Are you the type of person who likes to learn new things when you listen to podcasts? If so, Hi-Phi Nation might be your next favorite podcast. The indie podcast aspires to become the next Invisibilia, 99% Invisible, or Revisionist History, and is well on the way, gathering rave reviews from The Guardian, Slate, and Huffington Post.
(Related reading: 11 Podcasts Guaranteed to Make You Think)
Since it’s a narrative podcast, it’s goal it for the listeners to become immersed in the story-driven content. Previous episodes have covered the morality of war and the effect on soldiers, parapsychology, and the value of fulfilling posthumous wishes.
I’ve listened to a couple episodes from season one (season two is currently in production) and can tell you it definitely lives up to its promise of providing an excellently-produced podcast that’s able to articulate complex topics into an easily comprehended format. I got a chance to talk to creator and host, Barry Lam, about how he started with the podcast, where he wants to take it, and even got nerdy with his podcast equipment. Here’s our full Q&A:
Discover Pods: What’s your tweet-length synopsis of your podcast?
Barry: A show about philosophy turning stories into ideas.
DP: Where do you record at? What’s the setup like?
Barry: Most of the interviews are with my mobile gear done in the home or office of my subjects. I set up two shotgun microphones on a tabletop plugged into a Zoom H5. For narration, I record in my home or office studio, Shure SM7Bs plugged into a Mackie ProFX8 mixer, into my Macbook onto Hindenburg Journalist Pro.
DP: How does Hi-Phi Nation differentiate itself from the other philosophy podcasts out there?
Barry: Hi-Phi Nation is a narrative, story-driven show, not an interview, group discussion, or talk show. The models are shows like Invisibilia, 99% Invisible, Revisionist History, and so on. Another way to describe it is audio documentary. It is also a seasonal show (like Netflix series) rather than a regularly produced weekly/biweekly show. Every episode has a story from the arts, law, history, or life, and transforms that story into philosophical ideas and arguments.
DP: Admittedly, I’m not all that familiar with the philosophy podcast landscape. What would you tell the uniformed people (like me) about why they should listen to Hi-Phi and what they might learn?
Barry: You should listen to Hi-Phi Nation if you are an inherently curious person who loves to learn from entertainment, and who loves thinking about how things hang together in the widest possible sense. You should also listen if you like high-quality production, documentaries, smart people talking about interesting ideas that are accessible but still sophisticated. You don’t have to know or even like philosophy, the stories will bring you in. Learn to think deeper about everything, from music, love, morality, death, and religion.
DP: What made you get into podcasts versus another channel?
Barry: Audio narratives is the most powerful way to bring big ideas into the broader culture because of the audience dedication and long-form format.
DP: How has the listener feedback been so far?
Barry: Listener and critic’s feedback has been very positive. We’ve received rave reviews from the Guardian, Huffington Post, and Slate’s Culture Gabfest, and we’re at 5-stars on iTunes.
DP: Impressive list of reviews. I get this question a lot from podcasters, how did you begin to market your podcast and what else are you doing to drive audience awareness?
Barry: I have been pitching other podcasters, journalists, and the professional organizations around philosophy to get them to listen. I have announced the show on blogs, pitched the show to journalists who review podcasts, and producers of podcasts who review podcasts.
DP: Where do you want to take your podcast from here?
Barry: I am currently in production for Season 2. Eventually I would like one of the more prominent networks to notice the quality and promise and to pick it up for production for future seasons.
DP: What advice would you give to prospective podcasters?
Barry: Just do the work. Don’t hesitate on getting started, and once you start, keep learning and taking advice, and stay curious.
DP: What are your top 5 favorite podcasts?
Barry: Love+Radio, Switched on Pop, Heavyweight, Invisibilia, HowSound
DP: Where can listeners find you?
Barry: We are on all podcatchers, you can also listen directly on the website.