80 episodes

WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rackett, The Replacements, and James Brown.

Soundcheck WNYC

    • Performing Arts

WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rackett, The Replacements, and James Brown.

    Composer and Producer Emily Wells Scales Back to Elemental

    Composer and Producer Emily Wells Scales Back to Elemental

    Violinist, singer, keyboardist and drummer Emily Wells is a producer and composer capable of producing a full band sound; her series of “symphonies” turned her voice and live-looped violin, drums, percussion, and effects into a one-woman orchestra. In 2019, she released her swirling and dramatic chamber-pop collection, This World Is Too _____ For You, complete with a string quintet and French horn. Now, Emily Wells has revisited some of those grand cinematic songs on her latest record, In the Dark Moving, which she recorded last summer as a project to hear the essence of those songs stripped down to voice and guitar.

    With Nina Simone on the wall of her home studio, Emily Wells joins us to share these songs in their most elemental form, along with a new song written this March - “I’m Numbers.” 


    "Rock N Roll Man"
    "Come on Doom, Let’s Party"
    "I’m Numbers" (Written while sheltering in place in March 2020)

    • 32 min
    Janka Nabay: Bubu Music With An Indie Rock Twist

    Janka Nabay: Bubu Music With An Indie Rock Twist

    The songs of singer Janka Nabay (aka "the Bubu King") mix a regional folk music from his native Sierra Leone called bubu with the high-octane sounds of Brooklyn's vibrant Afropop scene. Bubu music has found new fans in the indie rock community thanks to its driving rhythms and psychedelic guitar riffs. Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang's record En Yay Sah is both political and highly danceable, while revamping some of the classic bubu sounds. In this in-studio visit from 2012, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang play songs from the 2012 record in-studio, and explain some of the sociopolitical messages within. (Note: Nabay passed on in 2018.) 

    • 28 min
    Filmmaker Alex Gibney: 'Sinatra Grew Up With America' (From the Archives)

    Filmmaker Alex Gibney: 'Sinatra Grew Up With America' (From the Archives)

    Ol' Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. Frank Sinatra has been called a lot of things—not all of them flattering—but there's no denying his stature as a true American icon. 

    Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney turns his lens on the singer for the film, which came out in 2015, in time for the singer's 100th birthday. Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All chronicles the unlikely rise of the kid from Hoboken, through his peerless celebrity years, and centers around Sinatra's 1971 "Retirement Concert" in Los Angeles. (Sinatra would make his "return" to performing a scant two years later.) Gibney tells Soundcheck host John Schaefer that the film uses loads of rare interview audio to make Frank "the undependable but very charming narrator of his own story."

    And what a story. The four hour film captures the man's many contradictions, from the mob-fraternizing playboy who was friendly with the Kennedys, to his progressive ideas about race relations.

    "I was interested in this character who came from a rough and tumble place, and actually stood for a lot of pretty important things," says Gibney.

    Through it all, it's the songs—and their sometimes sweeping, sometimes understated performances—that best tell the story of Frank Sinatra.

    "In the great moments of his career—the Capitol years are really my favorite—he is embodying those songs, he is a character who’s grown up with America, with all its contradictions. So to me he’s a tremendously important historical figure."


    Sinatra: All or Nothing At All (2015), is available on Amazon Prime.

    • 39 min
    Overcoats Fight To Feel Excited for the Future

    Overcoats Fight To Feel Excited for the Future

    The NY-based indie-pop duo Overcoats latest, 'The Fight,' was birthed in March 2020 - the "before times." They preview a benefit online festival, called The Fight For NYC,” which they've curated and are playing in, and share new songs from the record. 

    • 25 min
    Courtney Barnett, In The Greene Space (From the Archives)

    Courtney Barnett, In The Greene Space (From the Archives)

    Courtney Barnett's songs are wild, shaggy and wordy, mixing witty, mundane, and sometimes heartbreaking observations with devastating self-assessment. And with a sound rooted in the slack jangle of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Barnett delivers plainspoken lyrics and roll off the tongue as if she's thinking them up on the spot. You can hear that in her break-out song "Avant Gardener" or in "Pedestrian At Best," from  2015's superb album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, in which she spits off a list of personal insecurities and internal monologues to an former love. 

    Watch the Australia native spotlight songs from Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit in a live session from WNYC's Greene Space. - Michael Katzif


    Set List:

    "Dead Fox"
    "Depreston"
    "Pedestrian At Best"
    "An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In New York)"

    • 29 min
    Bandleader, Comedian, and Beatboxer Reggie Watts (From the Archives)

    Bandleader, Comedian, and Beatboxer Reggie Watts (From the Archives)

    Vocal artist, comedian, actor, beatboxer, musician, and bandleader Reggie Watts is versatile and unpredictable. But to watch him do his thing live, is even more extraordinary. He's masterful at looping layer upon layer of beats and rhythms, melodies and countermelodies, entirely with his voice, to create a dense and soulful, hip-hop-infused sound. And his hilarious lyrics seem to be pulled out of thin air, improvised with impossibly quick wit. Watch Reggie Watts demonstrate his brilliant skills in an improvised performance in studio in this 2014 performance from the archives. 

    • 31 min

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