Don’t Be Weird, It’s Just Toronto’s Raina

Earlier this month, Indie 88 afternoon drive host Raina Douris was voted the best radio broadcaster in Toronto by NOW Magazine readers. For those of us in TO and who have been around the radio biz (which I have for quite a few years now), it’s a pretty awesome accolade. In my mind, it’s well-deserved. If we’re not listening to SiriusXM in our car on the ride home (and hey, we often are, since they pay the bills and satellite radio rules), we’ve got Indie 88 going. Though it’s only been broadcasting for a little over a year, the station is a fresh coat of paint on the alternative terrestrial radio format, and Raina’s a huge part of it. Plus, I like her as a person. We’ve met a handful of times, my favourite being a fun discussion about Talking Heads at a Toronto bar a few years ago. Oh, and did I mention she’s my daughter’s favourite DJ to boot.

Along with her day gig, Raina’s also a visual artist, and currently has a show going on at Fountain in downtown Toronto. I looked at her work at her website, liked what I saw, and sent her a message to see if she wanted to chat about her art, radio and more. She did, we did, and here’s what came out of our email conversation.

Raina-610x406

So, you’re the Queen of Indie Rock broadcasting in Toronto AND a visual artist – how’d that wind up happening?

Oooh! You flatter me! Thank you! Art was my first love. I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon. In grade one, we had to do a project on what we wanted to be when we grew up – I said “an artist.” I drew myself in a beret, holding a paint palette. But when it came time to choose a direction after I graduated from high school, and it came down to illustration vs. radio, I chose radio… partly because I knew that I would never stop making visual art on my own. And I haven’t.

When I first met you, oh so many years ago, you were working behind the camera and on the web for Toronto’s biggest rock radio cluster – I’m guessing you’ve always thought visually to a certain degree, even when working in different mediums?

Absolutely! That job was a wonderful combination of what I was in school for and my personal interests. The great thing about creating content in the “internet age” is that you don’t have to choose just one thing. You can create across various media.

Underpants Hat by Raina Douris
Underpants Hat by Raina Douris

When I’m looking at your art, my first thoughts go to Harvey Pekar and Crumb being at least a bit of an influence? Am I right? What other visual artists do you admire? And why?

R. Crumb, definitely. Huge. I can see why you’d think Pekar was an influence but I’ll admit I never really got into his work much until more recently. The incredible (and multi-talented) Chad VanGaalen is a big one. I’m also a huge fan of the NFB – I grew up watching animations they put out by artists like Cordell Barker, Caroline Leaf and Norman McLaren. Other influences when I was younger included Dali and Modigliani. Surrealism! Naked women with no eyes!

Can this suit be taken in a little?
Can this suit be taken in a little?

I know you love Talking Heads, and David Byrne is a serious renaissance man – any inspiration from him in your creative life?

Absolutely. One of my favourite things about Talking Heads is the lyricism… listening to Talking Heads can get me out of a creative block. Byrne also has such a brilliant visual flair. Those enormous shoulders in the suit blazer from Stop Making Sense? So simple, but so effective. He’s got such a strong vision and such a fearlessness and such a CLEVERNESS in the way he expresses himself.

Putting your work on display on the web is a great way to get exposure, but I think every visual artist loves the idea of having some sort of physical space to show their wares – how did your art show with Joel French come together?

Joel is a hugely ambitious, busy guy. He plays in approximately 3000 different bands, Djs and still manages to find time to create art. He had just had his first physical art show at The Fountain a few months ago, and we’d long admired each others’ work, so he asked if I wanted to do jump in and do a show with him. On top of his own pieces, he did all the organizational and logistical stuff. It’s a good thing he did, too, because it’s unlikely I would have ever gotten my shit together well enough to put one on myself.

Hangover Self Portrait
Hangover Self Portrait

Can you find any correlation between your daytime gig and your art – is their any sort of shared commonality to them? 

Sort of. Whether creating art or hosting, you’re always trying to find new, interesting, engaging ways to connect and communicate ideas.

Best Radio Personality in Toronto, as voted by the readers of NOW Magazine – how did that feel to score that accolade? 

Unreal! The other people nominated in that category are some of my broadcasting heroes, so I really didn’t think I stood a chance at winning. When you work on the radio, you spend a lot of time alone in a room, hoping that what you’re saying is connecting with people. Winning this kind of award is an awesome reassurance that people are actually hearing you… and enjoying it!

Favourite new band that people should be checking?

Brave Shores are sounding fantastic. They’re from here in Toronto and just released their self-titled debut EP a little while ago, we’ve been spinning their song “Never Come Down.” Weaves is a weird and wonderful Toronto band I’ve been keeping my eye on as well. Also, check out Absolutely Free.

Your fave Talking Heads song at this very second?

For a while there, I’d sort of forgotten about “Heaven” but recently went on a wander through Fear of Music and remembered how beautiful it is.

And finally, anything else we should know about Raina?

I never know how to answer this question.

You can check out Raina’s art show, Don’t Be Weird, on now through December 3 at Fountain in Toronto. You can see more of her work at her website and follow her on Twitter @rahrahraina

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