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Arkells' Max Kerman Asks The Constantines' Bry Webb About The Best Podcasts

Max Kerman, Arkells: Hey Bry! Please say 'Hello' to Mr. Aaron Goldstein for me. I read in another interview that you're really into podcasts and that's informed some of your writing. I'm also a big fan of podcasts, I also love "Democracy Now," one of the ones you mentioned.

I was just wondering if you could talk more about the podcasts that you like, and why you like the hosts and why you like the topics.

And also, what is your routine for listening to podcasts -- because I can't fall asleep, or take a shower, or go for a walk without listening to one. So yeah, tell me more about your love for podcasts!

Bry Webb: I think the podcast is the touring band's best friend now. It's amazing to have stuff like Radio Lab and "This American Life," which were kind of the beginning for me. I think it is the new journalism, a new subjective journalism that is so beautiful and so evocative and pulls me in so easily.

I love those shows and I love 99% Invisible. My friend Kelly Jones introduced me to that, which is a sort of a design and architecture podcast but it focuses on the things that are often taken for granted and not seen or significant in day to day life. They've done pieces on rebar, which if you've ever worked in construction you will know the importance of, but other otherwise it is taken for granted and it is literally the foundation of our modern world.

Other amazing pieces on strange and amazing design things in modern life. I like that one a lot. I am a huge fan of Tom Sharpling and "The Best Show" on WFMU, which sadly is no longer on the air. It ended after, I think thirteen years. WFMU is an amazing free-form radio station, I think the best radio station in the world, certainly of that kind of format and listener-supported station and can definitely be found online.

Anyway, one of the centerpieces of the show was John Wurster of Superchunk would call in, in a different character. Almost in a SCTV-like, very surreal, absurd characters would come in or call in and Tom would be the straight man and just have to deal with this person taking things in absurd directions and it was just brilliant every time. An amazing amount of work went into it and it was a three-hour weekly show, done for free with amazing comedians and artists coming in. It was so well done.

When I was working construction in Montreal, I started listening to that show and as I said before, it was a transitional time for me trying to figure a lot of stuff out and it really got me through that time, it was very important because it was funny and well-made and long and I could listen to it in one ear while I was doing menial construction tasks. It was very important to me and it is, I'm sorry that it isn't happening any more, but I understand that Sharpling and Wurster need to find ways to sustain themselves, but that is definitely one to check out.

There's highlights from it called The Best Show Gems and then there is The Best Show podcasts, there is so much to listen back to. As I said, thirteen hours for three hours a week, so there is an amazing body of work.

HuffPost: How has it informed your songwriting?

Bry Webb: Yeah, well I don't know about that one. I'm not very good at looking at songs as storytelling or approaching them as a narrative. Generally for me it is more like collage work, abstractions on a theme or something like that. But I guess there is a connection between Radio Lab, This American Life in that respect.

I like the something that starts with a microcosmic moment or idea and you see, as we're sitting beside a body of water here and my son is throwing rocks, you see a ripple that gets wider each moment and the view of the theme or the scope of how the theme is addressed gets wider with every verse or something like that. There is a bit of a parallel there, for sure.

What has your own experience with radio at Guelph been like?

Bry Webb: I work at the campus community radio station in Guelph as the programming coordinator, I've been there for four years. I took the summer off, they were very generous to let me take a leave for touring and stuff, but it is a very important resource.

I feel like community radio and campus community radio across the country is incredibly important. It's sort of one of the last vestiges of independent, honest, alternative media. Most of the time people doing it for free because they're passionate about what they're talking about, what they're delivering or the music that they're showcasing and I just think that is an incredible thing.

I love it because of the chaos of it. My attention kind of works in that way where it goes from "Democracy Now" or an amazing show called "Prison Radio" on CFRU, which focuses on prison justice issues and issues with the prison system and issues of immigration detention and the injustices there, then it goes into a show that is rock music from around the world and followed up by a show that plays avant-garde jazz or experimental music. That really speaks to my attention. I love for it to jump like that and for all of these things to exist in one outlet is amazing.

I think that it is just beautiful and it feels like a representation of a community that is often not there in mainstream media, but it sort of speaks to what I believe the potential and what the CBC has been in the past, because it has been an outpost and it connects people and has connected people across the country. It's a shame that funding has been cut so much, it is an abomination because it is an incredible resource and you can feel how, when money starts to slip away from something like that, how the organization gets desperate and starts to reach out to different audiences or tries to develop a popularity and maybe awkward ways sometimes, because it is this grappling for sustainability.

I think that if it could be supported and if money could be put back, it could return to something that has that stoic, amazing quality that the CBC once had where it is just direct journalism that connects people in every corner of the country.

(Bry Webb photo by Joe Rayment)

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