KEXP’s footprint extends well beyond the Space Needle’s shadow. Broadcasting from its Seattle Center HQ, the hometown indie station reaches a global audience, and apparently has a fan in Jimmy Fallon.
On Friday night, the “Tonight Show” host went out of his way to tip a cap to the Emerald City station and morning show host John Richards in particular. In his opening segment introducing his Friday night lineup, Fallon was especially gushy about musical guests Mad Foxes. The late night host fell for the French post-punks after hearing them on Richards’ show and booked the band on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
“I love to listen to the radio. I switch around, I wanna hear some country I go to Sirius. I go to iHeart[media], I listen to Howard [Stern],” Fallon said. “And I listen to this station called KEXP out of Seattle, and there’s a guy named John Richards. He’s the DJ in the morning — ‘John in the Morning,’ it’s great. And I heard this band and I loved it. I go, ‘this band’s fantastic.’ So I just Shazamed it and we inquired.”
Fallon continued to heap praise on the little known Mad Foxes — whose sound is in step with a recent wave of critically acclaimed post-punk acts from the U.K. — pulling up a particularly rowdy snippet of the trio’s smash-and-grab “Crystal Glass.”
“That is a rager, right?!” Fallon said after a little headbanging sesh behind his desk.
Richards got wind earlier this week that Mad Foxes had booked the Fallon gig. He had a hunch his show may have had something to do with it, as KEXP is the only American station spinning the band, he said Saturday.
Fallon first discovered Richards’ show about a decade ago, when it was also broadcast in the Big Apple through a deal with Radio New York. When that partnership ended, Fallon continued streaming KEXP. The two have corresponded a number of times over the past five years and Richards said Fallon (a KEXP donor) has written him about bands he’s played or certain mixes he put together, telling the DJ they have similar taste in music.
“He’s just a really nice listener who happens to host the ‘Tonight Show,'” Richards joked.
While Richards missed the show when it first aired, he woke up this morning to a wave of excited messages about the late-night shout out.
“[To] take the time to mention me and the station — he didn’t have to do that,” Richards said. “The fact that he did that shows you he’s a [expletive] cool guy.”
This wasn’t the first time Fallon has expressed his KEXP love on national TV. The actor/comedian name-dropped Richards and the station when Macklemore pulled up in 2017, performing with fellow Seattle staples Dave B and a then-baby faced Travis Thompson.
“What I like is when he introduces a band, or he talks about ’em, he actually talks about the riff that he heard and then reacts to it like we all would, just headbanging at his desk,” Richards said. “For him to totally nerd out at the beginning of [his Mad Foxes’ intro], it was like ‘OK, that’s my guy. That’s why we get along.'”
Mad Foxes’ “Tonight Show” boost is just the latest example of a KEXP connection landing an indie band broader national love. Earlier this year, Tacoma indie rockers Enumclaw drew a chorus of praise from some of the country’s biggest indie blogs after a positive writeup on KEXP’s website.
Watch Mad Foxes’ “Tonight Show” performance below.