Interviewing Brazil Gaffney Knox and Katja (Kat) Drost is like sharing the width of the sidewalk with a friend and realizing that your steps have found rhythm, your legs move in unison. These two radio veterans don’t interrupt each other – rather, their sentences seem to flow into one another with ease. There’s a certain synchronicity that comes with sharing the radio waves on a weekly basis. Brazil and Kat have been co-producing Untrained Ears on Trent Radio since September of 2017, but their friendship extends even further back.
The two went to the same high school in Toronto, but their friendship as they know it now didn’t materialize until they both found themselves at Trent, brand new in a strange small city. Brazil muses, recalling these early days, “When we got to Trent we didn’t make any other friends because we’re bad at making friends, and then we spent all of our time together for a year straight.”
Kat and Brazil soon realized that their musical inclinations overlapped, and a shared love for electronic and experimental music burgeoned. The two joke that even then they were doing “self-radio”. But making the jump to sharing these conversations once a week on the radio, with little clue how many or how few were listening at any given time, was no small task. Brazil and Kat still remember how nervous they were the first time they took over the dials in Studio A at Trent Radio.
“The first show we ever did was amazing because we were so nervous. I think I was physically shaking. We’re both very shy people that don’t like speaking in front of crowds, and even though the radio is not a crowd, it feels like you’re talking to an auditorium,” Brazil recalls.
They remember being rescued by Angelica Cooper – a Trent Radio alum who now works at CBC – who sat with them, moved the dials, and talked them through it.
Despite shyness and anxiety, there was no stopping Brazil and Kat. Their desire to be on the radio ran deep; it was generational. Kat grew up watching her father work in radio, so her love for the medium started young. Brazil’s mother was family friends with the late John K. Muir, longtime Trent Radio fixture and General Manager. But the desire to make radio waves isn’t purely hereditary. Kat recalls seeing it as “a creative outlet, to think about art and music weekly, bringing that part of my life into focus.”
Untrained Ears has evolved quite a bit since its inception. Kat remembers being over-prepared during those unsteady early days.
“When we first started we had scripts and we’d planned a week in advance. We still do that to a certain degree, but it’s more like quick notes. We show up and it’s casual. The content of the show has evolved.”
“I think we’ve increased our capacity, but we’ve also toned down our need to control every moment of it,” Brazil adds.
And much like the show itself, Kat and Brazil’s love for Trent Radio has only grown over the years. During our interview, Kat reflected on how “it’s really nice to be able to come back to this place every week, being able to be [at Trent Radio] and just exist in the space and have complete control over what you’re producing regardless of what happens in the end.”
Untrained Ears has allowed the two to explore their mutual love of music, and learn a great deal about their favourite artists and genres, without any constraining expectations.
“I think that’s why we chose Untrained Ears. It was just a way to explore something with no strings attached. You’re not trying to prove anything to anyone, except Kat I guess,” Brazil laughs. Untrained Ears has also served as a great space for the two to just enjoy each other’s company.
“It’s really nice to have this one thing that we do together, regardless of whatever else is going on in our week. It’s our thing that we built together,” Kat told Arthur. “… true collaboration is hard to find,” added Brazil, almost finishing Kat’s sentence.
You can listen to Untrained Ears live on 92.7 CFFF FM, or on Trent Radio’s website at 10 p.m. every Thursday night.