Sound Pollution Podcast, we interview the interviewer!

Of the many indie music sites we’ve visited over the last year, there are some definite standouts. For something different in this interview, we’re talking with a regular and wonderful music podcaster, Raynelle of Sound Pollution, who specialises in interviewing in-depth a really wide range of independent musicians from around the world!

Hi Raynelle! Thank you so much for taking some time to write with us, and chat about the “behind the scenes” of Sound Pollution. To start off, I think our readers would love to know more about you. Perhaps some of the unusual features of where you reside, and some insight into what first inspired you to take a love of music, and present it online in your own Podcast? Are you a musician too? Please tell us about your various projects, as you appear to be a very busy and creative individual!

Thanks for inviting me to interview with Darkstereo, I appreciate the opportunity. I am in the United States, currently on the border of the Southeast and Midwest. However, I am from the West Coast, specifically the Pacific NorthWest and plan to return there in the next few years.

Music and inspiration, this is a long story, I will try to give you the shortest version I can. My Mom’s side of the family was very musical, all my uncles played instruments and everyone sang. I remember on holidays or after church, how they would all sit around and play and sing. I really loved it when my Grandma stepped in to sing with my Mom and they all harmonized together.

One uncle in particular was a working and touring musician, mostly a drummer, but a songwriter as well. My favorite and probably most important childhood memory was once when he visited my Mom between gigs. They were up late singing and drinking, my brothers slept right through it, but I was never able to sleep with music on or being played. Still Can’t. I sat around the corner just out of sight with my stuffed animal for what felt like hours, just listening to them singing old folk music like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Carley Simon, and James Taylor. I think they knew I was there the whole time, but my uncle didn’t say anything for the longest time, and when they did they let me join in or listen till I fell asleep in the living room.

Living in the Pacific Northwest meant that I grew up in an area that is as known for its music scene as much as its coffee. This had a huge influence on me. Though I think there is a place for all genres of music; grunge, punk, and hip hop music in particular touched me. I was moved by the rebelliousness of the music and it gave me a space to lose myself or express myself depending on the day. I remember begging my Mom for a guitar for almost a year. I got one for Christmas when I was 12, I couldn’t wait to play it, however my Uncles were thrown off by me wanting to learn things like Hole’s Doll Parts or 7 Year Bitch’s The Scratch and I was largely ignored. What little I know on the guitar I had to teach myself. It’s still not much, but it’s enough to write a little. My Mom did not shame me for my music taste and was very encouraging when it came to my creativity, she still is. My immediate family had to move from Washington State to Kentucky when I was 14, it was a big culture shock and music was the only place I felt comfortable. However, the move did open me up to Nashville and Country music, which was something I had zero interest in previously.

I didn’t meet my Father till I was 16, but it did not surprise me that he was also a creative person who could play and write and we are incredibly close now. What I wasn’t expecting was that my Grandfather had been a working jazz musician as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet him before he passed, but when my Dad told me about him I remember thinking “shit, fate is a real thing, I was literally made from, and for, music”. Around this time I discovered House Music, which was largely an underground scene at the time. I went to raves and house parities the old school way, with flyers, and meeting points that often didn’t work, so you had to depend on a friend who did make it to the party to guide you to it, or drive around with your windows down and listen for the beat to guide you in (fuck I’m OLD). The friend responsible for this new love affair of mine, was also a DJ. She would practice in our apartment in Oakland and I would smoke and dance. One day she stopped the music and said “you dance like you understand theory, you need to learn to spin records”. She whipped out a piece of paper and a pen and that was my first real music lesson, and it did include theory. For the first time someone other than my parents saw the real me and instead of saying shit like “you’ll never make it” or ” there’s too many other artists” or “what’s your back up plan”, or “but you’re a girl, just dance and sing, and shut up”. She saw me, she taught me, and she encouraged me. I’ll never forget that kindness and to this day I think two turntables and a mixing board are my favorite instruments (some would argue they aren’t instruments at all, and I would tell them to get bent).

I don’t think anything other than music was even an option. But boy did I get off-track trying. Like I sped off the track into a mountain like Wile E. Coyote… and just like that stupid cartoon coyote I didn’t learn my damn lesson and fell off a couple cliffs, and was blown up by TNT too. It took me far to long to accept music was in my blood, and anything else was a waste of fucking time. As an adult I have bounced around a lot, most people would say I am a little bit lost, some would say I’m a free spirit. The fact is that I am trying to balance the dream of music, with the reality of being a poor millennial in America. Which is basically impossible, but I have never been one to give up easily (see also stubborn or hard headed, lol).

My love for music has NEVER fizzled, no matter how much I tried to find a “safe backup career”. What I discovered over the years is not only do I love music in general, I LOVE learning about new music, learning about the musician who created it, and being the first to discover or share something new or interesting was my favorite thing in the world. To me, talking to other creative people and sharing new ideas is just as much fun as creating, though one usually leads to the other, and it’s always a good time. I am not a teenager anymore and over the years I have learned that there are multiple, and enormous, music scenes outside of what you hear on the radio. Usually this work is better than what you hear on major stations. But I had no outlet to do anything with this information, except give my friends mixtapes or burned CDs. (FUCK, I am Mathusala old) until podcasts! Thank god for podcasts! They are like independent radio on crack. You wanna hear something cool and different, go find a music podcast and give it a listen with an open mind. You won’t leave disappointed. Originally I started an art and music podcast with an old friend of mine, it didn’t last, and the demise happened to coincide with a broken heart and an existential crises of the soul, right before this fucking pandemic. Seriously, like 3 or 4 months before COVID. During quarantine, I decided that my dreams had taken a backseat long enough and I was going to try this again. Whether that was out of necessity or spite remains to be seen (again, see stubborn or hardheaded).

I did it completely alone this time. Just me sitting in a two bedroom apartment with a wrecked life and a disease ravaging the world. I reached out to people I had previously interviewed on the other show, placed ads on Craigslist, and prayed for word of mouth to work. I got very lucky. And the stars aligned or whatever because each interview led to another interview or the person I interviewed would say something kind about the interview online. I was just really blessed with kind people, I like to think there was a higher power in there somewhere. It’s also worth noting here that my teenage daughter was in quarantine with me and home-schooled for a year while I did this and worked, and she never complained, in fact she has listened to stuff people have sent me and her opinion has mattered. She’s a smart kid.

It was slow to start because not only was I a new podcast 2 years ago, but because of COVID. People were hesitant to share stuff they had planned on sharing on albums or tours that were now cancelled. A lot of musicians were waiting to see what was going to happen. I 100% do not blame them. I would have done that same thing. As time went on more people wanted a way to share what they have been working on and a podcast was the perfect platform for that. Sound Pollution has gone from one interview a month to one a week and being booked out a month or two in advance. As restrictions loosen and people get vaccinated (if physically possible) to keep each other safe, more doors will open up and I anticipate steady growth. Right now I am looking for advertisers, I will be attending my first music festival as a podcaster, and my co-host and I are trying to figure out a way to do some sort of touring.

FUN FACT: I got a co-host at the end of 2021 to add to the show and I can’t believe how much of a difference its made to the overall vibe. He goes by the name of Uncle Brent, and he has been a fan since the beginning. He was literally the first person I interviewed for this podcast, and the last person I interviewed for the previous project I worked on. He is incredibly talented, business minded, sarcastic, and funny as hell. Shout out to Sound Animal and Michael Moody who have also stepped in to co-host with me for fun too, or when Uncle Brent had to step away.

Taking a love of music in so many forms, guitar playing and all these personal influences together, really does sound like running a podcast was your destiny! I must be old too, because I can very much relate to the sharing of music on burnt CDs and cassettes. It feels like there was something more… tactile about such things back then. Creating and sharing what is now a “playlist” took substantial time and planning back then! Not to mention having to have access to the original copies of the music, and all the manual processing after that. Oh, how the internet has changed everything.

Anyway… back to “time” and “planning” for a moment, how do you fit your podcasting into what sounds like an otherwise busy life? Are you a night owl? Do you still have plenty of time to explore the creation and mixing of your own music or sets? Also… for our readers, what decisions do you have to make, and how do you make them, when considering a new artist for a potential interview on your show?

Oh yes I totally miss the days of tactile music sharing. Though I’m always happy to share music in any way I can. There was almost an artform to making a mixtape or CD for someone. It was also very intimate. It was like sharing all the little secret pieces of how you feel with someone through music. But I could just be a romantic at heart.

How do I fit my podcast into my busy life? Honestly, (sing song voice) “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Seriously, I have had a hard time fitting it in. I have to make it part of my schedule and force it even though I am tired. Even though it feels like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. The reason I have been able to keep it up has been the support of friends and family. Kinda being pushy sometimes, and supportive other times. Without that I don’t know man, I probably would have given up 6 months in. Having Brent on the show has also been incredibly helpful. He has helped to keep me much more focused, and grounded, than I was before. It is like having an older brother who just won’t let me give up, or phone it in. I’m sure I drive him insane. Bless his heart, I’m a scatterbrain, I don’t know how he puts up with me as a “boss”. I couldn’t do it.

I don’t have much time for my own creative endeavors. I have a shit ton of half lyrics I try to scribble down when I get a chance. I haven’t been able to complete a song in over a year. I have decided that I do need to make more time for it. I am pretty bad at guitar, just enough to write really. I dusted my acoustic yesterday, I hadn’t played in so long I had to dust it. That’s sad, right? The more music I hear on the show and online, I had an epiphany last month. I am just a singer. And that’s ok, vocals are really my strong point anyway. I’ll always love guitar, I grew up on guitar music. But I think I am just a singer, and there is nothing wrong with that. I am hoping to start or find a band and just do what I do best. But I’m not exactly sure how to fit it in.

I am not a night owl, I am some form of permanently exhausted penguin lol. I average about 5 hours of sleep a night between work, the podcast, being a Mom, and pretty much everything. I am really looking forward to the time that I am just doing podcast stuff and singing in a band, and being a Mom. So I can let go of the day job that takes so much time away from what I feel like I am supposed to be doing.

When I am considering a new artist I am looking for several things. First: Solid songwriting (it doesn’t have to be the Verse Chorus Bridge Verse Chorus stuff) I am looking for consistency, passion, good lyrics, emotion, tone, message. Basically, I don’t just wanna be able to follow whats going on, I want you to make me feel something. Which leads me to the second thing…

I don’t care about genre. I kinda hate genre. Artists being pigeon-holed in certain types of music is fucking stupid. I want to hear it all, and I love it when artists mix different styles and sounds and make something new and exciting.

Third: I am looking for decent production. I wasn’t so much at first but now that the show has grown it has become important. Plus, with all the technology at our fingertips there is no reason to have a crappy recording. I want to put something on our show that sounds good, and really shows off the musician. You know, help me help you.

Next, social media presence: This is important, I want to see what you are doing and find ways to listen to your work, and I will share it around to others if it is good or just plain interesting. It doesn’t have to be Facebook or Twitter but having a Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or YouTube page. It is REALLY important.

Lastly, everyone should know in this day and age I am going to digitally stalk you before I say yes to anyone. I have a moral obligation because I have a platform, so I vet every artist. I will not promote artists who are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc. It’s not about politics, it’s about right and wrong, and I won’t promote anyone who is promoting hate. Period.

The juggling of time and responsibilities. Can certainly relate, but it has really occurred to me through this great conversation, that podcasting is no easy feat. Where a musician can collect recordings over a substantial period of time, and pretty much release work on their own schedule (assuming they aren’t contracted into something), with a podcast there are the challenges (I almost said “burdens”) of trying to have a show regularly (to keep momentum), and also then all the backend work that nobody sees. We spoke briefly about editing and mixing recently (today actually lol), and this sounds like quite an undertaking!

What processes do you go through once an interview has gone through its initial recording? Even with modern technology, sound recording over the internet is bound to present some interesting little challenges. I’d like to learn about these. Also, if an artist were to be able to engage in a podcast interview for the first time, what are some handy tips you’d give them to make sure that the chat itself, and the production work afterwards, are as smooth as possible?

I’d also like to talk about exposure and marketing. What are your main tools for sharing and spreading the word about all this wonderful work you are doing? How can artists and music fans “give something back”, and contribute to the podcast’s growth? I mean… you do all this for free, out of love, so it seems that the least artists can do is to support those who take the time to pay attention to their music.

What non-musican relationships and networks have opened up for you since running Sound Pollution? I’m curious if podcasters have a “collective”… if there is such a thing, or if it is more of a competitive space to be working in? Forgive me if the question is a bit whacky, but this is all quite new to me 🙂

Even with modern technology, sound recording over the internet is bound to present some interesting little challenges. Once the interview is over, I have to do the thing I hate the mostest. Edit. Editing involves going over the interview for content, removing all the annoying “uhhmmm’s” and “likes” (my stupid giggles) and taking our unnecessary dead space. Then, I have to input and edit the intro and outro that Uncle Brent and I do. I also have to improve the sound quality of the entire show, input the guest’s music, and input our theme music. Then I listen again, I’m usually pretty tired of myself at this point and my ears are weary. Then once it’s done I have to write up the episode descriptions and upload it across multiple platforms. Once all that’s done I begin promoting across social media, and continue to do so for 7 days. I had no idea how time consuming all this was going to be. I am not trying to complain, I love this, but it is a lot. And I have a regular job and I am a Mom. Basically, have a teeny tiny social life, like, minuscule.

Basically for marketing I really focus on social media. It can be a great tool to get the word out and can promote steady growth. Oh, and it’s free. Other than that, like any other business, I pay for advertising a few times a year. Yes, I am currently doing this for free. But the long term goal is to make money.  I love the podcast and I love music, but I need to make a living too. I have discovered that the more time I can spend on the show the better it does. So, what people can do to help is DOWNLOAD and share the episodes. We really need guests and listeners to do this. This way we can encourage advertisers to come to us. The other thing you can do is go to our Patreon page and become a subscriber.

Honestly, I want this to be my only gig. I also want to do this as long as possible, but I am gonna need to generate some sort of income.

I don’t see much of a podcast collective, it does seem to be more competitive than I was aware of. I have made some friends through the show though, like Brent and yourself, and a few others. I was even interviewed for a friend of mine’s podcast, which was dope. But they are musicians as well. I’m making more music connections than podcast connections. It seems like independent musicians want to help each other out. Which I think is really beautiful. Like, we all just want to see our friends and band-mates succeed. I love that. I think with a little more support from listeners and artists, we could foster one hell of a community. Seriously, we could become an excellent resource for artists and fans alike.

Just yesterday I saw a post about Sound Pollution moving into streaming radio. This is a fantastic idea! What other adventures and plans do you guys have for the rest of the year? Are there signs of artistic “recovery” in the US at the moment? It feels like a lot of albums have been recorded over the last few years, with musicians using technology to their advantage to share works and try and keep a semblance of “rehearsals”. Are things moving back into performance-friendly times over there? It has been amazing hearing your insights and doing our first interview with a Podcaster!! Thank you!

Yeah, I ran a test run of an internet radio station. It will be something that Sound Pollution will be pursuing in the future. Hope to have it up and running by the end of the summer, beginning of the fall.

We are in plans for our first live shows that will feature musical acts that have been on the show. It will be happening the last week of October, this year, in the Austin Tx area. One show will be acoustic, and the other show will feature full bands. We are REALLY looking forward to it. It has been allot of work and we are hoping for a decent turnout. We are busy but excited.

There does seem to be a move back to normalcy here, but I don’t think it will ever be “the same” but things have opened up and restrictions are dropping. If people haven’t been playing they are definitely making plans to do so.

I am grateful for the internet, and the ability to access independent artists during the pandemic. And most, if not all, of the musicians I have interviewed over the past few years used technology to their advantage and have released new music or are planning to within the year. It has been awesome to see the musical collective, reach out to each other, and find new ways to work together. It was fucking impressive actually. And the music that has come out, or will come out, is so good.

Any parting words for our readers?

Support independent music. Go to local concerts, buy merch, download the music, tell your friends about the cool band you saw. There is so much more out there besides what you see on TV and hear on the radio. (shameless plug) Check out Sound Pollution, on YouTube, Spotify, and pretty much anywhere, we are Google-able. Please download so we can keep showcasing new musicians. Also, please follow us on social media! Thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed. You Rock.

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