North Carolina’s Yep Roc isn’t just another traditional southern record label: it’s long played home to Grammy winners (Dave Alvin), indie favs (the Apples In Stereo) and punk rock royalty (Billy Bragg) alike. And recently, Yep Roc has expanded to Yep Roc Music Group, which encompasses all Yep Roc albums as well as releases from the Cocteau Twins-founded label Bella Union. Jay Lewis, who heads the radio department at Yep Roc Music Group, took a few minutes to tell CMJ what’s what in Haw River.

Aside from throwing impromptu karaoke parties, what’s a day in the life of a radio promoter at Yep Roc Music Group?
Well, as I’m sure every intelligent promoter states, my days stay pretty hectic. I promote not only for Yep Roc, but also Bella Union and a few other smaller labels so I’m kept busy planning the overall radio strategy and tactics for each project. The day always starts off with a large cup of coffee, continues on with calls to artists/managers/stations, marketing meetings, calls with promoters about projects they’re working for YRMG (Yep Roc Music Group), mailings, in-studio pitches/coordination and all the other small details that ensue through the day. I also make a point to get out of the Redeye (our parent company/distributor) warehouse and go for lunch with the co-workers at any number of our fine Haw River/Graham dining establishments. I’m also the internship coordinator for Redeye, so I’m also coordinating their schedules and interviewing new interns and making sure they stay busy.

What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had working in the radio department?
There are several, but the most rewarding is when our artists are excited about getting airplay on a specific station and hearing about their experiences at the in-studios I coordinated. I sometimes get wrapped up in the logistics and promoting aspect of radio, so it’s always a treat when the artist and station email or call me back letting me know how great of a time they had on the in-studio. It’s also rewarding when I talk to new (and not-so-new) programmers and they tell me how much they love (or don’t love so much) a record we have out. Feedback of any type is always appreciated.

What were you up to before you started at YR?
Well I was the music director for nearly four years at WUTK 90.3 FM The Rock in Knoxville, Tennessee (go Vols!) where I was introduced to college radio. I graduated in 2008 and was hired on at Yep Roc shortly after to work in the radio department. Before I went to UT Knoxville, I was in the military for seven years and lived in Sacramento and Maine and a bunch of other places. So basically I love life. I like the night life. I like to boogie.

Lately, many college and non-comm. stations have been put on the spot to defend their relevancy. What would you say makes these stations you work with important in 2011?
Unfortunately for some of these stations nothing I can say will change their situation. Those stations will probably need to get motivated and be more involved in their community in addition to just playing excellent music. Stations can get involved by gaining the support of local business with underwriting, show sponsorship and being proactive rather than reactive to the possible changes. Some stations see this action as “selling out” when it’s really just providing a service to the community, enhancing the awareness of your station and limiting the chance of your station becoming threatened by being put on the spot to defend their relevancy. If you show on a consistent basis for several years that you’re relevant, then you shouldn’t have this concern. Granted, it’s a lot easier to type these solutions than just get out and do them, but by going to the excellent CMJ panels about marketing and promoting your station, you can gain critical insight to keep the issue from arising.

All that being said, there are a number of threatened stations like WRVU (Nashville) and others that are in danger because the ‘powers that be’ have the wrong idea or perception of the station. These stations are doing all of what I mentioned above and more. These stations and the staff there are a lot smarter than me and making strides in keeping their station relevant and their bosses need to know that the non-commercial and college radio stations in their town provide an economic (by supporting local shows which generate revenue) and cultural (informing the community and providing them with a unique product they can’t obtain elsewhere in their market) service.

What new releases (and/or events) can we expect from Yep Roc this spring?
We have a lot of new signings across all the labels that everyone will hear about very soon. Everyone should already have the new Gang Of Four and Fujiya And Miyagi. Headed out soon: The Baseball Project (Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Linda Pittmon), Heidi Spencer And The Rare Birds, the Fleshtones and Bell X1.

Okay, Jay, you are on a desert island and no one can make fun of your taste in music. Which albums do you blast so loud that the whales can feel the vibrations in the ocean?
I would hope that I had a radio with a super strong FM antenna so I could just listen to the radio… but since you’re asking:Joy Division’s Still, The first two Deftones albums, Holiday Shores, Josh Rouse and the new Madvillain because I know it will be awesome. Oh what the hell.. also anything by the Beach Boys… because I’m on a beach. Get it?