Freedom On Air

The center of Lyon. Old buildings, cobbled streets, labyrinths of pass-through yards and relaxed flow of pedestrians on the bank of the Saône River. Here, at Passage Gonin 3, in one of the many quiet alleys, lurks the heart of local cultural life - Les Ateliers SUMO - an old warehouse where Lyonian intellectuals work and reside. Passing the concrete steps and the unremarkable gray door at the entrance, one gets straight to the office of an independent online radio station LYL - a community of “activists, specialists, geeks, weirdos, and amateurs.”
LYL radio was launched in 2014. Before settling in the Les Ateliers SUMO building, a small team led by Lucas Bouissou was throwing radio shows from Lyon record shops - Groove Edge and Chez Émile. “We were a tiny group, at the beginning,” - Lucas recalls. “There were about twenty of us including the guys from Macadam Mambo, Chez Émile, Groovedge and BFDM.”
Throughout the year, they were frequently meeting together to listen and broadcast their favorite music. Later on, Lucas got into the idea of creating a platform that would unite all these people and become a stage for promoting favorite artists and labels. Brick by brick, he's built LYL - webradio with 180 regular shows and two operating offices - in Lyon and Paris, broadcasting the music of both locals and guests from all over the place.
Before founding his own radio, Lucas Bouissou worked with the CLFT label. Then, he left to New York for six months, where he became a part of the Issue Project Room - a non-profit art center specializing in avant-garde and experimental music. During the time, he was nurturing the idea of ​​an independent radio station and was actively working on its concept. Every week, Lucas was visiting the Metropolitan Museum, where he was particularly attracted to ancient civilizations. This has led to the combination of letters LYL, which has no meaning but visually refers to archaic symbolism. “I do not like metaphors and acronyms. I wanted a word that means nothing, that is simple and understandable to everyone. I picked the sound "LYL," and I liked it because everyone can pronounce it, even babies."
Lucas returned to Lyon with a matured project. He had plans to create a source of the most diverse music, ranging from metal to modern classical, without commercializing itself the way traditional media would. “It's a very genuine project,” - Lucas explains. He knows each of the hosts of the regular shows personally as he used to meet them at parties and concerts before. They’ve spent time together, became friends and agreed to cooperate.
“The vibe of the person behind the show is very important. I will never broadcast a crew, a label or a person that I'm not on the same level with.
Lyon is relatively small, though, despite the seeming closeness, it is quite difficult to cover the city's musical life in a single glance. In an attempt to get deeper into it, one can easily get lost in the variety of artists, labels, parties and concerts that promote a wide range of musical directions - from funk and house to instrumental and avant-garde music. LYL Radio has become home to all sophisticated local selectors, geeks, and experimenters. Trypheme with her monthly take on melodic electronics, Max Duplan and his collection of library music, the SILO collective and the rare gems in the field of avant-garde and experimental music, the Macadam Mambo's show entitled "L'important Dans La Vie, C'est De Continuer De Danser!", The Pilotwings with a selection of leftfield disco, synth jams are only a tiny part of sounds one can discover on LYL.
"We are local," - states Lucas Bouissou. "I think it is very important to connect with your immediate neighborhood - with people that help and inspire you. So, first of all, I would like to convince my neighbors to listen to the radio rather than people on the internet that I will probably never meet.”
LYL thrive on the many efforts of its past and present, occasional and regular contributors. As for the current team, it consists of nine people who work in shifts. The duties include working with data and communications, as well as cleaning up the studio and welcoming the hosts. Despite the well-structured workflow, Lucas emphasizes: "There is no marketing strategy behind it, no communications strategy. We’ve never really worked on promoting ourselves in the way, perhaps, media should. People that are working on LYL are not coming from the marketing background, sales or public relations. We are just music geeks."
From the very beginning, the radio has existed autonomously, deliberately refusing sponsorship, grants and state support. This idea distinguishes LYL from many other stations that are regularly funded by major brands. LYL funds itself: parties, concerts, and cooperation with festivals are its primary income sources. Lucas is not interested in gathering an audience, and he doesn’t care much about the needs and demands of listeners. You rarely find "big names" in any of the radio shows. Here, everything passes through the rigorous filter of the founder. Lucas puts it this way: "We are coming from the underground scene. I mean the small structures, the small labels, the small venues, people who are doing their thing discreetly and are not looking for any fame or any retribution. That is what the underground means to me.
"That’s what we want to represent - this kind of approach, ethics - the people who are making music just because they want and have to do their thing and that’s it."
In 2016, LYL Radio launched a broadcast in Paris led by the key figure of the Paris scene, Marine Tordjmann, better known as Oko Dj. "Marine lived in Lyon for a while, and we had some people in common, and at some point, we met and became friends. Shortly after, she went to me and asked about a lot of things concerning the creation of the radio, because she wanted to create one in Paris. After the meeting, she realized that it is really heavy work. So we decided to propose her to create her own radio but through LYL. That's how everything's started."
Lucas has passed the control over a new outlet and all the system developments to Marine. She is still in charge of the Paris branch and also runs the "Synchronisme ou Barbarie" show with the Bruits de la Passion team, as well as the monthly "PU$$Y NIGHTMARE" which features only female artists.
This year the founder plans to launch 40 new shows, and also to host more events outside of Lyon. These include parties with the residents in Switzerland, Berlin, and Italy featuring interviews, special shows, and broadcasts. Despite the rapid development, Bouissou points out that his next task is not to build the traffic or generate more content, but rather keep on working on the specifics of each show and the promotion of the personalities behind it. Thus, the LYL schedule will soon be refreshed by interviews and talks with the hosts of regular broadcasts.
"Playing music, doing a radio show, making a selection - everyone can do it nowadays, and there are a lot of people having a good taste, and they could really be on the radio. But it is not enough. You have to work more on the identity.”
But these are not all goals of LYL. Perhaps, the main one for Lucas Bouissou this year is the opening of his own venue with a bar and cafe, which will also become a new home for the radio. It is partly a strategic decision: instead of giving the station away into the tenacious paws of brands and packing the shows with advertising, Lucas has developed another way to sustain. On the other hand it is simply the continuation of his personal history and LYL's, as he speaks with a particular thrill: "My father is a chef, and my mother works in agriculture. I’m really into the fields, into welcoming people and providing dinners. Every weekend we have guests that are only passing through the city, and we invite them over to have a show here. Most of the time they are also dining here, so we cook for them. At one point I thought that we have to open a place where we can do that professionally. This way we create a new economy that can help to cover the radio needs and help it grow."
Sooner or later, any cultural project may be under the threat of the inevitable commercialization. In Lucas Bouissou's case, however, it becomes clear that he is not going to abandon his principles. Perhaps that's why, despite the enormous number of podcasts, the supremacy of streaming services, music consumption algorithms, and the absorption of niche projects by a commercial machine, LYL remains an untouched island of freedom apart from the frightening realities of the industry.
"I think it goes this way because there isn't any ambition behind the radio -  just promoting good music, promoting what our friends are doing and enjoying the thing we are all doing. No one expects anything, or force us into a way or a manner of doing things, and that is cool. We have our freedom."

Text: Tanya Voytko