By Colin Campbell
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor
Failed inventions, Victorian dress, literature and a variety of music have become common features on Carrboro radio station WCOM-FM 103.5 in recent months.
The eclectic mix is a part of “The Clockwork Cabaret,” a new radio show that represents the many facets of a new subculture called “steampunk.” The program airs on Tuesdays at midnight.
Hosts Kara O’Dor and Emma Cabrera, known to listeners as sisters Klaude and Emmett, said they hope the show helps the expansion of the steampunk movement’s local following.
“Carrboro is totally steampunk and it doesn’t realize it,” O’Dor said. “This is a great, artsy town, and a lot of people would jump on it.”
The steampunk subculture is characterized by an affinity for the fashion and literature of the Victorian era as well as modern and futuristic technologies, leading some to describe it as “neo-Victorianism.”
“The Clockwork Cabaret” features readings and book reviews of literature, as well as music from a mixture of styles and periods that evoke an “old-time” aesthetic.
“It’s easy to find songs that fit the genre really well,” O’Dor said. Recent programs have included music from Irish rock band Flogging Molly, Goth musicians In Tenebris and 1950s pianist Joe “Fingers” Carr. Often the music centers around a theme, such as Paris or the sea.
O’Dor and Cabrera said they each own more than 1,000 CDs, and all songs on the show come from their collections, built from years of experience as nightclub disc jockeys.“This is going to help broaden people’s musical horizons a bit,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera and O’Dor have created detailed personalities for their on-air alter-egos, the Davenport sisters.
“They’re pretty much extensions of our own personalities,” O’Dor said.
The Davenports are the orphaned children of scientists and they travel on an airship, the Calpurnia. Emmett is an archivist and the brains of the family, while Klaude keeps bees and creates failed inventions. O’Dor and Cabrera create intricate plotlines during the program, giving it the style of an old-time radio show.
The quirky characters add humor to the show, O’Dor said.
“We want people to laugh, even if they’re laughing at us,” O’Dor said. “We’ve rooted ourselves very firmly in the ridiculous.”
The choice to create the characters stems from the acting experience of both hosts. O’Dor’s family ran a professional puppet company while she was growing up, and Cabrera has also appeared in plays.
“I’ve always been typecast as the goofy, weird character,” Cabrera said.
In keeping with WCOM’s mission as Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s community radio station, the show seeks contributions from its listeners such as submissions of poetry and stories, O’Dor said.
“We’re very open to people becoming involved,” she said.
O’Dor and Cabrera also encourage their listeners to become involved in the steampunk subculture beyond the radio show. They will host a steampunk party called “The Clockwork Ball” on March 29 at Boxer’s Ringside nightclub in Durham, where Cabrera regularly serves as a DJ.
Both said they became attracted to the steampunk movement in the past year, as it has grown from a literary movement to a subculture. They make their own Victorian period clothing using items found in thrift stores.
While the steampunk subculture is new, O’Dor said it appeals to many of her lifelong interests.
“I started collecting rare books,” she said, noting that she works at Nice Price Books in Carrboro. “I’ve always been a very dorky, vintage kid. It made sense for us to do an old-timey radio show.”