Last Wednesday, a bustling Jacaranda Records Phase One was host to the ‘Words For Birds’ podcast launch party. The event kicked off with a brief introduction from the hosts before leading into performances by spoken word artist Alice Swift, singer-songwriter Remée, musicians Nikki & The Waves and LUNA.
Once the event is fully underway, I sit down with writer/poet Elle Johanna and musician/promoter Gen Degenerate in the quiet of a wooden shed to discuss their bold foray into the world of podcasts. Within minutes the pair are laughing as they reminisce about the birth of their podcast. ‘I think we were drunk and angry at The Merchant!’, Gen suggests jovially. The duo display a familiarity which becomes surprising when they describe their first encounter: ‘We were off to see Witch Fever,’ says Gen, before Elle reveals, ‘I’d never met her before in my life! This girl shows up and she says let’s do this thing called ‘Words for Birds’ and that’s where it came from, it was just by chance’.
‘Words For Birds’ is a feminist podcast hosted by Elle and Gen. Each episode will feature an interview with a different female or non-binary creative – the first guest being spoken word artist Lyndsay Price. The name ‘Words For Birds’ was a creative decision based on both a desire to reclaim the Scouse term ‘bird’ and a coincidentally pleasing rhyme. The event page for the launch specifies the use of ‘bird’ as a term of endearment and ‘a catch-all for those exempt from male privilege’.
Apple Podcasts, one of the main podcast platforms, claims it is currently home to over 525,000 active shows, with more than 18.5 million episodes available. So what made them decide to start their own when there are so many podcasts already out there? ‘It comes from a built-up frustration. There’s a lot of ‘four men in a band’ ‘four instruments’ – it gets boring and you look for something more! The future is female and we were looking for a way to show all these amazing women off, so the best way to do it was this podcast.’ Gen adds, ‘beyond music even. We just get sick of hearing the same narratives, from the same people, across all the art forms, and there’s so much that can be found in new narratives and people like women or non-binary creatives who are doing something a bit different. That’s not already out there for us to listen to, so we’ll have to make it ourselves’. A dissatisfaction with the current outdated situation is evident: ‘That’s where it comes from, the whole desire to make something new, make a new scene and culture because we’ve had this for so long now that it’s so hard for people to look at something else’.
So, with two episodes recorded and under their belt, what can we expect? ‘Very candid and honest discussions, Elle and I are both quite happy to speak our minds and say what we think,’ Gen replies. ‘You’ll also hear from people that you might not have heard from because we focus on people who haven’t got those platforms’. In the same spirit, the duo invited local artists and performers, such as illustrator Beth Blandford and the S.C.U.M. collective, to showcase their work as part of the launch event. Elle marks the distinction between ‘Words for Birds’ and other podcasts available: ‘It’s not biased, it’s not like we’re choosing our friends like so many people often do, it’s just people who we really appreciate as artists and musicians and that’s what is different – an appreciation basically’.
What can the pair be found listening to when they’re not recording their own show? Gen discloses her favourite to be ‘Guys We F*cked’, a popular weekly podcast during which two women interview men they have slept with. Contrastingly, Elle identifies the true crime podcast ‘My Favourite Murder’ as her obsession. While these are two very different podcasts in terms of themes and content, at their helm are two female hosts creating a safe space and platform to discuss whatever they choose, much like ‘Words for Birds’.
The future for ‘Words For Birds’ is undetermined: ‘We’ve not really thought about where we want it to go so much as we just want to keep doing it and keep involving people. It’s really a learning experience for us at its core. If it goes somewhere where loads of people are getting enjoyment out of it, amazing, but our main thing is just that we really want to have a good time – it’s a chance to meet all of our creative girl crushes, their work’s so amazing.’
‘Words For Birds’ will be available across iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud from 13th February. You can follow them on Instagram (@wordsforbirds).