Mark Mybeck and Phil Rapchak [photo by (Illustration) Mark Anderson]


Flying Around the Sun brings local music to the radio and uses the power of rock to fight hunger

That buzz growing over the local airwaves for the last few months? It’s the sound of two men flying around the sun, going boldly where no man has gone before (where few have dared), and in the process, providing us with the word that original music is alive and very well in The Region. And now that they have successfully fed the public's hunger for local sounds, they're setting their sights on a loftier goal for this holiday season. By organizing some of the best musical artists from their travels for a big concert event benefitting the Foodbank of Northwest Indiana, Mark Mybeck and Phil Rapchak are out to address a more serious hunger.

On July 1, 2010 at 9:00 PM, Mark Mybeck and Phil Rapchak entered the studio at WJOB AM 1230 in Hammond with a simple mission, to play original local music for one hour every week, and Flying Around the Sun was born. The longtime friends were excited by the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the music they’ve had the opportunity to hear for years in countless gigs around Northwest Indiana with their former band Whistling Jupiters, and more recently as the frontman (Mybeck) and bassist (Rapchak) in one of the area’s most prominent rock bands, Nomad Planets.

Four months later, that show has grown to fill a void it’s audience didn't know existed with the warm comfort of an old friend. So how did two guys with no previous radio experience end up here?

Mark: I’m friends with Ray Garcia from El Taco Real. He and I go back to high school … I was just telling him how much I like doing the little bit of radio stuff I've done, as far as promoting our [Nomad Planets] stuff. I always have fun doing it … and he said, “Alright, you know what, you’d be a natural at this. You should have a radio show. I’m gonna talk to my friend Jim [Dedelow] at WJOB” … And so I went in there and I talked to him and he said, “When do you want to do this? How about” … whatever date it was—it was like 2 weeks from then—and I don’t know what I'm even doing … I said, “How about July 1?”—because it sounds like a nice round date … [Nomad Planets] played a gig at Northwoods sometime around then, and I told Phil, “I’ve got this thing, you want to do this with me?”

Phil: When is it? Two weeks? OK.

They make it sound easy, but at the time there wasn’t much of a plan.

Phil: When we first went in there we didn’t really have any idea. The first show we were going to play mp3s and singles from people that sent stuff in to us, and talk about it between tracks. That was pretty much it … But then Mark had lined up various local musicians and artists to come in on the following weeks, so that was going to be the format. One week of playing recorded stuff and then the other three weeks of having live guests in the studio.

The format worked. But having a format alone doesn’t guarantee good radio. Despite the somewhat daunting lack of on-air studio experience, from the time they went live, it was obvious that there was a chemistry that made the show unique. It helped that Mybeck and Rapchak already had the kind of familiarity that can only come from years of playing together in a band.

Mark: We’ve been playing together for almost 20 years. And we worked together that far back—probably 21 years or something like that—for a short period of time. And it's like as soon as we met each other and found out the kind of bands that we listened to and the music we listened to, it’s like this is how we’ve been since. It’s just this natural chemistry. We crack each other up a lot is what we do.

It also helped that WJOB manager Jim “Jed” Dedelow is dedicated to keeping things local and loose. Ultimately the show is perfect for Dedelow’s vision of restoring the fiercely independent spirit of local radio.

Mark: He said, “You know if you’re going to do this, I don’t want it to be produced. We like things to be spontaneous. We like things that are local. Keep it local, don't branch out. We’ve had people in here before doing shows, bringing Chicago bands and stuff. It never really works because at some point people stop listening because it's not about [The Region]” … There’s no pressure and Jim doesn’t have any real expectations other than you maintain a sense of responsibility. And we totally respect the history of the station and the fact that we grew up when WJOB was a little bit more in the forefront of people’s minds. Because it was always on back then.

Phil: It was part of everything we did. There wasn’t as much FM Radio …

Mark: … or Cable or whatever …

Phil: Everybody always had the radio on.

Restoring the spirit of radio is one thing but sitting down with a bunch of musicians in a small studio once a week with no script and ad-libbing an hour of good radio seems like a recipe for potential disaster. Is it really as easy as Mybeck and Rapchak seem to make it look?

Mark: It's been strangely comfortable.

Phil: I was usually a very quiet guy, kind of shy… but talking music with people on a radio show is really cool so it’s like I don’t care, I’ll talk about anything.

Mark: And we sort of stacked the deck early. We’ve known Joe from Steepwater for a long time. We knew Josh from Land of Atlantis enough to think, “If nothing else happens, I can keep talking to him if these other people are not going to be responsive. But so far it’s like everybody’s been really responsive, very cool. Everybody goes out of there thinking, “wow that was fun!”, which is all we can really ask for.

The result has been thoroughly entertaining radio featuring a deft mix of shockingly eclectic artists. This week’s show may have been the best example yet. In a span of 15 minutes the audience was treated to an array of musical styles ranging from Soap Collectors’ warm electronic mix of dreamy vocals and scittering beats, to the jazzy-but-weird torch ballad—augmented by violin and trumpet—that wouldn't sound out of place in a David Lynch film provided by the Musical Saw, to Black Wyrm Seed’s darkly psychedelic stoner rawk, to the Americana roots rock crafted by Bunkertown. It’s hard to imagine hearing a more eclectic mix of music on the radio anywhere today. If this is the sound of music in The Region, then we are truly blessed, but where does all this eclecticism come from?

Mark: Maybe it's because there’s so much entertainment source out there. That people are seeing stuff on YouTube and they’re hearing stuff on the internet … there’s a lot more options out there…

Phil: You can get all those influences and discover things that you never would have.

And it isn’t just the variety. One thing Flying Around the Sun has proven is that The Region’s got talent. Rapchak and Mybeck are regularly impressed with the musical skills shown by their various guests.

Phil: Everybody we’ve had on so far are so good, and professional. Any one of these bands, I think, could get a major label contract and rival anything you hear on the radio.

Still, nobody’s tastes are quite the same, and all the chops in the world won’t necessarily guarantee that everyone is going to like everything they hear. That could be hard for the hosts, but dealing with quality people can make it easier to give everyone a fair chance to shine.

Phil: It happened with a band fairly recently where I wasn't really fond of their CD, and was like, “Well, this should be interesting.” They were very proficient, but at the same time it was something that I didn't really care for … But when they came in, I met the people and they played their music, and it made me really appreciate them and their music a lot more. Every time we go in there, I’m impressed with the people—really cool, down-to-earth people who are very interesting. And we haven’t really run into the rock ’n’ roll egos or anything like that.

Mark: We’ve met people that we wouldn't have met. We’ve heard music that we wouldn’t have heard. There are songs that we’ve played that I really like even though I wouldn’t have necessarily listened to that music before or even picked up a CD because I would have had a preconceived notion of who they were.

Phil: I feel the same way … And I always feel like if we’re feeling that way then the people that are listening are feeling the same way too. In that sense, I feel like we’re in the same spot the listeners are, we’re just asking the questions.

Which brings up a good question. Is there an audience for this, outside of those folks tuning in hoping to hear their song?

Phil: I think so. Some of the comments that we’ve had from people who are listening … are quite impressed by these people. And I am. I'm like a listener myself. I find it really cool to know there’s this much talent out here … I think people really like that. I think the more they find out, the more they’re apt to go out and dig into the area … This guy was leaving the other night and he said, “I just got three more friends on my Facebook page tonight.” and they sold a CD …

I know there’s people that do enjoy listening because they like to hear the stories that people tell. Sometimes when I ask to musical questions that might be boring to someone who’s not a musician I’m sort of conscious of that. I know I find it fascinating to know about all the different ways songs are arranged because we do things a certain way and you wonder how other people get to such points … So I don’t want to make the questions boring … But we’ve had some good feedback about that too, so I guess we’re not getting too technical or too far from the mainstream, non-musician.

Mark: Plus, I think that many of these bands that we have in there, people don’t ever really ask them about what they do, even if it is just basic like that. It’s taken for granted sometimes that when people are in bands they just do what they do and there’s no real rhyme or reason.

There’s no doubt that Flying Around the Sun has provided an incredible opportunity to local bands and artists. With an opportunity like this, you might think the pair are buried in an avalanche of submissions, right?

Mark: It's actually been a little disappointing.

Whether it’s nervousness, laziness, or just unawareness that has led to the lack of submissions, Flying Around the Sun will continue to be a sum of it’s parts, and those parts depend on the participation of those who want to be heard. To be heard send your CD to PO Box 9071, Highland Indiana 46322.

Mybeck and Rapchak have given a gift to the musicians of The Region, a chance to show their wares and get their due. But what makes this dynamic duo truly amazing is that they feel the need to keep on giving. On Friday, December 10 at the Art Theatre in downtown Hobart Indiana, Flying Around the Sun will present its first concert promotion featuring a stellar lineup of local talent including Groovatron, Joshua McCormack, and Nomad Planets. It’s a giant undertaking, but it’s for a hugely important cause … hunger. All proceeds will go to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. Of course Mybeck and Rapchak are typically humble about the affair:

Mark: it’s the holidays man, people need stuff. It makes you feel good. You’re giving something back … Three out of the last four years, we’ve done Food Bank stuff with Nomad Planets. It’s always been acoustic shows. We’d do a short set of our stuff and then a set of holiday songs. We did it at the old Blue Room, and then twice at Uncle Freddy’s Gallery in Highland … And this year, quite frankly, there was no venue to do that at. And I thought now that we have this show, we have a forum that we didn’t have back then. Hopefully, people will be listening and paying attention … I wanted to have Groovatron be a part of it right from the very beginning because they’re fun to play with and they’re great guys, and they have a following. And that’s the hardest thing to do, to find a band that is going to hopefully draw.

Phil: What we’ve done before, we got a substantial amount, but with a larger venue, with the three bands and hopefully the following that the bands have, we can make a difference with people’s holidays this year.

Mark: And the main thing is to get as much food for people as we can.

If there is credit to be taken, Mybeck and Rapchak are spreading it around …

Mark: I wanted it to be in the Art Theatre, because I thought, if we’re going to make this an event, let’s make it unique. I know one of the guys involved in the Rocky Horror Picture Show out there and he put me in touch with the owner, and the owner Scott Frey is very, very cool, and was very generous and said, “I support the Food Bank anyway, let’s just do this.”

It came about very organically, the way I had hoped it would. Hopefully there will be enough of a groundswell. Our sponsors are really pushing and Jeanie from personal art tattoo just got us a Santa, and she’s going to have a table with holiday-based temporary tattoos!

The show is open to all ages. Doors open at 6:30 and the bands taken the stage at 7:30 PM. Admission is $5 plus at least one non-perishable food item per person. All proceeds benefit the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. It’s really not a lot to ask for a good night of entertainment. And your attendance would be a nice way to say thanks to two guys that have been giving The Region everything they’ve got.

For more information visit the Facebook event page:!/event.php?eid=116874635038790

Tune into Flying Around the Sun every Thursday Night at 9:00 PM on AM 1230 WJOB or view a live stream of the broadcast at