The Banyan Collective | Buzz Blog

The Banyan Collective

A chat with the trio behind the Ogden-based podcasting network.

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Most people who podcast only take on one show, mainly because podcasting is nowhere near a full-time job for the majority of those who do it, so cranking out one episode a week is about as much time as people can devote to it. But then there are those who think to themselves "One show? Hell, I can do seven!" The Banyan Collective is a trio of podcasters who have put together their own podcasting network with a variety of programs that cover the outdoors, local music, books and more. Today we chat with the three friends behind the network about theirprogramming, as well as where they hope to take everything down the road. (All pictures provided courtesy of the Collective.)

John Wojciechowski, Brandon Long and Todd Oberndorfer
THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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TheBanyanCollective.com

Gavin: Hey everyone! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

John: I’m a 40-something middle-aged white male, and balding, who’s greatest accomplishment thus far is my 23-year marriage and counting  to my wife. This marriage has generated two kids, a boy and a girl ages 19 and 15. We’re all natives of Utah but label ourselves as progressives.

Brandon: I wear flannel shirts and foam trucker hats and bring my dog, Harry, to the office. I take my daughter to gymnastics once a week, help my son with the fine art of jumping from the coffee table to the couch, consistently remind my teenager to do laundry and enjoy spending time with the wife window-shopping at semi-annual RV shows. I drive #TanVan, a 1987 Dodge camper van that is our mobile podcast studio. When I’m not podcasting, I work full time as marketing director for a local outdoor shop, GEAR:30, named after a segment of our flagship show.

Todd: My life choices have constantly provided me the inspiring yet near-poverty and mostly uninsured perspective that I felt a career in the arts and random traveling gigs could provide. After 10 years, this may be the year I ditch my storage unit. Unless another adventure comes along, which it always seems to. I’m an old-school artist/environmentalist/activist who loves Cameron Crowe, snowshoeing, Sundance, San Diego Comic Con, printmaking, Marrakesh, '80s pop-culture, Pearl Jam, street art, Indiana Jones and VHS tapes. And I have three rescued cats. And a beard. Jesus, I’m a stereotype.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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Prior to the collective, what had each of you been doing with jobs and college?

Brandon: We began our first podcast, the Ogden Outdoor Adventure Show, in 2010 as a specialty radio show for the Weber State campus station. I was a returning student studying English and photography, and needed yet another unprofitable endeavor to keep me busy. So, I hit up my good friend, Todd Oberndorfer (aka Todd-to-the-Top), and together we launched a project that remains seven years later.

Todd: Somewhere in the 20-year gap between starting art school in Kansas to graduating with a BFA in printmaking a year ago in Utah, I worked on ships from Germany to Hawaii and Seattle to Juneau. I lived/worked on Catalina Island on three occasions. I lived/worked as a resident artist/conciérge at a boutique hotel in an olive grove on the outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco. I co-owned a published decorative finishing and painting company which did work nationally and globally. I was an art director at several silkscreen companies. I was hand-to-the-queen at a stencil company in San Diego. Add a healthy dash of sporadic unemployment into the mix, and that makes up my time before The Banyan Collective. Currently, I do activist art as Rhetoric Workshop and I’m the Outreach Manager/Advisor for the Department of Visual Art & Design at Weber State University.

John: I graduated from Weber State in the mid-'90s, majored in Communications and Criminal Justice. I worked as an Ogden City Deputy Constable for several years until the actual constable was indicted for fraud. The Ogden City Constable’s office doesn’t exist anymore. I worked at Iomega for seven years until they went out of business, so I opened a shoe store, Striders. I managed my shoe stores for 13 years until I sold it to a bigger store, and worked for the new owner until they fired and escorted me from the building. I haven’t been back. If those stores ever close, I won’t have any verifiable employment history. At least I’ll always have Banyan.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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How did the three of you all meet each other and become friends?

Brandon:
Todd dated my sister and they remain best friends today. John didn’t date my sister, but I’m sure he would make a play should he ever find himself divorced from his beloved. We met John when he strolled in on one of our podcasts and wanted to join in. Notice my story is different from his. We did solidify The Banyan Collective as a biz over beer and pizza at Slackwater.

John: Todd and Brandon were already producing the Ogden Outdoor Adventure Show when I met them. I wanted to play, so I pitched them the idea of "Mr. Goodyear’s Neighborhood." They brought me on-board as a partner in 2014 when we established Banyan. We met drinking beers at Slackwater.

Todd: I’ve been friends with Brandon for years. Dated his sister, who’s now my BFF. I honestly don’t know how John fell into the mix. Something to do with our mutual love of Eddie Vedder and the ridiculously successful running stores he owned and was eventually escorted from. And beer and pizza. That part of their story is right.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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What kind of podcasts did you normally listen to and were influenced by?

Todd:
I continue to be inspired by Chris Hardwick and his Nerdist empire. The man has worked his ass off to get where he is today. I’ve listened to his show for years. Mad comfortable interviewing skills. And of course, there’s Fresh Air, Radiolab, Stuff You Should Know and WTF! with Marc Maron.

John: I was influenced by Bill Allred’s (Radio From Hell) Let’s Go Eat Show podcast. Bill knows this, but I ripped off a segment from X96’s RFH show called "Who are the people in your neighborhood" when we created Mr. Goodyear’s Neighborhood.

Brandon: I edit all our podcasts, so I only have time to listen to our own podcasts. I do watch/listen to The Dan Patrick Show when I can in the mornings. I’m also the lone political conservative and listen to Michael Medved religiously.

How did the idea come about to start up The Banyan Collective? Where does the name come from?

Brandon: Todd should really explain where the name came from. The symbolism of the banyan tree was his idea, and it’s awesome. Basically, I got fired from the shop in which I now again work. Yes, it’s weird. And, if you have an IPA and some time, I’ll share the whole story. But, we wanted to continue the hard work we put in to what at the time was GEAR:30 Radio, so we launched our own podcast production company: The Banyan Collective. We started with two shows, the Ogden Outdoor Adventure Show, and Mr. Goodyear’s Neighborhood.

Todd: I knew for a long time I wanted to use the idea of a banyan tree for a business or project. Native to India and other parts of the world, the primary trunk of the banyan tree has deep roots and countless limbs which drop their own aerial roots. With time, those roots mature into thick trunks which can become indistinguishable from the primary trunk. The idea was that Brandon, John and I would become the primary deep-rooted trunk and, with time, spread limbs that dropped their own roots. Currently, the primary trunk and original aerial roots are focused on podcasting and live events. But the best part of a collective is that those aerial roots can create anything. Historically, the Banyan Tree could spread to such an impressive size that it provided a shaded place for a village meeting or for merchants to sell their goods.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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What was it like gathering up all the equipment you needed to record?

Brandon:
Not bad. John showed up one day with equipment. I think he knows someone at Guitar Center. With podcasting, the equipment is probably the least of your worries. Formatting a show, finding content, good interviews, intriguing community stories and post-production are all more involved aspects of the process.

John: Brandon and Todd already had some equipment from their Gear:30 Radio days, the rest we filled in with an open check book at Guitar Center.

What were some of your early sessions like and how was it building up your first series?

John:
 Brandon and Todd, with years of shows already under their belts, had the production dialed in from the start. My early interviews weren’t that great because I said "um" and "fuck" a lot, but it’s getting better.

Todd: I was confident, inspiring and funny from the very first show. Brandon was super nervous, spit into the mic constantly, said “um” and “like” every other word, mispronounced everything, cut off the guests when they were answering his awkwardly-worded questions, had no concept of volume, did absolutely no research or pre-show work, and was an absolute diva who wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone but his beloved microphone (which no one could touch but him). “Diva-from-Day-One.” That’s what we called him. He wanted to call our flagship show Ogden Indoor Adventure and just watch basketball and drink rum and Coke. At least that’s how I remember it.

Brandon: We started in a radio studio at Weber State, KWCR 88.1, so I was a nervous wreck! But, with live streaming now, it’s almost back to our start-up days when we decide to go live. At first, I put a lot of time into pre-programming and we actually started the Ogden Outdoor Show with four hosts, each designed to be experts in their particular area and to help push the show along. I figured there was no way between four of us we would ever have dead air. I hosted the show with Todd-to-the-Top as co-host, Trippy Tressa provided weekly Trip Reports, and Gear Junky (with a "y") James, provided weekly gear reviews. We’ve moved past that format but still keep a version of those segments.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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For those who aren't familiar with the Collective, tell us about all the shows you currently have.

Brandon:
 First is the Ogden Outdoor Adventure Show , “Adventure for your ears.” Weekly segments include: Weekly Happy, interviews, adventure news, On the Docket (events), Worth Watching, Worth Reading, skills, Trip Reports, Gear, Quote of the Week and Outdoor Jukebox.  Mr. Goodyear’s Neighborhood is “a podcast about a mountain town run by mountain people,” aka Ogden. Van Sessions, in association with Ogden City Arts and Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll. We park my 1986 Dodge camper van at Ogden's Union Station and schedule acoustic sets from local musicians to play on the hour from 6-9 p.m. We simultaneously blast the music down Historic 25th Street as well as record each four-song set and candid conversation for the podcast. LITerally, hosted by author, professor and Ogden Pub runner Kase Johnstun dives into the writing and publishing process with local and non-local published authors. Bug Huckers is a seasonal fly fishing podcast with the tag “go huck yourself.” Finally, the Mountain Life Podcast is an industry/community podcast specifically for Mountain Luxury Real Estate.

John: Todd and Brandon work hard and do a hell of a job with OOA and Van Sessions. MGN is more sporadic and I appreciate their patience with me. Now that there’s a whole industry boycotting Utah, the state is going to need companies like Banyan to help tell Utah’s story with shows like OOA. We’ll do our part to help fill-in that $45 million hole every year.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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You have six podcasts all being created and produced by the collective between the three of you. What made you go for so much content across multiple topics?

Brandon:
The themes of outdoors, arts and culture bind the podcasts together. All topics we love.

John: There’s a lot of great stories in the greater Ogden area. Some good, some bad, but it’s our duty to tell them all.

Todd: The content has developed naturally, which was the idea from the start. The three of us live in the world of the outdoors and the arts, so naturally, the topics are more or less based on those categories. I think the most successful podcasts are about niche topics that the hosts are passionate about. As the Collective continues to grow and expand, I’m excited to see how diverse the content will become.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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What was the influence behind making all of the shows Ogden-centric or revolving around the outdoors?

Todd:
You podcast what you know. In our case, we know Northern Utah and the outdoors. Outdoor activities are so much more than just hiking, snowboarding, or paddle boarding. The conversations continue beyond the trails, slopes, and waterways. A morning on the trails can turn into a 30-minute podcast conversation about public lands or Naked & Afraid.

John: OOA has always been the centerpiece of Banyan but Ogden is a lot more than just outdoor recreation. It just so happens the same people in Ogden who recreate outdoors also own businesses, create art and establish the culture of Ogden. Ogden’s diversity was the influence.

Brandon: There is a boatload of podcasts about comics and sci-fi culture in the world, but we haven’t gone down that route. I think we’re leaning closer to beer next.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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What's the reaction been like from the listeners and how has it been building that base up since you started?

John:
 All 12 of our listeners have been very supportive of the shows. If those 12 can each get 12 of their friends and family to listen and then each of them sign up 12 more friends and family… it’s like a pyramid.

Brandon: My mom still listens to all the shows, so I consider that a win. My wife manages to call or text me whenever I’m podcasting, so now it’s just bad luck when I don’t have to forward her call during a show.

Todd: I don’t have to explain what a podcast is nearly as often as I used to. That part’s kind of nice. Listeners have been incredibly supportive. This has definitely been a story of slow and steady winning the race. Not that we’ve won many races yet. But we’re starting to place at least.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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With all these separate shows happening, what do you hope to achieve with the Collective in the long-run?

Brandon:
Often I am impressed with our guests, and feel blessed and privileged to be producing a show, or having a laugh with friends over good conversation and good beer. I feel really really lucky to have met so many inspiring and amazing people through podcasting. I say, start your own podcast, if for no other reason than to just get to know more people. It’s a wonderful thing.

John: I like the idea of the shows growing organically, let’s just see where they take us. If I had a business, the best way to tell your story and engage with your customers is with podcasting. The Banyan Collective would love to help those businesses tell their stories and connect with their people. Give us a call.

Are there any new shows in the works or are you comfortable with the ones you have?

John:
There’s always new show ideas being bounced around. Some have stuck, obviously, and others are still being developed. Stay tuned.

Brandon: Yes, we do have a print and vinyl show that’s been slow on the launch, but promises to be super rad. The show’s hosts include three wonderful women. One owns a local record store in Lavender Vinyl, one owns a local bookstore in Booked on 25th and the other is my sister, who is both the producer and host. I’m super excited for this entrepreneurial, cultural, political, intelligent show. Us three guys tend to keep things light and fun, so hoping these three powerhouses can balance us with substance and style.

THE BANYAN COLLECTIVE
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What can we expect from The Banyan Collective over the rest of 2017?

Brandon:
More great stories and interviews. Some of our best work comes from live shows. Van Sessions is live, and we also podcast live from the Snowbasin Beer Festival each year, and those interviews are always a hoot! If anyone would like us to bring a little podcast flair to their event, hit us up. We love that shit.

John: #fakenews #alternativefacts. We’re gonna blow 2017 up!

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