While the last few Indie Spotlights have involved superheroes in one fashion or another, I thought I’d change things up a bit this week and shift some attention over to a disturbing little radio show from an even more disturbing little desert town. Though it’s not a TV show, movie or web series, this podcast – released twice a month – has already developed quite the fan following. This past month alone, the podcast masquerading as a small town radio broadcast managed to pass This American Life as the most-downloaded audio podcast on iTunes. It’s drawn comparisons to – and attention from – fans of the NBC series, Hannibal, mostly for its macabre setting and general sense of foreboding. Haven’t heard about it yet? Or have the secret police erased your memory? If so, hit the jump to (re)discover Welcome to Night Vale.
On a skeleton crew of just two writers, a narrator, and a small team of artists, musicians and producers, Welcome to Night Vale has managed to ignite a rabid fan base with the simple art of spoken-word storytelling. Each podcast, which runs about 25 minutes, features Cecil Baldwin, a lone narrator who broadcasts the news, traffic and current events of Night Vale. It appears to be a normal town, except for the mysterious glow cloud that occasionally hovers overhead, the terrifying Street Cleaners, the hooded figures who may or may not haunt the dog park and the deceitful and corrupt City Council (well, that last part is probably more normal than the rest). Cecil’s news is interrupted only by sponsored messages, occasional news updates or press releases, and the weather, which actually features a new indie musician with each episode.
It’s a show that’s fun to listen to in the safety of your own home, but might take on a darker tone if one were to hear it over the radio on, say, a desolate desert road at night. The stories have an obvious Lovecraftian influence and have been described as “the news from Lake Wobegon as seen through the eyes of Stephen King,” by Christopher Wynn of The Dallas Morning News. Cecil’s monologue is occasionally interrupted by white noise, ceaseless wailing or censorship by the secret police. All of these elements could easily find their way into a David Lynch-type setting that would rival Twin Peaks. What the fans seem to have latched on to the most, however, is Cecil’s infatuation with resident scientist, Carlos, a relationship that has spawned multiple Tumblr accounts and media.
Indie projects don’t always need to kickstart funds and ask for millions of dollars, though Welcome to Night Vale does take donations with some swag provided in return. You can check out the podcast for yourself through iTunes. Here’s the synopsis for Welcome to Night Vale (via Commonplace Books):
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.
Turn on your radio and hide.
Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin. Music by Disparition. Logo by Rob Wilson