Too Cool For School
Zoë Rogers has had a pretty glamorous life. She’s appeared onstage with the Beastie Boys (even getting a shout-out on their song “Unite”), and she hung out backstage with Frances Bean Cobain and Coco Gordon-Moore, daughter of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in ’96. Zoëhas also racked up piles of awards for her academic talents. But the grooviest thing Zoëhas done so far is work as a DJ at Los Angeles-based Internet station Little Radio (littleradio.com)–a noncommercial oasis where savvy musos play what they like for a small, passionate audience.
ZoëRogers is 14.
Despite her connections, Zoëreally got the gig because she has fabulous taste in music–and an ability to hit the melodic sweet spot over and over while spinning artists such as Wilco, Neutral Milk Hotel, Ween, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Guided by Voices, New York Dolls, and Kanye West.
It all started when Zoë’s dad, Ian (the Beasties’ former webmaster), found one of her homemade mix CDs in his car. “I put it in and was like, ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ It was genuinely heartfelt–much more than anything I’m capable of, because when I DJ, I’m trying to dig out the obscure track nobody’s heard. When you’re 14, you’re playing music you like.” Ian was so impressed that he posted the CD’s track list on his blog (fistfulayen.com), which Little Radio founder Dave Conway discovered when he contacted the DJ’s dad for technical support.
“I skimmed the playlist and was completely floored,” says Conway. “Fourteen years old? She knows who the Treepeople are? I immediately called Ian and asked him if she’d like to do a show, and she started a few weeks later.” (Zoë’s show currently airs on Sunday from noon to 2 P.M.) “I’d give her a longer show,” Conway says, “but she’s got homework.”
Zoë’s musical choices are heartfelt–and sentimental, in a good way. If she plays Sonic Youth, she selects something accessible and bittersweet like “Teenage Riot”–and you just know she gets that song. Musically, she’s an old soul. Then again, she’s a kid and not much for talking about such things. “I like good words and fun melodies,” she says carefully. “And I like a song that has a powerful message”–say, “Burn Hollywood Burn” by Public Enemy or “Changes” by David Bowie. “I have pretty diverse tastes, but I don’t like a lot of music, if that makes any sense.” Says dad: “She’s not an art-rock type. She doesn’t like anything for the sake of liking it. Joni Mitchell and the Treepeople fall into the same bucket for her.” Likewise, Zoëis no indie snob–Coldplay gets respect alongside the Soundtrack of Our Lives and Brendan Benson.
Zoë’s musical smarts go back to her childhood as the daughter of a boy with too many records (Ian was 17 when she was born). “My dad has tons of vinyl, and I’ve been listening to Sly & the Family Stone since I was a baby.” Three and a half years of home schooling, through seventh grade, gave her extra time to check out Ian’s collection. “I got into his Ramones records–especially ‘I Wanna Be Sedated.’ But I also bought Jewel and Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits,” she confesses. Not surprisingly, Zoë also went through a Spice Girls phase.
Nowadays she raves constantly about her “most favoritest” band, Pretty Girls Make Graves–which spiritually may not be such a big leap from her Spice days. “You go see Pretty Girls Make Graves in concert and the singer is so cool! She’s really into seeing all the girls–like Girl Power, almost. And they address the craziest issues–they have this one song that goes, ‘Do you remember what the music meant?’ I guess I really identify with that.”