Kristen sits on a backless bench in the hallway of a classroom building. It’s dark outside and the hallway is barely lit. All you can hear are the handfuls people loudly roaming through the building, filing into classrooms for meetings. She looks completing unfazed by the conversations around us, and looks confidently prepared to discuss her show, Swag Swag Like Caillou.
A good enough reason to listen to Kristen Tran’s show is the fact that she presents herself as a pro. It’s rare to hear a DJ talk so much about the creation of and the goals they have for their own show. To listen to Swag Swag Like Caillou would be to listen to a dedicated DJ truly take advantage of her hour on air.
Just as a formality, what’s your name?
Is that the question? Okay. I’m Kristen Tran
What year are you?
I’m a sophomore
What’s the name of your show?
Swag Swag Like Caillou. It’s a line from the Lil B Caillou-based freestyle.
When does it air?
It airs 11am on Sundays
And where are you from?
I’m from Arlington, Texas. Its part of the DFW metroplex. If you’re into sports it’s where the Texas rangers play
Oh, are you into sports?
Not really – but it’s a good landmark for most people. I come from Six Flags, Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers.
Do you like it there [in Arlington]? Would you move back?
It is pretty nice, yeah. I like it. I wouldn’t move back to that specific city but like the area is really nice so maybe closer, when i’m in like my twenties, like, closer to the actual city. Because Arlington is more of a suburb, it’s more for families and stuff so maybe. But I’m not sure yet
How do you like Nashville?
It’s really nice! I like having so many concerts nearby; I think that’s really nice. I was doing my show just this weekend and I, I usually theme my shows and, sometimes if it’s a song I really care about I say a couple words beforehand. I’m not a huge talker on air. But I realized as I was going through my show – I kept saying things like, “Hey you should check these guys out in concert” and I realized how many opportunities I had, because I go to Vanderbilt and I’m in Nashville, to see these bands live and I can just casually toss that out there. And I was really grateful when I realized that.
So you have a theme to your show?
I have a theme weekly. I like to change my theme. Last week was “In Sickness and In Health” because I was sick for the week before and I didn’t get to do my show. And last year semester I had a couple shows like, “oh I want to do a show about communication” because that was something i was struggling with at that time and later I did one about going home near the end of the year, near summer. Whatever felt like it was relevant to me that week, I would try to theme my show around that. It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes I just play whatever I want. But I try.
So are there genres you find yourself leaning towards or staying away from?
I think instead of picking a genre and sticking with it and I kind of choose the theme first and then I make the genres work with it. So, I like having a theme on weeks when I can take the time to create a show that has a theme because it makes me pull from different genres because I can’t be like “oh, well I’m only going to play songs about sickness from indie rock,” because I’m not going to have enough songs or I, personally, don’t know enough songs in just that one genre to do that. So I like picking a theme because it makes me branch out and expose myself and re-familiarize myself with some old songs that maybe I didn’t really think about initially because I don’t listen to them that often now. I play a lot of indie rock because that’s my base. That’s usually what I listen to. But I’ll throw in some rap if I can. I am on air at like 11am so i cant play most rap because 11am is not after 9pm but, some of that. Some folksy stuff. Whatever. Whatever that fits into that theme usually.
How far ahead do you have to plan your themed shows?
I usually do it a couple days before if I can. I’ll at least pick a set base of songs and then…I know for my show this past weekend I was up around midnight the night before because I was just trying to get that theme down. But it depends how much time I have during the week for me to do that
How do you reconcile your theme and rotation songs?
I try to pick a rather broad theme for that challenge. Like last year like for my show on communication, I could have made the show a lot more specific but I had to branch it out just to get those rotation songs in. I think it’s a lot easier now that I’m not a debut show. Now I have less commitment to rotation but sometimes if I cant find a rotation song that fits I’ll just throw a random rotation song in there that sounds nice
What are the top three albums/songs (your choice) that would characterize your show as a whole?
Number one, not in order, just number one I can think of is actually from local rotation it’s Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle. I saw her in concert earlier this year and it was super great. She was super cool; she’s got super great music. It’s just like chill. It’s a little bit sad. Actually, a ‘lotta bit sad but, you know, it’s just a good album that’s like raw and it just hits you in the spot. It just really moves you and I really like that.
And let’s see… that first one came so easy and now I’m struggling. I guess Talon of the Hawk by The Front Bottoms because, I don’t know, I’m about to turn twenty so the whole no-longer-being-a-teenager thing is kind of creeping up on me but I still bring in a lot of songs from my teenage years and being in high school. A lot of that is like, you know, traditional punk music and I did a show last year themed for all the music I listened to in high school because I was missing my friends from home and doing stuff like that. So that’s a genre that I frequently delve into and I’m really happy that Modern Baseball’s new album is on rotation. That’s really convenient for me.
The third album, I guess, that would characterize my show… can I check Spotify real quick? Sometimes I just blank on music I listen to. Oh! OK, this was an album that was, I think, on primary last semester. Work by Whosah. It’s a super short album; I think it was like four songs. It has more of an electronic vibe that sometimes I go towards. It’s short, sweet, succinct. To the point. I try to communicate that through my show as well because it’s only an hour long, there’s only a limited number of songs I can play. I try to get to the point and convey the most I can.
You’re in a car full of people you don’t know super well but you want to impress them. They pass you the aux cord. What song do you play?
One song?! One song..? Let me go back to Spotify really quick. I think I’m gonna go with Everyday by Modern Baseball. I feel like that song has a lot of fun parts. Like, there’s this really cool bass part and he says this line like, “she’s acting like her bread won’t puff” or something like that and, yeah, it’s funny and then it ends really seriously. It’s like, “the reward for waking up every day and doing stuff you don’t wanna do is that you get to wake up” and I think that’s like a really serious point but I think the song encompasses a lot and it’s the genre I’m listening to a lot. It is one of my saved albums on Spotify. Like, that’s a song I listen to in the car a lot.
So, either here or back home or wherever – what has been your most memorable concert experience?
I’m going to say my first punk concert. It was The Front Bottoms and I saw them in California. I had just gotten off the plane – I was visiting family over there and I was like sixteen and I was talking to my cousin like, “Hey dude, will you take me to this concert?” and he said, “Yeah sure” and it was just such a wild energy. They were all kids a little bit above my age or around my age and I was still in the age where I was wanting to get in on all that energy like moshing and throwing people up into the air and trying to crowdsurf and stuff. I knew that album really well so I was singing along to all the songs. It was just such a great energy and it was actually so random – they didn’t take themselves too seriously. At one point…do you know those inflatable blowy things that they have at car dealerships that wiggle up? They had one of those on stage and it was just really cool. It was one of my first concert experiences and it was just such a wild one and it had such a great energy to it. It’s really funny because I went to a modern baseball concert this summer and it was kind of the same vibe but I’ve grown up – I’m nineteen now – which isn’t too much older but I was standing in the back, not really getting in with the teenagers who were throwing their elbows around, knocking each other out. And I was like, “I’m just gonna chill” and I feel like The Front Bottom’s concert I saw in California really is one of those hallmark teenage experiences. You go to a concert, you kind of let yourself go, and you sing along with your favorite band and don’t really care who knows.
Who should listen to your show?
Anyone who decides to be awake at 11am on a Sunday. I don’t know. I don’t pick songs that are particularly strongly tied to one genre so I feel like a lot of people could find something in it for them. But whoever, really.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I stalked Kristen’s Spotify profile to find one of her public playlists to attach: