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Wherever the waves take her

A look at the passionate, up-and-coming DJ behind CJLO’s Waves of Honey

It’s 10 p.m. on a Friday night, and DJ Honeydrip just started her set. Tonight, it’s at the Ti Agrikol bar. The night starts off quiet. Intimate couples and groups chat near the bar as mellow hip-hop beats fill the air. Two young men walk into the bar and immediately start swaying to the rhythm. It’s not long before others follow suit and take to the dance floor. Honeydrip makes eye contact with one of the dancers, smiles and sways to the music. As the bar fills, she switches up the beat, shifting to some African-inspired dance tunes, and the crowd responds. Honeydrip tunes out the people standing near her, her focus now on cueing the next song. She puts one of her headphones to her ear, twists a few dials on the mixer, all while rocking her body to the music. The transition is seamless. I comment on the complexity of the equipment in front of her, and how easy she makes it look. “It used to look foreign to me too,” she says. “Trust me.”

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Portrait of Tiana McLaughlan, known as Honeydrip. Photo by Ana Hernandez

Two years ago, before Honeydrip was Honeydrip, she was Tiana McLaughlan and she was in her first year at Concordia University. A cheerleader all through high school and CEGEP, McLaughlan was searching for a new hobby at a school that didn’t have a cheer squad. “I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my free time anymore,” she said. An advertisement in the school agenda for CJLO, the university’s radio station, caught her eye. “I was very, very keen… I wanted to meet them, to show that I was super interested,” McLaughlan said. So she set up a meeting with the station’s volunteer coordinator. “Apparently most people aren’t as keen as I am usually, so I got in right away. A week later, I was offered to apply for a show.”

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McLaughlan’s radio show, Waves of Honey, features mellow electronic music and interviews with musicians and DJs. Photo by Katya Teague

McLaughlan said the vibe she aims for with Waves of Honey, her Sunday night show, is “the kind of music that people groove to, bob their head to.” She often plays hip-hop instrumentals and smooth, synth-based electronic music. “I always try to keep a mellow vibe—watching the sunset or just chilling in the park kind of music,” she said. McLaughlan said the show made her want to DJ, and gave her a weekly opportunity to practice. “It helped me learn much faster,” she said. It’s also given her the chance to connect with various musicians and DJs. Many of the artists featured on her show are people she’s met through SoundCloud. “At first, you kind of feel like every artist is out of reach—they’re famous, they must be, so there’s no way you can talk to them,” she said. “But what I’ve learned a lot is that they’re super humble, and they’re super open to being interviewed, whether they have thousands of followers or not.”

In January, McLaughlan took on the role of electronic music program director at CJLO. A major part of the job is promoting the electronic music community and connecting her station’s DJs with local artists and bigger names. She herself has been getting increasing opportunities to showcase her own DJing. On Jan. 20, she opened for Purity Ring, an electronic music duo from Alberta, at Newspeak. “Newspeak was always somewhere that I really, really wanted to play,” McLaughlan said. “It’s a place that has international DJs and performers come through, and I’m just super blessed to have gotten to play there.”

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Honeydrip performing live. Photo by Mira Barbara

Ideally, McLaughlan would like to get into Concordia’s electroacoustics program. “I know a lot of people who’ve been in that program, and they’re amazing producers and artists,” she said. “I would definitely want to create my own music,” she said. “I feel like if there’s one thing I want to leave behind in this world, it would be some cool tracks.” Yet becoming a big-time performer isn’t a must for McLaughlan. She discussed career possibilities such as music editing, owning her own record label or even working for music festivals once she completes her marketing degree at Concordia.“I mean, we’ll see where life takes me,” she said. “I’m so into music in general that I don’t care where I end up, so long as I’m doing something related to music.”

It’s 10 p.m. on a Sunday night, and “you are listening to Waves of Honey on CJLO 1690AM. This is your host, Honeydrip.” The show kicks off with “Racquets” by Indian Wells. McLaughlan adds a personal touch to the atmospheric instrumental, playing around with some effects on her mixer. “Some DJs like playing around with effects. Others not so much,” she said. I ask her if she’s the kind who does. She grins and nods enthusiastically as she twists a dial, highlighting the toc-toc tennis sounds that inspired the song’s title.

Later in the show, she interviews Canadian DJ Kid Koala. She’s a little nervous, but soon they’re having an animated discussion about his innovative, unorthodox way of practicing scratching using the wax paper burger wrapping from his fast food job before he could afford proper equipment. “Very primitive, humble beginnings,” he tells her. “But also very joyful times.” Sounds not unlike the circumstances McLaughlan currently finds herself in.

Tune in to Waves of Honey every Sunday night from 10 to 11 p.m. on CJLO 1690AM.

About Katya Teague