I’m on the second floor of H Street’s Maketto sipping a latte when I realize I’m not 100 percent sure what the two people I’m meeting look like. I type their collective name, The Factory (stylized ThFctry), into Instagram and realize both Matt Jackson and Avery Showell aren’t ones to beat their chests. There are few proper selfies of the duo, as the stream of photos consists almost entirely of DC artists the two have interviewed or are celebrating – often both.
Despite this, they aren’t strangers to self-promotion, and have carved out a niche for themselves in the surrounding DMV by dabbling in several mediums to promote local hip-hop. The pair curates monthly playlists of entirely new releases and hosts artists cutting their teeth on their self-titled radio program produced at Full Service Radio inside AdMo’s LINE Hotel.
“We’re like hybrids,” Jackson tells me matter-of-factly after he and Showell arrive. “When we run into people, they don’t know whether to treat us like radio DJs of old or new-age playlisters. It’s like a weird gray area of curation that we’re in. Some people call us podcasters, some people call us radio hosts.”
Before the two climb the stairs of the coffee shop, I’m finally able to find a picture of them from a previous recording session. But it’s one of those Insta slideshows and theirs is the last one, buried underneath candids and posed shots of their interviewee.
Today, they are dressed like they’re coming back from the YMCA after a run of several 5-on-5’s in basketball shorts, thrifted T-shirts and athletic shoes. They’re dressed for the outside heat, so scalding the power cut out as they were ordering their iced coffees. Just as they sit down, the Maketto speakers come back on. It’s a hit from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s 2011 collaboration Watch the Throne, before the latter wore Trump’s hat and said flagrant things on TMZ.
“We’re going to do a Kanye interview one day,” Jackson says assuredly. “We’ve got some ideas for Kanye that we got to talk to him about – crazy, crazy ideas.”
At Salisbury University in 2014, the idea that Jackson and Showell would be hosting a radio show in the nation’s capital would have seemed like one of those “crazy ideas.” Showell’s primary goal in college was getting comfortable on a microphone and he wasn’t shy, quickly hosting different shows every year for the school’s radio station. The subject matter was “everything,” but he and his cohost at the time kept music a constant focal point.
“My background was always from the perspective of someone who wanted to get into the journalism side of it,” Showell says about his early on-air experiences. “I grew up in love with music, artists and genres. It was: How do I take this to a new level of engagement? What’s my next level?”
For Jackson, Salisbury marked his fourth college of attendance. Despite a music background, including a stint with a preteen, church-based, gospel hip-hop group, his primary focus for higher education was basketball. He played at three schools before arriving in the small Maryland town, calling himself the “college Rudy Gay.” Upon enrolling and acclimating to a lifestyle less consumed with athletic endeavors, Jackson linked up with Showell and discovered a connection through their backgrounds and the shared desire to highlight local artists.
“Every DJ we saw that was going in [to the college radio station] was using it like some kind of chill period of their day,” Jackson says. “They were going in there to chill with their friends and joke around, but they weren’t focusing on content. We thought, ‘Why don’t we do it like we’re on Radio One or SiriusXM right now?’ Taking that initiative at that time made us stand out.”
Their show was titled “Thank You for Not Snitching,” named after a music blog. In the middle of 2015, the radio show outgrew the small website, which left all parties a little unsettled. After parting ways, the friends were forced to decide on a new platform, name and mission, and thus ThFctry was born.
“We had to start a whole new thing because coming off of working with a blog, you don’t want to go after the same stories or same artists,” Jackson says. “We went back to the drawing board, because even if we were doing a good job finding new artists then, we have to an even better job now and make those new relationships.”
Showell adds, “That was a crucial period. That was the moment that everything fused together into something that more resembles now.”
Life at the LINE
Both Jackson and Showell graduated college in 2016, leaving behind the familiarity of the university radio booth in favor of returning to DC. Though the two were able to cobble up funds for bills by doing odd jobs around the city, they were also laying a foundation for their next radio endeavor.
“It was a year of due diligence,” Showell says. “It was us interacting with everyone we’d need to call upon once we got set up. Down the road, it’s like, hey, they know who ThFctry is.”
Eventually, people did start to take notice of the curating dynamos as they began introducing themselves to all of the artists they promoted via social media, forming relationships and cementing a foundation for a robust guest list. As everything lined up perfectly for ThFctry’s on-air return, the LINE Hotel announced its plans to host an Internet radio station.
“Timing is everything,” Jackson says. “It was divine timing. I sat on the idea for a few months, afraid to hit send on the email [to ask for an audition]. We went to the hotel on New Year’s Eve [for] some random party. I was stalking Jack Inslee’s page. I know what he looks like. We were about to leave because we couldn’t get in, and the one guy we came to see walks out to smoke a cigarette.”
Inslee, Full Service Radio’s founder and creative director, told them to send an email. Jackson did. He sent two more over the course of the next five months, before Inslee finally gave them an audition in the summer.
“We thought it wasn’t going to happen,” Jackson says candidly. “We went in there and bodied it the first time – one take Drake.”
The formula of the show was simple, a call back to hip-hop radio in the 90s. Interviews with artists would be interspersed with music from their latest mixtapes, bringing a nostalgic, retro feel to the program and a personal connection to the local talent.
“I want an artist to [be able to] drop locally, because they can’t go to [93.9] WKYS to play their whole album,” Jackson says. “[The station] is just not going to do it, or at least they haven’t been doing it. I felt like that model was the most effective. [On] the first couple of episodes, we just played all of our favorite music that you don’t know about, but we needed to add that personal touch.”
Local Lists + Future Forays
In-between radio booths, Jackson and Showell became Internet investigators in search of new local music. SoundCloud became a useful tool as the website operates as a stomping ground for up-and-coming artists. However, the limitless supply of songs can be difficult to sift through. That’s where ThFctry came through with their monthly “Sounds and Smoke Daylists,” available on SoundCloud.
“That’s a great part of it,” Showell says. “There’s definitely something to mastering how to navigate SoundCloud or making stations [based on] music you like. It’s that combined with submissions [and] word of mouth.”
“[Follow] the trail of quality,” Jackson adds. “Most quality artists work with other quality artists. We canvas the platforms pretty well and we’re super active on social media. I always knew there were artists here.”
ThFctry’s own trail of quality doesn’t end at playlists and podcasts, as the duo has a score of ideas for future multimedia projects including an upcoming radio tour consisting of stops at the LINE’s sister hotels.
“We’re going to be kicking it with artists for like a week, so we can have a good amount of content,” Jackson says. “[And] just really shine a light on something not only we can use, but they can use while they go along. We’re just going to be doing dope shit.”
Check out ThFctry’s dope shit, including playlists and full episodes of their radio show, at www.soundcloud.com/thfctry. For information regarding their upcoming schedule and future projects, follow them on social media @thfctry. Learn more about Full Service Radio at www.thelinehotel.com/full-service-radio.
Correction: A previous version of this story identified Matt Jackson as Matt Jones. We regret this error.