Whether you need something to listen to during your next road trip or you just want to pop in your earbuds and lay in a hammock, here are four great podcasts to binge this summer.
“The Hard Times Podcast”
Interview with Hard Times founders Bill Conway and Matt Saincome
“I thought I’d get beat up,” The Hard Times cocreator Matt Saincome laughs, discussing his expectations when starting the site.
In recent years, the satirical news outlet has become a cultural phenomenon within punk, metal, and other music subcultures. The Hard Times’ founders never imagined it would turn into what it has become today. “My expectations for it were, maybe three of my friends would read it and say, ‘Ha ha! Good one, man,’ and then quickly forget about it,” cocreator Bill Conway says.
The website has gotten huge in the past few years, but among its staff, it still feels like a big family. “All the editors and all the people who we have doing the photos are all homegrown stuff,” Conway explains. “We’ve never hired somebody away from another site. They’ve all started as contributors in some way, or they emailed us and said they wanna help out and just grew themselves that way. So, our team is all people who have bought into the cult we’re starting to get put together.”
Although The Hard Times is a comedy website, the brand’s flagship podcast by Saincome and Conway follows more of a traditional interview style, with a new guest on the show each week. “I feel like, as The Hard Times got bigger and bigger, there was a decent amount of people who wanted to know who was behind it, and we never really put ourselves out in the forefront,” Saincome says. “There was a decent amount of band people who wanted to be involved in some way but didn’t really have a way to be involved. So, our podcast is a really nice, natural way that we can A, show people the guys behind the site and B, have all these band people who we’ve always admired come be a part of the website in some way by being on the podcast.”
The Hard Times will spawn more podcasts in the future, as they are starting a full-on podcast network. Currently, in addition to the interview podcast that Saincome and Conway host, the network has one other show by The Hard Times’ sister website Hard Drive, “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! Show.” However, Saincome and Conway confirm that more podcasts are on the way, some of which will lean into the style of humor for which the website is known.
Best Episodes for New Listeners:
Episode 8, featuring Lars Frederiksen
Episode 7, featuring Brian Fallon
Follow The Hard Times on Twitter
“Axe To Grind”
Interview with cohost Bob Shedd
When it comes to podcasts about hardcore and the culture surrounding it, none compare to “Axe To Grind.” There may be other hardcore podcasts out there, but this one is unique. Cohost Bob Shedd explains, “My cohosts, Tom [Sheehan] and Patrick [Kindlon], had been discussing wanting to do a podcast about hardcore, because they thought there wasn’t anyone doing a podcast about hardcore the way we would like to, where they were talking about it as a living, breathing entity and really trying to have a pulse on the conversation but also do it in this fun way that wasn’t hyper-local, that was more broad, speaking about things that a lot of people are seeing and talking about new bands that we all feel passionately about.”
Each of the three cohosts brings a unique personality and sense of humor to the table, which makes the show fun even for people who aren’t as familiar with the subject matter. In some ways, the individuality and independence of each host is representative of what they like about hardcore in the first place. “We all are drawn to some of these real ideals about hardcore being this thing that’s fiercely independent, a lot of free thought, a lot of focus on expression, and that there should be no barrier of expression,” Shedd explains.
Shedd says one of his goals with “Axe To Grind” is to help people become more comfortable talking about music—whether it’s music they love or music they dislike. “I also want people to feel more comfortable in being excited about music, in being excited about something that they like,” Shedd says. He explains that many parts of the internet promote the idea that people have to be an expert if they want to seriously discuss music, but he wants everyone to feel comfortable having those discussions. “To me, music is art,” he says. “There’s so much subjective nature there that having conversations about that is a really healthy part of life.”
Best Episodes for New Listeners
Episode 20, “What’s Next for Hardcore?”
Episode 33, “Listening Party With Paul Blart”
Episode 58, “Have Heart Reunion”
“Angry Grrrl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion”
Interview with host Amanda Starling
“I started ‘Angry Grrrl Music…’ because I was looking for more music that reflected my own voice, and it was very challenging for me to find not only the music itself for a long time but also a platform where I could learn more about it,” says Amanda Starling, creator and host of “Angry Grrrl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion.”
Starling’s podcast features interviews with a variety of women and queer folks in the independent music scene. The work she’s doing provides a signal boost so that more underrepresented artists can be heard. “It’s just a space where people are working really hard, and a lot of non-men, queer folks, and people of color work even harder to be in that space,” she says. “It’s really important to me that they’re heard among all the other people who are trying really hard to be heard.”
Starling’s interviews tend to focus on artists from the DIY scene, punk and its various subgenres. She is drawn to the independence and do-it-yourself ethic these artists exhibit. “One of the things I really love about that area of music,” Starling explains, “is the independence to it. The effort that a lot of people put into starting their own careers and the DIY aspect of it really appeal to me, because that’s something that resonates so much, not only in the music but in feminism in general.”
In many of the interviews, Starling’s guests talk about artists who made an impact on them when they were younger, such as Hayley Williams of Paramore. Starling hopes that the episodes will similarly inspire younger listeners. “That’s something that I want to be able to deliver with the podcast itself,” she says, “being able to give somebody an opportunity to hear a voice that will one day motivate them either to play music, write about music, take photos, launch their own labels, and see that it’s accessible.”
Best Episodes for New Listeners
Episode 5, “I Can Make a Difference, With Slingshot Dakota”
Episode 18, “The Greatest Emotional Release I’ve Ever Had, with Gutless”
Episode 61, “Uplifting Each Other, With To The Front”
Interview with host Tim Crisp
“Hey, all right!” That warm welcome kicks off every episode of Tim Crisp’s “Better Yet” podcast. Crisp’s gentle and kind demeanor has a way of putting his guests at ease, allowing them to open up and be vulnerable.
Many fans of underground music look to “Better Yet” for long-form conversations with their favorite artists. Crisp’s guests come from a variety of backgrounds, but they are all involved in the independent side of the music industry. “A good majority of the people who I talk to work jobs and do things that can supplement their creative side,” he says. “I kind of always went in with the approach that these are people who are similar in age range to me for the most part, and I wanted to get into their own experiences getting into music and eventually getting to a point where they’re choosing to do this and have a working life that is centered around it.”
“Better Yet” listeners know there’s a question Crisp frequently uses to open his interviews. “I always start with where you grew up, was there music in the house growing up, and kind of just getting into everybody’s personal experience with growing up with music and finding the first bands that really connected with you,” he explains. Like many of his guests, Crisp grew up in a musical household and discovered his love for music at a young age. “My version of my ‘cool older cousin’ or ‘cool older brother’ was my dad,” he shares. “He was just buying music constantly and still is. So, when I was growing up, I was just exposed to so much great music—and a lot of stuff as it was happening.”
Crisp isn’t alone when he interviews his guests. His pug, Chloe, is always by his side, and she even has a couple favorite guests. “I think it’s between Julia Steiner from Ratboys and Ginger Alford [from Good Luck],” Crisp says. “When Ginger was here, Chloe wouldn’t leave her alone. So, Ginger had a special bond with Chloe.”
Best Episodes for New Listeners
Episode 123, featuring Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties
Episode 118, featuring Steve Hartlett of Stove and Ovlov