Bringing the ‘magic behind the turntables’: Incoming MBE hosts Anthony Valadez and Novena Carmel share music picks

Written by Amy Ta and Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Rosalie Atkinson

KCRW’s flagship morning music program, Morning Becomes Eclectic, is about to get two new hosts: Novena Carmel and Anthony Valadez. It’s a first for MBE, which has been around for more than 40 years and has become an integral part of LA’s music scene. 

“Novena and I have a history together in terms of projects and things outside of the station,” says Valadez. “We want to make sure that our magic translates through KCRW because this is a new adventure for us. We want to make sure that our humor comes across well, and also the magic behind the turntables in what we do.” 

Carmel and Valadez have been practicing their hosting duties together. Despite working in two separate studios, they’re able to see each other through glass windows. 

“She keeps me on my feet. … She and I are having this musical conversation with our different rigs,” he says. “But most importantly, we want that conversation to exist with listeners, with people who are struggling because of COVID. Folks taking the bus, folks going to work, or people who just love music, we want that dialogue to include that audience and break that fourth wall.”

Carmel’s co-hosting duties follow in the footsteps of Anne Litt, who served as first female MBE host and programming director of KCRW's music department since January 2020. Litt will continue her role as programming director moving forward.  

“I love being the first anything, but I'll be the second too, you know? As long as it's fun,” Carmel says. “I feel like she's passing the torch to me in a way too. We’re both the first.” 

As a DJ, Carmel aims to bring her go-with-the-flow vibe to MBE, and plans to create a smooth listening experience for KCRW audiences. 

“I like to have an idea of things I might play, put together a folder or a crate. …. It's a mixture of being prepared and being spontaneous. … We don't want to get stuck to any kind of format,” Carmel says. “We don't want it to feel too hectic, going back and forth. … We're going to figure out the flow, and we'll try different things and see what feels good.”

Carmel and Valadez are keeping their eyes on these artists for 2021

Valadez recommends 24-year old duendita from Queens, New York. “I love her ability to incorporate spirituality, love, loss, [and] also celebrating the uplifting of her ancestry.”

Arlo Parks’ latest song, “Black Dog,” caught Carmel’s ears and attention. “I know that a lot of her songs have to do with mental health and depression. … And she's really interested in supporting folks that are going through that,” Carmel says. 

In Kate Davis’ newest album, “A Strange Boy,” she displays her fun approach to music. “I love how quirky and interesting she is. And even just with the song titles alone,” Carmel says, referencing the album’s second track “I’ll Do Anything but Break Dance for Ya, Darling.” 

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that Anne Litt became KCRW’s program director of music in January 2020, a role she held simultaneously while hosting Morning Becomes Eclectic.