Ah, good old FM Radio. While the convenience of newer music sharing models like Spotify and Youtube may have taken some of the teeth out of more conventional radio, there’s something great about getting in your car, scanning through the stations, and hearing a great barnbuster of a tune that really hits you in the feels. Salem was a radio wasteland for many years; we lived off the table scraps of stations from Portland, sucking up that “big city” culture, but not having anything on the airwaves that we could truly call our own (well except for some Right wing AM talk radio). That’s all changed with the rise of our great community station KMUZ and with the new kid on the block, 105.5 The Moon.

The Moon is the lovechild of Sean Mulrooney. “I was the kid that would make you mix tapes. Constantly,” says Mulrooney. “I have dozens of them I’ve made for friends in my garage that I never got around to giving to them, because I listened to them to death myself.” By the early 90’s he was getting his chops in as local DJ, “I was a Club DJ for Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus here in Salem. It sat on the spot that the conference center sits now. It was hardly my glory days but it was absolutely a blast. I got pretty good at being able to make a crowd do things with music”

From there, Mulrooney branched out into online radio stations for many years, until he had an unexpected opportunity to take over a low powered FM frequency. “It was a childhood dream of mine and suddenly it had fallen into my lap. I immediately said yes.” Thus, the Moon was born.

The Moon offers far more experimentation and flexibility with their playlists than a standard, Corporate station (plus no commercials, thank the maker). The musical sensibilities are refreshingly focused though; alternative and indie rock from the 90’s to present. Sure, you might get a mash up, a classic rock nugget, or an Earth Wind & Fire song. But the formula is much more streamlined than say the broad talk and music programming at KMUZ. Don’t expect to hear all the hits that you typically have crammed down your ear canals. The Moon mostly operates in what I call, “The Bottom 40” zone: chock full of lesser known artists, as well as more adventurous picks by some of your favorites.

From its inception, the station was primarily operated as a continuous blend of pre-recorded playlists, but as more hands have came on deck, the roster of live DJs has grown. “Each DJ has the discretion to put their own stamp on their respective shows,” says Mulrooney. “I’m choosing to focus on showcasing women’s voices on DJs for a while. We have three men that have shows, and that works. Not to sound overly noble, I just plain like a woman’s voice on the air and since I am the one in charge of doing all the training and scouting for volunteers, I decided to try having a female-centric sound on The Moon. This summer was spent training the first 10 women and they are all flying solo with their own shows now and I’ve decided to do another round of 10 and see how that goes. Some of them were friends that I knew, but many others were strangers that responded to my call for DJs. It’s going very well.”

When asked about future plans for The Moon, Mulrooney clearly has big ideas, but is more concerned about playing the long game, “I want our reputation to be one of ‘We love Salem.’ I want listeners to know how much we love Salem. That will show in time and we’ve been fortunate to get full-throated support from businesses and friends and all of that has propelled us into this position that we can enjoy the landscape of The Moon without needing to rush things,” says Mulrooney. “We are going to be around forever.”

 

About the Author: Joshua Blanchard has been involved in the Salem and Portland music scenes for a good long time now. He has written for The Stranger in Seattle, and The Rocket and The Mercury, both out of Portland. He currently plays in the bands Coronation and Major Hex. Major Hex is releasing their first album on October 13th with Night Lizard – details forthcoming.