LISTEN UP! MAPLEWOOD IS RADIO-SILENT NO LONGER by Donny Levit
Bone Pool Radio celebrates one year on the air.
It all started out with a radio boom box and a Barbie disco record player.
In the early 1980s, Michelle Lomuscio was attending Montclair Kimberly Academy on a scholarship. She and her parents would make the commute to school from her home in Bloomfield. During those trips, the car radio blared a conglomeration of classic rock, oldies, baseball games, Howard Stern, and commercial jingles. Lomuscio was listening and soaking it all in.
“My dad made a deal with me,” she recalls. “He told me that if I got on the honor roll, he’d take me to the store and I could pick out any record I’d like.” Soon after she hit the honor roll, Lomuscio took home Blondie’s album Autoamerican and played it on that Barbie disco record player. “I didn’t have to think twice about which record I wanted,” she says. “When I saw what Debbie Harry [lead singer of Blondie] looked like, I wanted to look like her. I wanted to be her. She was just mesmerizing to me.”
Blondie was only the beginning of Lomuscio’s deep passion for music. And decades later, she is the founder and owner of Bone Pool Radio. It’s Maplewood’s very own independent radio station, and it can be accessed at bonepoolradio.com. Since July 16, 2018, Lomuscio, who first moved to Maplewood in the early 90s, and her close-knit team have bathed the local airwaves with a potent concoction of music genres, including indie rock, ska, punk, local bands, and more. And while they are on the cusp of celebrating their one-year anniversary, BPR’s programming continues to expand.
“She is a fearless, smart, and incredibly intuitive leader,” says South Orange native Timmy Smith, a station DJ for the program “Timmy Smith’s Digital Mixtape.” In addition to Smith and Lomuscio, the core team is rounded out by Diana Tynan and Frank McKeon, as well as support from Michelle’s husband, Ritchie Lomuscio.
In order to broadcast diverse music genres, BPR boasts a lineup of impressive DJs, including Benny Campa, Paul Haley, Peter Sampson, and Frederick Zorn. “We’re all coming from similar musical backgrounds, and kind of speaking that language,” says Smith. “And we don’t want you to just listen to it and have the station be in the background. We have a common goal of trying to connect with our peers, and whoever else wants to join the party.”
Any listener with Wi-Fi can access Lomuscio’s internet radio station. “I would like for BPR to be an alternative to Sirius [Satellite Radio] station so you don’t have to subscribe,” she explains. Her core team and DJs volunteer their time. But the hope is that the station will be able to be monetized in the not so distant future. “One of our ultimate goals is to be syndicated,” says Lomuscio.
So how did this local station get its intriguing name? Lomuscio explains that she often takes her dog to Preferred Pet Care, a dog daycare, boarding, and grooming business on Rutgers Street in Maplewood. The outdoor area boasts a bone-shaped pool during the warm weather – often surrounded by a mélange of dogs. “I don’t know if they fully understand what’s happening to them, says Lomuscio. “All they know is that they feel cool in the pool.”
It doesn’t take much to get Lomuscio talking about her musical tastes and influences. While Blondie was her first deep dive into the music world, she explains that her world was influenced by WLIR, an independent radio station emanating from Long Island. “I was trying to tune into [the now defunct] WPLJ so finding [W]LIR was by accident,” she says. “The whole New York City punk rock scene, the Ramones, the Talking Heads – that was the music they were playing. And then they started playing the Smiths and the Cure. I remember hearing these bands and I just wanted to sit home all day and listen to the radio.”
However, she’s well aware that putting together a radio station takes a lot more than assembling killer playlists and programs. She believes that her 16 years in the book publishing business – at both HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster – provided her with the necessary skill set to create a radio station from scratch. “I worked with the editing department, the art department, the design department, copy editing, managing editing, and publicity. Everything came to my desk,” she says. “With BPR, I’m dealing with all facets of promotion, content and design. It’s just a different product. So I’m beaming it out via a different platform. Back then, I was beaming it out through bookshops. This is just a different end product. I think that it’s a natural fit for me.”
Take a listen at any point during the day, and you’ll hear another element that the team views as a top priority for BPR’s programming. Lomuscio is a proponent of local New Jersey bands. “I’d always known that there was a scene here in Maplewood and South Orange, and I heard some of the bands and they’re good. I want to hear them more,” she says. “And we’ve rippled out to Springfield, Montclair, and Union. And we’re getting more out of central Jersey. New Brunswick has a big music scene and they’re starting to get on board.” Lomuscio estimates that for every six songs played on the station, one is by a local band. “We promote them, broadcast live shows, and love to sponsor local shows. And people are coming and just packing the places,” she says. Lomuscio has partnered with local businesses and organizations such as General Store, Maplewood Mercantile, and Rent Party.
“I spent a majority of the 80s making mixtapes instead of studying algebra,” says Smith, who grew up on Prospect Street in South Orange as the youngest of seven siblings. He refers to his older brothers as “his professors” who exposed him to a wide range of styles and tastes. “The other 10-year-old kids weren’t listening to Elvis Costello, the Pretenders, and Squeeze before they hit the mainstream,” he said.
At only 20 years old, Smith was lead vocalist and drummer for Astronaut, a band which opened for Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr., and others. He went to school at University of Georgia so he could be immersed in the Athens music scene that spawned the career of R.E.M. “This is the story of my life,” he says. “It’s always been ruled by music.”
Smith has worked for Sony Music since 1998. He was nominated for the 2019 Grammys for producing both the Stranger Things and Lady Bird soundtracks. However, creating his weekly “Timmy Smith’s Digital Mixtape” show for BPR is a huge priority for him. And on top of it all, he drums for a local band called Thee (yes, double e) Volatiles. “I like to think about it as my punk rock bowling league,” he says.
So how do the BPR kids feel about their parents forming a radio station? “My two daughters, Riley and Daisy helped out with a spot for my mixtape show,” says Smith. “One of them is really pretty simple: ‘Bone Pool Radio; not bad for old-people music.’”
As BPR nears its one-year anniversary mark, Lomuscio has been organizing an impressive list of local bands for a live concert celebration July 12 at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The current lineup includes Die-Cast Cars, Hermano Stereo, Lily Vakili Band, Quiz Show, and Tri-State.
Both Lomuscio and Smith were greatly amused that AARP [American Association of Retired Persons] used the BPR team as part of a recent advertisement campaign. “[The station] is a way for us to reinvigorate our emotional phantom limbs,” says Smith. “And that’s the beauty of aging to me, is that you have so much history and perspective now.”
“Yeah, I guess this middle age thing is happening to me,” says Lomuscio. “But all I know is that I feel cool. It’s like we’re all just sitting in the bone pool.”
Visit BPR’s website at bonepoolradio.com for programming details and download the app at the App Store or Google Play.
Donny Levit is a journalist, writer and Maplewood resident. He is the author of Rock n’ Roll Lies, 10 Stories. Follow him on @donnyreports.