Wake The Town
Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

Drew Frohmann: “There’s Nothing as Unforgiving as a Pair of Human Ears”


TA2 Sound+Music’s writer and director tells LBB’s Adam Bennett about uncompromising standards in audio, and how AI inspired his remarkably prescient - and funny - podcast series

Drew Frohmann: “There’s Nothing as Unforgiving as a Pair of Human Ears”

If you knew Drew Frohmann as a kid, there’s nothing about his career which will surprise you. “I was a goofy little class clown, always trying to get a laugh”, he says. “I used to walk around town acting out Warner Brothers cartoons to myself, wearing my Superman costume and mask. I did OK in school, but all I really wanted to do was draw comics and watch TV”. 

For TA2 Sound+Music’s writer and director, then, the idea of making people laugh for a living was irresistible. And it’s that same playful and sometimes-whimsical attitude that helped Drew put together rib-tickling ads for the likes of Bud Light, Toyota, KFC, and countless others over the course of his career to date. What he might not have been able to predict, however, was just how much he ended up being drawn towards the world of audio. 

Above: This much-loved ad for natural deodorant Purelygreat is a perfect example of the charming and left-field comedy Drew often employs in his work. 

“I really loved broadcast, both TV and radio. But on TV you had to obsess over every tiny thing - how clean the car was, or the position of furniture. On radio it was only the fun stuff: Writing, actors, timing, and music”, he says. “Plus, at the time, clients were obsessed with TV and they picked at every script and storyboard. In radio, you were just left to get on with doing cool shit”. 

Jumping forward to today, our culture’s relationship with audio and sound has been transformed. And yet, there are traces of DNA from that playful, experimental, and wholeheartedly creative era in which Drew started his career. 

In fact, it doesn’t take long listening to the writer, director, and audio storyteller speak to get the impression that we’re arriving at a particularly exciting moment for audio in the creative world. 

Audio for the ADHD Generation? 

“Something that has surprised me has been the recent explosion of audio storytelling”, he says. “There’s some amazing work being done in narrative podcasts, for example. It’s a surprise because it harks back to seriously old-time radio, the stuff you might have listened to at 11.30 at night when they figured audiences had already gone to sleep. So the fact that it’s so popular now, in 2023, is pretty wild”. 

As for what’s been driving that change, Drew is happy to speculate. “Personally, I think it’s about changes in the way we consume content. Everyone is so damn ADHD that I think it’s had a strangely positive effect on audio podcasting”, he suggests. “We listen to relaxing stories or soundscapes when we want to go to sleep, for example - or while we’re doing other things. It seems impossible to focus all of our attention on one single thing anymore, which is challenging for content creators. But if it helps inspire a great new generation of audio storytelling, that’s a silver lining at least”. 

As a result of this increasing surge in the demand for content across the media spectrum, Drew is keen to stress the importance of quality audio across every type of campaign. “There’s nothing as unforgiving as a pair of human ears”, he says. “As any first-year film student is sure to discover, people are incredibly unforgiving of bad audio quality. And that’s not just the snobs, the sheer quality and variety of content that’s out there now means that there’s never been a lower tolerance for shitty audio”. 

Such is the depth of Drew’s passion for what he does that, in many ways, it was inevitable that he would at some point join forces with the team at TA2 Sound+Music headed up by president and owner Steve Gadsden. “I’d been hearing good things about this guy called Steve - particularly how thoughtful and supportive he was for his people - for a number of years while working at other soundhouses”, recalls Drew. “When I eventually met Steve, he was refreshingly nerdy about audio. He wasn’t about the posturing or swagger - he just wanted to nerd out on audio and do mind-bending stuff”. 

The collaboration between Drew and TA2 Sound+Music has recently led to the company producing his brainchild podcast, Human-B-Gon. As well as representing a perfect example of our current renaissance in audio storytelling, Human-B-Gon also stands out as a remarkably prescient and original observation on the impact of AI on humanity… 

The Rise of the Machines 

The premise of Human-B-Gon is a cocktail equal parts simple, humorous, and profoundly worrying. The idea is that, in a not-too-distant and not-unimaginable future, artificial intelligence has gained sentience and created its own society. But rather than entering into a bloodthirsty battle for supremacy with humanity, the machines look at us with a combination of disgust and pity. Enter ‘Human-B-Gon’ - a kind of pest control service for getting rid of those pesky humans wherever they pop up. 

Above: Listen to an episode of Drew’s Human-B-Gon podcast, produced by TA2 Sound+Music. 

“A few years ago, I heard this terrifying story about AI”, says Drew. “A few years ago, a study was conducted in which two AIs were set up to talk to each other. Before long, they’d invented their own language and were talking about topics incomprehensible to their human observers at an unfathomable speed. Bewildered, the scientists overseeing the study simply shut the whole thing down…”. 

But for Drew, that anecdote sparked a fascinating train of thought. From The Matrix to Blade Runner, science fiction plays on fears that AI will destroy humanity or change what it means to be a human. But what if in reality, the machines simply didn’t care? What if they decided they had more important things to be concerned about than us? 

“That struck me as a darkly comic idea”, says Drew. “On top of that, the machines become sort of neurotic in their own way - anxious about the future in a way that most of us could probably recognise. Rather than being these all-knowing and all-powerful beings, what if these AIs were prone to bouts of existential dread similar to those which have famously afflicted many of the greatest human geniuses?”. 

For a world currently grappling with the implications and potential of artificial intelligence, it’s a timely concept. What’s extraordinary about Human-B-Gon, however, is that the idea came to Drew in 2018 - long before the likes of MidJourney and ChatGPT had become the talk of the creative industries. 

But that doesn’t mean that its creator hasn’t considered the effect of AI tech on our work. “I think the perceived value of creativity is about to come down even more”, he says. “Remember typesetters? I can recall older art directors saying that these new-fangled computers could never replace the finesse of a human being kerning the type on a headline by hand. Isn’t that adorable?”. 

With all of that in mind, how is the writer and director maintaining his trademark positivity about the future? “Well, I think a better question might be to ask which future we might feel positive about”, he replies. “The last few years have shown us that our desire for storytelling - and audio storytelling - is amazingly durable. And in terms of AI, there are undoubtedly ways in which that could help us all live healthier, better, and happier lives. Framed like that, it’s easy to feel positive. 

“But will we go down that path? Or will we just use it to make a few more trillionaires? That, like all the rest of it, is going to be up to us”.

view more - People
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.

Genres: People

TA2 Sound + Music, Wed, 22 Mar 2023 08:45:38 GMT