Yam Session: A look inside Tufts nighttime radio

Sophomore Cody Eaton adjusts the soundboard during the 10 p.m. radio show he co-hosts with sophomore Noah Adler in the WMFO studio in Curtis Hall on April 4. Rachael Meyer / The Tufts Daily

Upon entering the WMFO Tufts Freeform Radio studio on the third floor of Curtis Hall at 10 p.m. on March 4, a show winds down with a final, upbeat song.

The room looks exactly as one might picture when imagining a collegiate radio station studio — a music-themed paradise of sorts.

There is an entire wall dedicated to a massive collection of vinyl that seems to be long-neglected.

Twinkle lights have been carefully strung up to create an ambiance in line with the relaxed atmosphere of the room and people in it.

As the DJs from the previous show clear out, the next hosts for the evening start setting up for their show, Yam Session, which runs from 10-11 p.m. every Tuesday.

Cody Eaton, a sophomore majoring in international relations logs into the large desktop in preparation for the show. Noah Adler, a sophomore majoring in computer science, queues up Spotify on his laptop.

As self-proclaimed veterans of WMFO radio, they explain that in order to get a radio show you must train with the equipment and other hosts while they do their shows. There is even a short DJ quiz that you have to pass before you’re able to be a host.

“You have to sign up for two-hour-long training sessions on other peoples’ shows … and there’s a handbook you go over with them,” Adler said.

After going through training, prospective DJs have to vie for spots with executive board members and Medford residents, who both get priority. Luckily for Yam Session, Eaton is on the executive board as publicity director and they have one of the most coveted time slots.

One of the General Managers of WMFO, Haley Short, said that some of the late night times are very popular among DJs.

There is usually a lot of demand for 10 p.m. through 1 a.m. because those are Safe Harbor Hours, and a lot of DJs like being able to play explicit music,” Short, a junior, said.

Eaton and Adler became a duo their first year at Tufts and have been furthering the Yam Session brand ever since.

“I read a book my senior year where they ate a lot of yams,” Adler said.

“Oh, ‘Things Fall Apart,’” Eaton quickly replied.

“Yeah, exactly, I guess I had yams in my head and then the Yam Session and jam session pun worked well,” Adler said.

They start the show by welcoming the listeners, whose number they casually monitor throughout their hour on air.

They start off with a mutually agreed upon song by Kendrick Lamar, which will set the tone for the rest of their session in the studio.

After starting the song on the soundboard, Eaton flips a switch and music fills the room.

The rhythm of the show feels easy but structured, with periods of music that last for about 10 minutes with interjections of the hosts bantering back and forth.

While the music is playing, they discuss their song choices, what they’ve been listening to recently, and they ponder the musical world in general. Many of their comments begin with “Have you heard…?”

There is a good deal of musical knowledge between the two hosts and they can talk at length with each other about everything from Lupe Fiasco’s controversial comments to what Kendrick Lamar’s next album is going to sound like.

Both Eaton and Adler have been entrenched in music since the beginning of high school and wanted to be involved in the music scene at Tufts.

“I’ve always been into music, listening to music, finding new music, sharing it with people and I thought this would be a good platform to let people know what I’m listening to and hopefully they like it as well,” Adler said.

Yam Session developed based on Eaton and Adler’s similar music tastes, a combination of rap, hip hop, alternative and whatever their listeners request.

“I came in [to WMFO] very intentionally … I’ve been very into music since the beginning of high school and even on my Jumbo Day I signed up for the e-list and we linked up,” Eaton said.

After a couple of songs, Eaton and Adler realize that they haven’t checked the listener count since beginning the show. They happily realize that they have 15 listeners, which surpasses Noah’s initial guess of 13.

“We do show up on car radios in the area but the range isn’t very strong, otherwise you can stream us online,” Eaton said.

During the breaks in between music being played, they occasionally give shout-outs to friends and family tuning in.

“Quick shout out to our listeners out on the West Coast, I know Winslow is out on the San Juan Islands in Washington listening to us … and he’s making his whole lab listen to it! Shout out to your whole lab,” Eaton said.

The studio is a combination of modern radio equipment alongside record players and turntables. Most people stick to Spotify, SoundCloud and other contemporary mediums for music, but there has been a push within WMFO to start making better use of the resources at their disposal.

“We have a lot of really cool under-utilized equipment … a couple of the new exec members are really tech-savvy and have organized vinyl training sessions for new DJs,” Eaton said.

The show comes to a close, and both hosts are relaxed and content. The music seems to have had a calming effect on them despite the extremely high-energy choices.

“What I like so much about it [is] it’s an hour where you don’t really have to think about or stress about anything except what you’re going to play and what you’re going to talk about so it’s a really good stress reliever,” Adler said.

After their last song winds down, they put on a program that will automatically play music on the station until the next show comes into the studio.

They make sure all their music is recorded properly and log out of the large desktop computer that has been acting as the main source of light in the room besides the dim glow of the string lights.

They exit the studio content, as if the one hour of hosting the show recharged them for the coming week, when they get to do it all over again.