Smile Politely

Lovely Lo-Fi with Mellie Lia

A woman is seated in a cozy studio filled with CDs and holding a professional microphone in her hand. She is wearing a dark purple dress with a matching headband adorned with a bow, and large white headphones. Her accessories include a colorful ring and a smartwatch.
Kaitrin Higbee on Facebook

WEFT Community Radio has a new show available on offer at 90.1 FM and http://new.weft.org/listen/. WEFT, an East Central Illinois radio station run by volunteers since 1981, is located in the heart of the developing Downtown Entertainment District on Market Street in downtown Champaign. Operating under Prairie Air with a not-for-profit business model, WEFT prioritizes alignment with their stated mission above all else when putting new shows on the air. 

The new show, Lovely Lo-Fi, is a programming addition operated by Kaitrin Higbee (DJ Alias: Mellie Lia) and will air on Saturdays from 6 to 8 p.m. Higbee is a community member who makes and sells homemade jewelry online via her Instagram and Twitch platforms, and in person at the recently returned Urbana Farmers Market.

The term “Lo-fi” is a shortened version of “low fidelity,” referring to a stripped-down, barebones production style. Lo-fi artists mix elements from various genres, notably hip-hop and dream pop, though innovation within the genre is widespread. The diverse range of offerings under the Lo-fi umbrella reflects its innovative spirit. Conceptually, these tracks are united by their appreciation as “study music” or “calming music.

Lo-fi music has been a transformative discovery for Higbee. Diagnosed with complex PTSD, she has spent much of her adult life seeking ways to cope with her creatively maladaptive mind. For her, Lo-fi music is a ‘balm to [her] soul,’ providing a unique sense of calm unmatched by other remedies. This realization deepened when she shared the genre with her husband and found it greatly alleviated his anxiety as well.

A logo for "Lovely Lo Fi" on WEFT 90.1 FM Champaign. The logo features light purple, stylized text with small yellow stars and flowers, accompanied by the tagline "Peace and Love."
Lovely Lo-Fi Radio Show

With Lovely Lo-Fi, Higbee aims to share the comforting and therapeutic effects of this musical genre, inspired by how much it has benefited her own life.

Here a few key goals Higbee shared with me in our recent conversation:

Music Discovery: She aims to introduce the WEFT listener community in East Central Illinois to Lo-fi music. She believes that anxiety and mental distress are emblematic of our times and that Lo-fi music can offer an easy and accessible coping option.

Platform for Artists: Higbee wants to share the benefits of her WEFT radio platform with local, up-and-coming Lo-fi artists, giving back to the community that has enriched her life. In our interview, she mentioned her short-term goal to set up social media accounts for the show to provide an easy way for people to submit their songs for airtime. Additionally, she is considering inviting local artists to join the show for interviews to explore their artistic processes in creating Lo-fi music, which she hopes will be both enlightening and entertaining.

“I know that there are artists in this community. I may not be able to name them, but I am certain that somewhere out there in this community, there are Lo-fi artists, just starting out. I’d like to put them on the show.”

Lifelong Learning: In addition to teaching the town about the delights and healing properties of Lo-fi, and in addition to spotlighting local Lo-fi artists, Higbee hopes to gain a better appreciation for the breadth of Lo-fi music, learning about its various styles and communities of origin.

Speaking of the breadth of Lol-fi music and innovation, Higbee mentioned an artist she’s discovered recently who samples cat meows for their Lo-fi creations: 

Higbee is fueled by her love of Lo-fi’s healing properties, and by a commitment to be a voice and a platform for marginalized communities:

“That [Lo-Fi music] comes from people of color. So by being intentional about the sources that I’m pulling from, I can uplift those voices; not just people of color, we’re talking queer voices, we’re talking women, we’re talking gender non-conforming people. Anybody who has Lo-fi: if you are someone from a community that is marginalized and you do Lo-fi, you get put first on my show, because that’s how I handle things.”

WEFT, being a not-for-profit organization, prioritizes adherence to their stated mission, which is fundamental to their operation. This mission grounds and unifies all the activities carried out by their network of volunteers. Here is their mission in short form:

  • WEFT 90.1 FM is a non-commercial radio station locally owned by Prairie Air, Incorporated, a not-for-profit corporation.
  • WEFT 90.1 FM is an accessible, responsible, and responsive radio alternative, serving the diverse communities of radio listeners in East Central Illinois.

If you visit WEFT’s site, you’ll find more explanations for their avowed values. Lovely Lo-Fi is a show that will particularly enhance their commitment to ‘diversity’ while remaining consistent with all their other values.

A woman is standing in a brightly lit room, possibly a library. She is wearing a black dress with white lace trim on the sleeves and neckline, featuring a decorative raven emblem on the chest. She accessorizes with a black choker necklace and a headpiece adorned with a bow.
Mellie Lia by Donté Winslow

This is the first music show in WEFT’s formidable 43-year history to focus on exploring the music genre of Lo-fi Music. With Higbee’s passion and dedication, the hope is that local artists in these genres will feel more represented by WEFT and that the relaxing tones of Lo-fi will have a net healing effect for C-U and East Central Illinois. 

If you or anyone you know makes Lo-fi Hip-Hop beats, be sure to reach out to Higbee with MP3 files ready, either through her email or her Lovely Lo-Fi Facebook page. Again, Higbee is interested in exploring the breadth of the genre, and as WEFT continues its mission to ‘Keep WEFT Weird,’ she encourages even the most eclectic or nontraditional artists to submit their work!

Otherwise, you can tune in to hear the calming cacophonies of Lo-fi music, as presented by her on-air name, Mellie Lia, in partnership with WEFT Community Radio, every Saturday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. on 90.1 WEFT FM.

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