Working with Sound: Brodie Lancaster and Kamna Muddagouni (Can U Not?)

What piece of audio has had the most profound effect on you – as a listener, as an audio maker or both?

Kamna: As a listener, I remember Lindy West’s episode of This American Life, when she spoke to an online troll who had abused her online and pretended to be her dead father. It was a moment that conveyed to me the power of audio to reach an audience in a way that other mediums can’t always. I remember hearing Lindy talk about, but also talk to her troll, and hearing what she heard, as she heard it. Hearing her raw responses impacted me in a way I will remember for a long time.

Where did the idea for Can U Not? come from?

Brodie: The first time Kamna and I met IRL, we planned to have a quick lunch and ended up talking for over two hours about TV, music, politics and intersectional feminism. By the end of it, we’d decided we wanted to capture and share conversations like that one with more people.

It’s really fun to be literally working with your voice and to have your audience hear that, unfiltered.

What’s your favourite part of making the show?

Kamna: I guess when you listen to Can U Not?, you’re also listening to Brodie and I forming our relationship, friendship and ideas about things we encounter in the world. To be sharing this experience with a friend and others is truly great.

What’s the hardest part of producing it?

Brodie: Finding the time to dedicate to the podcast is undoubtedly the trickiest thing. Kamna and I both have busy jobs – she’s a lawyer and I’m an editor – which don’t give us heaps of free time. We’re also both freelance writing with a bunch of other side projects on the boil. We’d love for Can U Not? to be more structured, with a more dependable release schedule, but we’re doing this on our own money and time … and while that’s great ’cos we’re working off our own motivation, it can sometimes mean making the podcast drops down the list of priorities.

What’s the best thing about working with sound?

Kamna: We talk a lot about having a ‘voice’ as writers – what that looks like on paper and how readers ‘hear’ you – but it’s really fun to be literally working with your voice and to have your audience hear that, unfiltered. It’s brought a new dynamic to the way I present my views.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about podcasting?

Brodie: ‘Just get it out there.’ I sought out a friend who loves podcasts for a second opinion, because Kamna and I had recorded one episode (effectively an unreleased pilot) and we were um-ing and ah-ing about it, whether it was good enough, etc. He said we should just get it out there because otherwise we’d just keep finding things to change or delete. He reminded us that there is a space out there for this kind of show. He also pointed out we were saying the word ‘podcast’ so much.

What has been your biggest lesson as a producer so far?

Kamna: We have learned a lot about pacing and editing a conversation as we’re having it, so that when we get to the editing stage the show flows naturally, with smooth transitions and fewer harsh cuts. We’re super conscious about keeping the conversation structured so episodes can stay under 45 minutes; that’s super important to us and it’s something we look for in podcasts we listen to.

Do you interact with your audience, or receive feedback or criticism about your work?

Brodie: We do! We record and edit everything ourselves, and we’re also the people who see all the social posts and iTunes reviews – the nice ones and the not-so-nice ones. We love seeing people who share the podcast with their friends, and appreciate thoughtful feedback a lot! (Much more than the reviews saying we’re sad for liking the Kardashians.)

If you could go out to dinner with any audio maker, who would it be – and what would you talk about?

Kamna: Ahmed Ali Akbar, who hosts this beaut podcast called See Something Say Something. It’s about Muslim identity, and unpacks that through real human experiences. I just want to take him out and talk about both of our rad brown dads. Also invited to dinner are Doreen St Felix and Ira Madison III of‘ Speed Dial, just because that would be a laugh and a half and we could talk about all the things we collectively love and hate.

With bigger audiences here, there are fewer reasons to over-explain local references or change your tone or subjects to appeal to listeners in the US.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Brodie: I’m a huge fan of Travon Free’s podcast, The Room Where it’s Happening. In each episode, he nerds out with another fan of the musical Hamilton and they unpack a song from the Broadway recording together. A friend just recommended The Sporkful by Dan Pashman. It’s about one of my and Kamna’s favourite topics – food! Still Processing from the New York Times and Crybabies from Earwolf are other true favourites.

What’s your favourite Australian podcast, and why?

Brodie: Clip Show by Peter Taggart, and not just because he had me as a guest on one episode! It’s everything I want from a show: lists, funny internet things, and really natural and insightful interviewing from Peter.

What do you think is unique about Australian audio?

Brodie: I’m the first to admit that my interests skew American, but I love hearing a real growing confidence in local productions. With bigger audiences here, there are fewer reasons to over-explain local references or change your tone or subjects to appeal to listeners in the US. The people who are going to get it will get it.

What’s next for you as producers?

Kamna: We’ll be continuing to grow Can U Not?, log more interviews with amazing guests, and learn more about each other and our friendship – on the air.