Local artists meet late night TV on The Vanguard’s new project

Radio K’s 24/7 hip-hop stream, The Vanguard, recently expanded their Local Vibes segment to a late night talk show format.


Alice Bennett

A video camera focuses on the set of Local Vibes on Thursday, Feb. 17. Local Vibes is a late night talk show hosted by John Kueppers.

by Macy Harder

If you took the energy of a Nardwuar or “Hot Ones” interview and sprinkled in a little college charm, you would end up with something like the latest project of Radio K’s 24/7 online hip-hop stream, The Vanguard.

In an effort to highlight the Twin Cities hip-hop scene, The Vanguard hosts local artists for in-studio performances and interviews on weekly episodes of Local Vibes. In addition to these segments, they recently introduced a new format that mirrors the style of a late night talk show.

“The idea was really to have a more intimate, relaxed and creative kind of setup,” said Paul Schoening, program director of The Vanguard. “It feels a lot more personal.”

He explained that the talk show is the product of a collaboration between Radio K and Liberal Arts Technologies and Innovation Services, otherwise known as LATIS. Serving students, staff and faculty within the College of Liberal Arts, LATIS Video Services offers video and audio equipment, studio space and other resources to be used for media production. Conveniently, the Rarig Center on West Bank is home to both LATIS and Radio K.

John Kueppers, host of Radio K’s late night talk show “Local Vibes” poses for a portrait in the studio on Thursday, Feb. 17. (Alice Bennett)

Schoening accredits the idea behind the talk show to the producer and host of Local Vibes, John Kueppers.

An employee of both LATIS and Radio K, Kueppers saw the organizations’ physical proximity to one another as an opportunity for their collaboration. “I just thought it would be such a cool idea to utilize that space,” Kueppers said.

Kueppers came up with the idea for the project in October, and spent a lot of time over winter break planning its execution. After a number of meetings and rehearsals with other folks from The Vanguard, the show started to come along.

The first episode premiered Feb. 2, featuring Blu Bone, an interdisciplinary artist and University of Minnesota graduate student.

“For this first episode, I wanted an artist that was an incredible performer and someone that I knew people would want to hear from,” Kueppers said. “Blu Bone was definitely someone that stuck out to me …When I started researching him, I found out just how lucky I was to have him as the first guest and how incredible he is within so many different art forms.”

In traditional talk show fashion, Kueppers and Blu Bone came together for a casual sit-down interview, equipped with coffee mugs and armchairs. The set, decorated with artist posters and various items from Kueppers’ childhood, created a cozy, nostalgic atmosphere. He described it as a “warm, come on in and stay a while” type of vibe.

“Radio can be kind of a nostalgic medium,” Kueppers said. “So I think it played off of Radio K’s history well, and their brand as a music hub that kind of has this messy, college vibe to it, but is still intact.”

Blu Bone took the stage for two electric performances, illuminated by his choice of vibrant blue and orange hues. Kueppers wanted to make it a priority that the artists had the ability to express themselves creatively throughout the whole process, all the way down to the set’s lighting.

“What will always be important to me is getting the artist’s vision across and getting their input on these sessions,” Kueppers said.

The teams at LATIS and Radio K came together to make this happen on the technical side, with between 15 and 20 people working behind the scenes on sound, lighting, camera work and other elements of production.

Nikhil Kumaran is The Vanguard’s outreach coordinator, and he worked on videography for this episode. Kumaran is a journalism student with interests in multimedia production, so when he heard that Kueppers was looking for volunteers, he said he’d gladly go behind a camera.

“I think the opportunity to work in that studio with LATIS was really cool,” Kumaran said. “I mean, that’s not something a lot of college students get to do.”

Schoening, Kueppers, Kumaran and the rest of the team will be back in the studio shortly to record the next show, and their goal is to release new episodes on the first Wednesday of every month. Without revealing who the next artist will be, Kueppers hinted that they started out with spoken word poetry.

In terms of what audiences can expect in the future, The Vanguard has a few visions. “Expect incredible femme artists,” Kueppers said. “Highlighting femme and nonbinary artists is a really high priority for us to do in the future, because a lot of the times the realm of hip-hop is male-focused. It’s really important to me and everybody else at The Vanguard and Radio K to get that bigger picture of the music scene.”