Australian Audio Guide

Working with Sound: Alicia Sometimes

In this instalment of Working with Sound, writer, musician, broadcaster and Outer Sanctum podcaster Alicia Sometimes chats to us about melding science and art, the diversity of Australian audio and the spoken word soundscapes that first inspired her.

Photo of Alicia Sometimes

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

My background into radio comes via the road of poetry and spoken word soundscapes, so for me, sitting on the floor listening to so many vibrant and emotive pieces shaped me as a broadcaster and as a listener. Whether it was Simon Heselev embedding music with Kurt Vonnegut’s voice or Lisa Greenaway weaving her lyrics around sound or Joelistics delivering a sharp phrase with some incredible beat, I was hooked.

Where did the idea for The Outer Sanctum come from?

Six football fans shared a love of one team, saw each other across a crowded internet and decided to meet up in the real world. Then we jokingly said we should create a podcast because the conversations we were having were frenetic, intelligent, ridiculous and similar to so many of our friends who loved football.

Best advice: ‘if it doesn’t feel right, leave it out’. Worst advice: ‘don’t worry, no-one will notice…’

Our conversations were broader than the love of one team, and we wanted to discuss important social issues. We knew we needed to create a space for us talk about football in the way we wanted, and to examine how women were playing the game, watching the game and being included in the game. We started a week later.

What’s your favourite part of making The Outer Sanctum?

Without a doubt, it’s three things: hearing the minds of the other five incredibly funny and intelligent women talk about a game that has our hearts on our scarves; the wonderful guests we’ve had on; and also, hearing from the listeners who are so articulate and passionate.

What’s the hardest part of producing The Outer Sanctum?

We all have other full-time commitments and many hats that we wear. We juggle our time just to fit it in. It helps having six of us, and we all do something. Emma Race is the main producer, and she works incredibly hard behind the scenes.

What’s the best thing about working with sound?

Sound is so emotional and provocative. The way someone pauses can have meaning, the way you edit can make or break a narrative. Sound has the ability to lure you in … and then build you up, or ruin you.

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

Best advice: ‘if it doesn’t feel right, leave it out’. Worst advice: ‘don’t worry, no-one will notice…’

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

To always sit back and be the listener when you’ve finished. In many of my other roles producing, it’s also about what questions you ask and leave out. Better to leave some space and not cram absolutely everything in.

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

The other five are wonderful with social media. We love talking to the listeners and have reached out in many ways. We created a ‘Kick and Coffee’ event where we got to kick a football with some incredible football players and meet some of our listeners. We were all so heartened and excited. We have taken on some criticism (especially to do with our gonzo journalism sound at the very start) and appreciate what listeners say, and we always want to improve. Funnily enough, an episode we recorded in a car with the tram going past was considered a favourite, yet the sound was not perfect.

There’s not one Australian ‘style’ and there’s not one workbook that everyone goes off.

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

I think Wendy Zuckerman. I love Science Vs. I love the topics, the breadth of intelligence, and have such an interest in the area. I would just listen to her talk.

What are you listening to at the moment?

We listen to a great deal of sports podcasts: Junk Time, The Footy Gospel, Kick Like a Girl, This AFL Life, Follow Sports Like a Girl, Titus in Paradise and Women Who League.

What’s your favourite Australian podcast, and why?

Difficult to choose! At the moment besides Science Vs, I’m enjoying Brains Matter – it’s been going a while. They always have something interesting to talk about in the world of science.

What do you think is unique about Australian audio?

There’s not one Australian ‘style’ and there’s not one workbook that everyone goes off. So many individual and energetic audio pieces are being made, and we have great diversity.

What’s next for you as a producer?

I would love to keep making podcasts and being involved in radio. I love making documentaries, interviewing people and especially being involved in anything to do with the mix of science and art.