DJ profile: Franki Gillis’ “Alphabet Soup”


Franki Gillis ’20 poses next to WMCN’s immense CD collection. Photo by Lily Hannaher ’19.

Each week The Mac Weekly speaks with a DJ on Macalester’s radio station, 91.7 WMCN. This week we sat down with Franki Gillis ’20 to talk about her show “Alphabet Soup.”

The rapport cultivated between DJs whose shows sit side by side is a special one. The handoff — an entanglement of aux chords, mics and DJs behind the soundboard — becomes habitual, easing into a friendly routine. Sunday mornings are like this for me and the DJ that follows my show. Usually found rolling in around 9:50 a.m. while I begin wrapping up my show, Franki Gillis hosts “Alphabet Soup,” which airs every Sunday at 10 a.m. on WMCN. This week, I stuck around to give her show a thorough listen.

Franki Gillis ’20 poses next to WMCN’s immense CD collection. Photo by Lily Hannaher ’19.
]1 Franki Gillis ’20 poses next to WMCN’s immense CD collection. Photo by Lily Hannaher ’19.

Gillis is a first year—a diver for the Mac swim and dive team who is considering Classics as a possible major. She’s from River Forest, a suburb of Chicago. With such accessibility to Chicago, it’s easy for her to get to the concerts she really cares about. When asked to compare the music scene in the Cities to back home, the first thing that came up was First Avenue. “First Ave is a lot more affordable than a lot of the concerts in Chicago. I saw the Strumbellas there—very funny live,” Gillis says, a knowing smile on her face that only others who’ve seen the band fully understand, I’m sure.

Becoming a DJ was an easy decision for her. One of the station managers, Hope Johnson, was her Macward Bound mentor and encouraged her to try out radio. It wasn’t a tough sell to a music lover like Gillis. She’s also a fan of her time slot. Sunday morning shows are great for giving motivation to get up, do a show to jam out to and then follow up with brunch and homework. When I asked if finding songs only starting with a single letter was difficult to do week to week, she said she has enough music on her phone that she can reference the alphabetized list there. Otherwise, family members and the internet provide plenty of options.

I admit that this was the first time I sat down to listen to Alphabet Soup despite hearing Gillis open her show every week. The letter of the week: G. Gillis opened with 2013’s “Get Lucky.” Every song throughout the hour begins with this letter, but she’s got a whole variety of genres to listen to. Songs varied from “Ghost” by Run River North, one of my favorites from this show, to “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles, to the middle school dance classic, Flo Rida’s “Good Feelin’.” “I tend toward more indie and classic rock, but I do try to vary it,” Gillis admits.

You can expect little tidbits and/or anecdotes paired with almost every song she plays. I observed this first hand in the studio; ranging from the funny to the random, these short interjections contributed a significant amount of the vibe Gillis creates with Alphabet Soup. She also keeps things fresh by avoiding playing the same bands in consecutive shows. We talked about how easy it is to include our favorite bands while coming up with playlists for each week. The band fun. is one of her favorites, something that I found out during the interview, but also confirmed while listening to her show. As I listened to her tell anecdotes and facts after playing fun.’s “The Gambler,” I noticed how naturally the information came to her. She didn’t need to look up anything; she knew what she was talking about.

We also talked about our personal music practices. We are proponents of playlists on playlists on playlists; both of us have them for things from napping to exercising. She and I agreed soundtracks are the best for studying; her favorite is a Harry Potter soundtrack. “Also whenever I’m just chilling alone — music’s gotta be on in the background,” Gillis urged. On finding new music, Gillis found that “once you find a genre you like, it’s easier to look within that genre.” And her current obsession? Bastille’s new album.

Check her out next Sunday at 10 a.m. on WMCN 91.7, or go to the online site for the livestream link.