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PODCASTS Black queer curiosity: Collective Postloudness takes on humanity
by Liz Baudler
2016-11-09

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A high-tech co-working space nestled into Elston Avenue, where Cards Against Humanity has offices, might seem as an unlikely home for Postloudness, a podcast collective that elevates Black and queer voices. Yet after a listen to any of the collective's shows, it's clear why the eclectic, futuristic area works for the founders and hosts.

"If I think about every Postloudness offering, it's kind of like, entertainment through curiosity," said James T. Green, Postloudness co-founder and co-host of the show OpenEnded. "Every single show has their rabbit holes that they dig into. It's entertaining because you're listening to people really drill down about what they're passionate about talking about, whether it's robots or AI, or a television show, or whether it's unlearning social narratives of Blackness and womanhood. They do it in such an entertainingly curious way and then, at the end, you're scratching your head either having an answer to something you're thinking about, or looking at something differently. Which I think is beautiful. We're queer brown folk, but also we have a passionate curiosity about certain things."

"We just go into deep dives about things we really enjoy," added cofounder Cher Vincent. Both she and Green were podcast aficionados before starting OpenEnded, their first show.

"It's escapism," Green said about the podcast listening experience. "A lot of times when you're listening, you're doing very intimate activities. Like washing the dishes, in the shower—you're literally naked, listening to someone else's voice. And in all these instances, there's no visual aspect, it allows for yourself to move into different space and have a companion, and you feel connected."

According to Green, in the last few years a variety of technological factors have converged to increase podcast's popularity. Mobile networks have become faster, making streaming possible. Device manufacturers like Apple have podcast players as standard apps, a development which coincided with the release of the hit podcast "Serial."

Podcasts are also easier to produce than the average video. "Because the threshold is not as high, there's more room for experimentation," Vincent said. "There's not a lot of overhead. When we started Open Ended our first episode was literally me and James hovering over his laptop under a scarf, and the microphone we had was his headphone set."

Postloudness was born because Vincent and Green found themselves at a crossroads. She was between jobs: He was freelancing. They'd been working on OpenEnded for a while, but as Vincent said, "While one podcast is good, six others are even better." The two had always wanted to start a production company, and found themselves awash in potential talent. "People who I would listen to even if they weren't my friends," said Vincent, with a laugh.

Many of these friends were already asking them for advice and even lessons in podcasting. Alex Cox, a senior producer at Cards Against Humanity, saw the Postloudness logo—rescued from a music blog Vincent had tried to begin a few years ago—and wanted to know more. She ended up becoming crucial to the fledgling collective, finding them space with Cards Against Humanity and hosting two shows on the network.

As listeners, Green and Vincent had always noticed the lack of diverse voices in the podcast world. "We listened to a lot of cis white men, and it's this kind of feeling of like, you're letting a lot of them into your personal space and your subconscious," Green remembered.

"There's a void," Vincent said. "We wanted to be the collective we wanted to see in the world, hear voices we hadn't heard."

Roughly a quarter of Postloudness's hosts are queer, and about half are people of color: Green is both. While there are other minority podcast collectives—Green mentioned being inspired by This Week in Blackness—he feel it's important for multiple narratives to exist. "There's so many folk who are are out here doing this, but like, our taste is different," Green said. "We love narrative focused stuff, or like two people nerding out about a topic stuff. That's our taste. There's different tastes, and we're just another taste."

Many of Postloudness' shows are covertly educational. "You can educate people without knowing you're educating them," said Vincent. "It's like when kids don't want to eat vegetables, but you hide it in their food." She highlighted Devil's Avocado, a show about personal finance hosted by Sharlene King and Molly Marshall. "No one ever wants to talk about money, but it's so fucking important," Vincent said. "You listen to the show and it's funny, because Molly and Sharlene are hilarious. But you also learn a bunch of shit."

Refresh, a tech podcast, has a unique opportunity to speak to a broad audience. "The majority of our audience there is cis white men," Green said. "A part of me is happy that that's the case, because we talk about heavily intersectional issues with technology, so it's like, if we can make more white men woke, then … if that happens, so be it."

Green and Vincent let cohosts find each other. "Every single show where there's a cohost situation, they are friends IRL," Green said. Most shows do in fact have a loose script, made completely invisible by cohost rapport. "Because of this natural relationship, it sounds unscripted, which is I think the nice sweet spot we found ourselves in with a lot of these shows," said Vincent.

Occasionally it's challenging to simultaneously maintain both a sense of friendship and audience. "I try to make it so they're part of the conversation," Vincent said about her listeners. "We're laughing a lot, but I don't want to ever make it feel we're laughing in the corner over here. I want you to laugh along with us. So many [shows] are shows with two white guys talking about something, and it's like, this is not interesting to me."

Because Postloudness is work by underrepresented voices, production value is foremost to Green. "There's always the unconscious bias that appears where you hear of something that's geared towards the 'other,'" said Green. "When you hear, 'Oh yeah, there's a podcast collective that features women of color and queer-identified hosts,' there's always that unconscious bias, thanks to white supremacy, that this is, in fact, going to be lesser. It's going to sound hollow, it's going to be five people huddled around a mic, it's not tightly edited, the shows are three hours long. And then you hear [Postloudness] and no, this is NPR quality. We're going to be here and you're going to take us very seriously, and the only critique you're going to have is if we don't craft something interesting. Because you can't knock us on us doing the craft well."

Postloudness is open to expanding, particularly since Green is soon moving out of Chicago to work as a producer with MTV News, and he and Vincent want to see the collective reach further. "Literally the process is email us, the three of us take a listen, and if it we're into it, like we would want to subscribe immediately, we'll reach out, and at least have a conversation," Green said.

"It's a learning collective," said Vincent. "We don't just want to hold the keys to the kingdom. We want to share it, we want to share what we know with you to make you great. Because if you're great, we're all great."

"There's this idea that when you help out the general public versus just focusing on superstars, the medium as a whole gets better," Green said. "Because you're helping out people who are new to something, they become better and better and better, then they go on and help other people become better and better and better. That brings up the whole industry of podcasting up."

Check out all of Postloudness at Postloudness.com . Postloudness will also be part of the Chicago Podcast Festival Nov. 17-19, taking place at venues all around Chicago. Learn more at chicagopodcastfestival.org/.


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