When I was that snotty-nosed, pimply 20 year old I happened to accidentally meet the singer in my most favourite band. And “CLANG”* — that was David McCormack from Custard.
And almost the first thing I said to him was, “I really hope you guys don’t get big.”
It was a truly awful thing to say to a musician that at that point was skating so close to official “unemployment” status. Even the label “working poor” would be way too generous. He was the very definition of a “struggling artist” despite the fact the Arts world would have laughed at any suggestions he and his band were “artists”.
When I dared to say those words I meant it to be endearing. I loved them just how they were. So little and ordinary and so charmingly so. But David (almost too politely) responded by saying he sure wished they “got big”. His girlfriend Maureen, who happened to be also present, had to give me a little “talk”. “Just cause you have your own CD divider in Brashes,” she kinda said, “It doesn’t mean you are rolling in cash.” I was dutifully humbled.
But of course I was being utterly selfish. I just wanted to keep this band locked down in my own romantic association. I pathetically assumed they belonged to me. And maybe I was just a bit cooler if my favorite band was the only band no one else had heard of.
And so I feel this selfishness has reared-up again. Although I am way older and have so many other distractions, today I find myself getting unduly upset that a humble podcast has got so “big” it is escaping me. It will no longer be the same.
CHAT 10 LOOKS 3
So Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb have this podcast in question. It is called “Chat 10, Looks 3” and I freaking adore it. Its bizarre and highly obscure title-reference is just another tragic reason why I love it so much. (The title is something to do with this Broadway musical called “A Chorus Line”.)
I would describe the podcast as a very lo-fi organisation of two besties that vaguely have an agenda of talking about what they are devouring in a cultural sense. Books, TV, movies, essays, other podcasts and quite a bit of cooking and culinary stuff. (Thankfully they steer well clear of music. Listening to the episode where Leigh tells of programming Double J seriously made me question my faith in her). The sound quality is often terrible. Their equipment is woeful. They choose highly inappropriate venues for recording — prone to interruptions, background noise and worse. They have no schedule to their feed. When (or if) a new episode drops, is seemingly random. They have no producer or editor (except for Leigh’s husband Brendan/Phil who is a beautiful revelation in that sense.) It’s just a beautiful mess.
On paper this is a podcast that should fail. There are podcast reviewers out there that really, really value all the things they do so horribly wrong. They would judge it so, so harshly.
But it works. It is quite remarkable. All the interruptions and sound quality issues just make it so natural. The venues are all cute in their plainliness but at the same time so exciting too. It’s uncontrived. It’s loose and it’s so much more fun for that fact.
And there’s a sense of beautiful competitiveness between the two and willingness to take the piss out of themselves. There’s an openness the two excitedly deliver that brings a truly random window into people that are genuinely interesting and aspirational.
So the immediate impact this podcast has had on me is that I have just started reading a lot more. I used to read quite a bit and then it just fell away. I just got distracted by other media and other adventures. But now I am back on board. I have bought four of the books they have recommended and one that was only half-heartedly endorsed (The Whites — and I thought it was pretty good). All of the TV I had already got on top of, but it was super-interesting hearing their take on it. The cooking I tend to zone out
And then there’s the impact the podcast has on Leigh and Annabel themselves. They give the hint that they are consumed by it. Later in the series Leigh confesses she feels she needs to read or view or bake more than she usually would just to feed the podcast — like it’s distorting her life.
Omnipresent is the shout-out to the website, supposedly under orders from Leigh’s husband Brendan. And there’s pleas to leave a review and maybe a comment. At the time I assumed this was just so they felt they were being appreciated. Like they weren’t banging their heads against a wall — which is the feeling I have occasionally got whenever I have attempted to put my “Art” out there.’ But maybe they were just angling for an upgrade.
LEIGH vs ANNABEL
Just by the nature of their dialogue you are encouraged to take sides. They disagree about a third of the time they agree. (Crucially they never seem to disagree about food.)
Oh man — initially I was all about Leigh. She was a redhead like me. She comes from Brisbane. She is musical. She is a bit more practical and not prone to the spiritedness of Annabel. Annabel is far more the dreamer romantic.
But then I’ve had a crush on Annabel Crabb since forever. I was a staffer for a few Labor federal politicians back in the day. And maybe what you would call a “hack” or an “apparatchik” in related jobs. And I was such a fan of Insiders. I loved her enthusiasm and obvious intelligence and — yeah — I loved her hair too.
And then we were in the same room. We literally brushed past one-another. It was on a staircase leading up from the Labor Party “green room”. I was heading down and she was heading away. I desperately wanted to say hello but she was moving so fast and off on a mission. I swung around, frozen of the stairs watching as she disappeared into the crowd of the who’s who of 2004 politics. It was Brisbane and I was somehow gifted a ticket to be a guest at Mark Latham’s campaign launch at the Brisbane Conservatorium. Of all the many, many political celebrities I was in the presence of that day, only Annabel Crabb and Gough I rate or even remember. (And I only remember Gough cause when the show started he was literally sitting behind me, one seat removed).
WHY I LIKE PODCASTS AND ESPECIALLY THIS ONE
So I like podcasts cause I do a hell of a lot of walking and they are a perfect accompanyment. I walk to work at least once a week. (8k round trip.) Every working day I walk about 4ks just to get my lunch. (I rate the sushi in the city way better than anything South Brisbane has to offer). According to my iPhone health app I walk an average of 17,000+ steps a day. And then I ride my bike and bizarrely podcasts work in that frame too — although I do have to rewind a bit when I hit a bit in the road when I have to exclusively concentrate on not dying. And I can even listen to them while jogging. It’s not ideal because jogging is such an intensive state that it does mush your brain while you run — about half your time almost all you can think about is how much pain you are in and “why am I doing this?” But a podcast like C10L3 is pretty light and mostly effortless listening. Perfect.
(And I listen to podcasts when I am travelling. Not just on the plane but in the endless queues. Or I listen to them with Dee. We do it on long drives or in hotel rooms where the TV is in a different language.)
But then C10L3 became a TV version. An iView “exclusive”.
And of course it just wasn’t the same. I know that is such a cliched term…but whatever. Suddenly they were like we have this TV series now and the podcast is going to be a bit rarer but everything will be ok.
But at this my 20% self-diagnosed Aspergers reared up. This is not ok. You cannot watch iView while you’re walking, cycling or running. Indeed you cannot watch it on a most planes or overseas or anywhere other than a computer or your iPhone on a bus/train. A position I rarely find myself in. And if you want to devour a podcast you can do it un-sequentially. You can listen to 5 minutes at one bit then listen to the rest at another moment. iView makes you do all these excruciating fast forward jumps if you want to segment your experience. And that ringing sound it does on my TV’s app makes me want to punch something. Ugh.
SO THE iVIEW SERIES
So backtracking to just 2 weeks ago, after almost a month of no updates on the podcast, I was getting desperate — and maybe even worried that this experiment was all over. But then there was promises and apologies and I thought, “Cool — this next episode will be a corker cause they have had so much time to work on it.” But before it landed I saw the tweet about a TV series. I was excited. But also a bit like, “Well it better not fuck up the podcast.”
I watched that first episode and I cringed a bit when they did the whole act of pretending to find a moment to interact. Great CGI graphics and filming but a whole deal of over and under-acting. In the podcast the meeting of these two very busy individuals in most episodes were explained as an incredible effort and sometimes almost a lining-up-of-the-planets. And I for one appreciated that. (I was perpetually amazed that two super-busy and important women could find the time to put this show together and devour all that reading and baking and stuff.)
I wasn’t too surprised that that first episode was a bit shit — that’s the vibe right? But this second episode was mostly just a regurgitation of previous podcasts avec contrived laughter at the same jokes and insights as before. And I know in the podcast they repeat themselves all the time, but I really just hoped the TV series had some new spark. Unfortunately it looks slick, the sound is amazing and the food and drinks are well documented, but there’s not much new.
Now it seems to me all those appeals by Brendan to leave a review and visit the website were just to propel the show into a new level. And let’s face it — a commercial level. I can’t help feeling a bit cheated. Like this was the plan from the start.
But then I think, “What do I know? Who am I to judge?” I think back to my horrible interaction with David McCormack. I understand that artists need some cash to survive. And what they earn is probably way, way, way less than I assume. And their potential for income in the future might not be as secure as I think. And they have kids and stuff.
Ultimately I am happy they have got the new TV gig, but I can also say it sucks and is in no way comparable to their awesomeness before. Just saying.
AND FINALLY — AN APPEAL
Leigh, you have such a talent for music. You can sing and play and you genuinely like it. But it seems you seemingly have no interest in improving your taste. You devour all other genres of art, why not music? Trust me — there’s so much incredible stuff out there.
• They say “Clang” when they are dropping the name of a celebrity they have met/interviewed/interacted with that seems a tiny bit gratuitous.