Whether you duck back to WXPN’s glory days on the University of Pennsylvania campus with Lee Paris and Roid Kafka, WKDU’s Jackie Zahn, or the sleeker modern rock moment of Mel Toxic and Jim McGuinn, Philly can be proud of its punk rock and new wave radio past. Huzzah.
Welcome iHeartMedia Philadelphia’s new ALT 104.5, Philly’s Alternative Rock to the fold. As of Tuesday, post-Memorial Day, what was already this city’s mod-alternative radio leader, Radio 104.5, changed its name and vibe, while pushing Amber Miller into both the Program Director spot and that of an on-air personality.
dosage MAGAZINE caught up with Miller while preparing for ALT Day One.
A.D. Amorosi: How long have you been with the iHeartMedia family, and what were your first jobs when you got to it?
Amber Miller: I arrived in Philly at WRFF and became part of the iHeart family in September of 2016 as a midday host, which I’m still doing, and as Assistant Program Director and Music Director for Radio 104.5.
A.D. Amorosi: Radio 104.5 always stood for modern pop and rock. What is the edge with the new ALT 104.5?
Amber Miller: You’ll find that the music is actually really very similar with a sprinkle of extra modernity, all the new freshness with the rebrand of the station comes with the bolder attitude and of our imaging (the fun bits between the music) including a new voiceover guy, the new logo and the new website.
A.D. Amorosi: So what motivated the shift?
Amber Miller: We upgrade our phones all the time. New design styles come into and out of fashion regularly and after thirteen years. It was time for an upgrade and fresh coat of paint on Philly’s Alternative Rock station. This isn’t a format change, we’re not turning our back on the 13-year foundation we’ve built in Philly. It’s a rebrand to reflect current times and attitudes.
A.D. Amorosi: What and who can you guys play now, that perhaps you couldn’t under previous formats?
Amber Miller: The joy of it is that we are and always have been programming the music for our Philly audience in real-time. That was the case in 2007 when Radio 104.5 signed on and that is very much the case now in 2020. There aren’t any strict rules or constraints on the music, it’s about what’s the absolute best stuff we can be playing right now that’ll hit the mark for our listeners.
A.D. Amorosi: As 104.5 always had a large concert sponsorship following – it’s rough to impossible, at present, to maintain that footing in a live staged setting. How does ALT 104.5 intend to answer that? Live streams, etc?
Amber Miller: We rolled out a series of exclusive InstaJam Instagram live stripped-back performances right after we went into “stay at home” mode to help fill that void and have hosted a large swath of ALT artists including: The Airborne Toxic Event, Blue October, The Head & The Heart, Third Eye Blind, Biffy Clyro, lovelytheband, AWOLNATION, The Unlikely Candidates and Grouplove. And we’re not done yet, we’re set for another InstaJam with Cold War Kids on May 28th at 4 pm via @alt1045philly with more to come! Plus, every Friday afternoon at 5 pm we present a live performance and interview with a Philly-area band for our traditional weekend kickoff feature “Live at 5,” which is something that’s carrying over from the Radio 104.5 days. This Friday’s Live at 5 is set with Brick & Mortar, we’ve also hosted Nightly and Mondo Cozmo (Philly native now living in LA) with Deal Casino confirmed for Friday June 5th. It was highly important for us to continue to support our local artists, even if we couldn’t host it in our performance studio as we typically would.
A.D. Amorosi: So, what are you most looking forward to, musically, this summer, COVID-19 or no COVID-19?
Amber Miller: I’m still hopeful we’ll be able to catch some sort of live performances, even if it’s in a drive-in or modified socially distanced setting. There’s a whole backlogged group of album releases we’ll get to enjoy at some point this summer like The Killers “Imploding The Mirage” and Weezer’s “Van Weezer” and we’ll be SO ready for them when they arrive, and personally I can’t wait to dig into Glass Animals third album “Dreamland,” coming July 10th.