Latin Alternative’s Anglo Advocate
HSANTA MONICA, Calif. ere’s your melting pot. Right here, in a basement studio on the Santa Monica College campus, where we find radio tastemaker Nic Harcourt hovering over a control panel. It’s shortly before 11 on Friday morning, and Harcourt — host of KCRW-FM’s flagship show, “Morning Becomes Eclectic” — is introducing yet another wide-ranging mix of songs to an adventurous public-radio audience. There’s a new track by the Liverpool indie-rock band Clinic and an old one by psychedelic soul man Shuggie Otis, along with tunes of varying age from Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Americana artist Lucinda Williams and a Danish garage-rock group by the name of the Blue Van.
And this, Harcourt says: “A remix of ‘Yo No Se’ by Los Amigos Invisibles.” The Venezuelan dance-music group is coming to town for a show next week, Harcourt says, and KCRW is giving away tickets. And then, speaking, as he always does, in dulcet tones, with a distinctive British-by-way-of-Australia accent (most noticeable when he says “artist,” which becomes “AHHHH- tist”), he repeats the band’s name: “Los Amigos Invisibles.” The invisible friends. As if. Harcourt’s musician friends and acquaintances and interests — all those artists he champions on his program and as KCRW’s music director — tend to get noticed. Working in a company town, for a station whose listeners have historically included record executives and Hollywood music supervisors and late-night TV bookers, he serves as something of an early-warning system. Since he arrived at KCRW in 1998, Harcourt has helped break Coldplay and Norah Jones, both of whom became multi-platinum international stars. He’s also been an important, early supporter of countless other acts that have achieved at least a modest level of success: Dido, Damien Rice, Sigur Ros, the Shins. He’s America’s answer to the legendarily influential BBC Radio 1 presenter John Peel. In a Sunday magazine profile two years ago, the New York Times dubbed Harcourt “The Starmaker of the Semipopular.” Lately, the list of Harcourt-approved semi-stars has grown to include some of the leading players from the Latin alternative genre. Tune in to “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” which is broadcast week-
Of the little-known-but-worthy songs he brings to a wider world, Harcourt says: “I just have to like it; it has to touch me in some way.”