internet radio while they were living in Wellington, Jack and Tyler were avid fans of the London-founded global music platform NTS Radio and Melbourne’s Skylab Radio and Hope Street Radio.
“I’d listen to Charlie Bones’ breakfast show on NTS every single day and think, ‘Holy shit, this is cool,’” remembers Tyler, while thinking about the dizzying array of jazz, electronica, soul, funk, hip-hop and regional folkloric sounds he'd hear on the station. Both avid music collectors and DJs, they quickly progressed from simply listening to shows to wanting to present their own. However, getting involved wasn’t straightforward or easy. “I guess we said, ‘Fuck it, let’s start our own thing,’” continues Tyler.
EMERSON (GULLSTRAND) & TYLER BROADCASTING FROM TYLER’S HOME IN NAARM, MELBOURNE
In 2019, Tyler and Jack got together and spent an afternoon recording an hour-and-a-half-long radio show, where, as Tyler puts it, “We spoke over the top and played some tunes.” They uploaded it on Mixcloud, shared the link with their friends and family, and followed up by revisiting the old playlists from the Mouthfull Tumblr and uploading them.
Later that year, Jack moved back to Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, and the idea briefly lost momentum. In 2020, however, as coronavirus pandemic lockdowns began to close down the world temporarily, the two friends decided to take a more serious shot at setting up an online radio station. “The lockdowns were what really made Mouthfull happen,” Tyler explains.
After discussing the idea with some DJ friends, they looked into online streaming options, built a basic website on the Wix platform, and kicked things off with a small roster of DJs, including Flynn Go, Bella Johansson, and Sonya Ishimnikova, aka Modniy.
“You’re talking to me and Tyler right now, but it's not only us,” Jack says. “Mouthfull is a common echo of the people who we're surrounded by. We all have that same thing of breaking into the radio industry or wanting to explore sounds that don’t belong in a nightclub.”
Sonya, who helped Mouthfull with the Clyde Quay community space, hosts a fortnightly Saturday morning show called Multivitamin. “The appeal for me is the community and the broad range of music played by our hosts,” she enthuses. “Additionally, our team will occasionally arrange events and gigs, which is a great way to meet new people and broaden Mouthfull’s outreach.”
As part of this ethos, in 2021, the Wellington branch of Mouthfull reconnected with Urban Dream Brokerage to take on a three-month lease for another inner-city space at 113 Taranaki Street. This time, Jack and Ollie partnered with Raquel Manks and Sarah Lee to launch Commonspace, where they hosted art workshops, dinners, film screenings, and more. “We called it the living room for the city,” Jack says.
THE COMMONSPACE OPENING, 2021 (R—L); RAQUEL, JACKSON, MARK, SAM, OLLIE) / PHOTO BY NICOLETTA MANCUSO
Awa Randall, a graphic designer and DJ, will never forget strolling past Commonspace one winter’s evening and seeing Ollie Hutton performing live spoken word on Mouthfull Radio in the company of two interpretive dancers. “To me, this illustrates just how broad a scope can be accommodated within community radio,” Awa explains.
These days, he hosts a fortnightly Sunday show on the station titled Uranga. “To have a regular show on Mouthfull is a blessing,” Awa says. “More than just a platform, it has become a canvas and conduit for many inspiring connections, sounds, and ideas. For myself and my original co-host Moss, it has played an integral role in exploring cultural identity. It has also shaped pathways that contribute to how we interact with our cityscape, surfacing how creative communities come together outside the comforts of cozy bedroom studios.”
SOME OF MOSS & AWA'S URANGA CD COLLECTION AT THEIR HOME STUDIO IN NEWTOWN
Since then, Mouthfull has continued to balance online broadcasting with real-life activities. In Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, two crucial outlets for them have been providing DJs to the semi-regular Commons Market (named after Commonspace and held in Jessie Street’s Prefab Hall) and the Vogelmorn Community Group Trust (VCG) in Wellington’s southern ward.
Lily Mac, who works for the VCG, is a huge fan of Mouthfull. Over the last year, she’s been involved in setting up and running Vogelmorn UPSTAIRS, a community bar, living room, and performance area in the former Bowling Club’s upper level.
Having been established by locals who love music, film, theatre, visual art, and design, including Mouthfull’s DJs in their music program has been a perfect fit. “I love how you can find their DJs playing almost anywhere, at parties, music venues, local events, and always online,” she enthuses. “Accessibility in music is crucial, and I think it's clear that Mouthfull has always made this a top priority.”
JACKSON INTERVIEWING COMMONS MARKET STALLHOLDERS, KAJ & HAZE, 2021
Through working with Commons Market and VCG, the team at Mouthfull have been inspired to start looking at more ways they can translate their online community into offline experiences. Sonya mentions wanting to organise a Mouthfull ambient music showcase, and Tyler mentions an upcoming Melbourne Mouthfull DJ event on Friday the 2nd of June, at Capers in Thornbury. “It’s definitely a goal of ours to enter more into the realm of curation,” he says.
UNA & EMMA (BABY KIKO) PLAYING MUSIC FOR A DJ SET AT MEOW, 2022
“I think what excites me about the station and watching it grow is the potential for other people to cross paths, meet each other, and connect,” Jack says, marvelling at how easily a shared platform and set of interests can tie different groups of people together. “Being able to have that in common is really special and builds resilience in the community."
If you have an idea for a radio show, contribution, or activation; Mouthfull would love to hear from you. Reach them at email@example.com.