In case you’re new to Podcast Problems, I love What’s the Frequency. The audio drama is a beautiful, surreal dive in to horror and noir. It’s a strange, lush, confusing, intriguing piece of absolute ear candy with the perfect balance of jokes and slow, creeping dread. It has some of the best writing and acting I’ve heard in audio drama, and in a recent newsletter, I predicted that What’s the Frequency was a vision into the future of the medium.
It might come as a surprise, then, that I did not become a supporter of What’s the Frequency on Patreon (or, a patron) until recently. I’m not going to give excuses, but let my shame be widely understood and acknowledged. It wasn’t until I was approached by What’s the Frequency creator James Oliva about review copies of the Patreon-exclusive audio that I took the plunge, and for good reason. The Patreon-exclusive audio for the podcast is somehow even better than I expected.
For What’s the Frequency, the bonus audio comes at three tiers. First, there’s the creator commentary tracks, awarded to all patrons who back the show at $3+/episode. Then, there’s the onus audio and experimental scene remixes, awarded to all patrons who back the show at $5+/episode. Finally, at $10/episode, patrons will be able to choose whether they receive an audio poem from Krog or an ice cream review from Whitney. The show is also running a contest for its patron to win a signed, limited edition poster. You can find details on the contest here.
The Creator Commentaries
Taking a note from their “besties” over at Spirits, James Oliva and Alexander Danner discuss their writing and production choices, standout acting moments, and inspirations over a drink per episode. Episodes 1-3, plus the “Thank You to Our Sponsor” mini-episode. I’ve always been a fan of commentaries, but these audio tracks were a special delight. The strange, unsettling content of the episode overlaid with the sweet, earnest, endearing commentary is a hilarious and fantastic juxtaposition. The dynamic between Oliva and Danner is evident of their long friendship without making the listener feel like a third wheel. The two are able to assess each others’ craft while also making silly jokes about who’s drinking faster than whom.
Not only are the commentaries entertaining, they’re absolutely educational. Both Oliva and Danner work on the show’s editing and production, and hearing about the choices they made in certain scenes feels like such an asset to any audio drama creator looking for insights. Oliva’s discussion of direction and how he gets lines from his cast is a great example of how to balance respecting your actors and pushing them outside of their comfort zones.
The Bonus Audio and Experimental Scene Remixes
What’s the Frequency‘s bonus audio and experimental scene remixes are the perfect combination of what makes the show such a standout in the medium. “Bedtime,” a remix of the third episode, almost feels more like an avant garde music piece than a traditional piece of fiction. It’s terrifying, disorienting, and shockingly beautiful. Meanwhile, “Paregoric IS Good,” a remind of the second episode’s diner scene, is hilarious and trippy, distorting things in a way that could easily tip over into horror territory but, given its content, it winds up being a riot.
If episodes like “Audio Experiment Halloween Special” displays what the podcast can be when it steps outside of the traditional audio drama format, the bonus audio and scene remixes revel in casting that structure away completely. It’s amazing to see the narrative still instact, even with all conceit of narrative structure left behind. These pieces of audio feel like the heart beating inside the skin of the episode released on the podcast’s stream proper, and are often at least as unnerving as that metaphor.
Poems and Ice Cream Reviews
This $10/episode reward tier brings What’s the Frequency‘s underrated knack for humor to the forefront. Between Krog’s poem, “An Ode on Defenestration” (or, in his words, “A Odie On When I Fell Outta Dat Window Dat One Time”), and Whitney’s back-and-forth between annoyed and delighted when eating ice cream, these Patreon rewards absolutely should not be missed. While previous reward tiers focus more closely on production and editing work, these pieces display the humor half of What’s the Frequency that’s so vital to its success. The pieces are still strange, naturally, but they’re also sweet and hilarious.
Of course, in addition to that, they’re a way to hear the incredible performances from Alexander Danner as the dopey Krog and Tanja Milojevic as the moody, witty Whitney. Danner’s Krog fits so perfectly into the campy vintage radio feeling of the character, maintining a perfect internal self-seriousness while externally poking fun at the archetype. Milojevic’s Whitney was one of my top performances of 2017, and she continues to deliver such a dynamic, energetic, thrilling performance, even when just rating some ice cream on a scale of “one to five banana splits.”