Text Interview with creator Matt MacCarthy by Jude Caravel from The Catch
 
(this interview was initially conducted entirely by text message.)

JC: Hey Matt! This is Jude over at The Catch. It was great talking with you last week about Dream State! I listened to the first couple episodes and that shit is bananas!

MM: jude! hi! thanks so much for reaching out and for listening! glad you're enjoying the show!

JC: Just wanted to throw a few questions at you, if that's alright?

MM: absolutely! i'd be happy to. ask away!

JC: A lot of audiodramas out now rely entirely on sound design to fill the space between dialogue. What made you decide to have a designated Third Person POV narrating description as well as the action?

MM: that came about largely because i have literally a thousand characters. and while Luke is definitely the show's protagonist, i want him to shut up and take a back seat to some of the other main characters a lot of the time. and he's a very unreliable hero. i wanted the dynamics of the dialogue counterbalanced by narration that grounds the audience. and i think Kate, our narrator, is just perfect for that. she does this thing where she keeps her voice just below room volume and i love it! it lends an air of intimacy to the picture she's painting in the audience's head. as big as this story is, dreams remain a very intimate thing and i wanted the action and description to echo that feeling of intimacy.

JC: And she is absolutely bloody brilliant. Where did you find her?

MM: we met through a mutual friend while we were both at PCC (pasadena city college) and just became good friends really fast. we've always been huge fans of each other's artistic work. we were roommates up in altadena for awhile and she would sometimes use my room (which lacked noise-making cats) to record podfics for various fandoms online. even if i wasn't big into those fandoms, i loved listening to those podfics just because of her voice. it's awesome being friends with someone you're a huge fan of! so when it came time to cast a narrator, someone else in the cast asked why i didn't just do it myself and i told them i hate my speaking voice, which is true, but the longer more complete answer is that Kate has been there for me as a friend through thick and thin, often as a voice of reason when i get super emotional about things, so i think my subconscious permanently kind of imagines Kate as the voice of objective truth now.

JC: Speaking of objective truth, a lot of your characters seem a bit cynical and pessimistic about the world. Not too much levity or joy in their lives. Why is that?

MM: i think a lot of that comes from living in LA and just listening to people's truths. everyone i know is a disaster away from losing their car or their apartment or their health insurance or their job. everyone is working their asses off, hustling, doing shit they hate just to afford an occasional bit of joy and relief. we're a run down people. look into the eyes of anyone you see on the street and you'll see the scars of all the dreams they've had to give up on. so many broken people the American Dream has just completely left behind. that's the reality i live in. and that's the reality this story takes place in.

JC: Oof. I think Officer Nat DeVoure would call that "too real."

MM: ha!

JC: Your episodes thus far are labeled as being part of Season 1. How far ahead have you planned or plotted? How many seasons should listeners expect this journey to go for?

MM: good question. uh, the honest answer is i don't know. i have several Official Chronologies that go backward and forward in time a long ways. i think my initial plan was to have the first 3 seasons take place over one day apiece: October 29th, 30th, and 31st, respectively, with of course a lot of flashbacks and nonlinear storytelling the whole way. but i have a HUGE paradigm shift planned for the end of Season 3 that i hope doesn't change between now and then.

JC: When you actually sit down to write the scripts, do you tend to follow your outline then? Or does planning sometimes fall by the wayside?

MM: it depends. some plot points are set in stone and 100 percent necessary, while others are very flexible or even disposable. the problem that i encounter most often comes from just having too many characters. like, i'll have corresponding plot threads for 90 percent of them but a few i just forgot to figure out. whoops. so in those instances, i sometimes try to nudge those characters toward the next distant plot point they need to be present for, but the best solution is usually to just listen to those characters and let them react in a way that feels genuine. some of my favorite subplots have come about from just inhabiting these characters and watching what they do once i back them into a corner.

JC: What are you most excited to share with listeners in 2018?

MM: as of right now, definitely Episode 3. the first two episodes are great, and i love them, but in the next one a lot of the story threads come together beautifully with this super heart-pounding intense soundtrack and you start getting a much better idea of what's really going on and what CONCH actually is. that's very exciting to me.

JC: I want to talk about that for a hot second. CONCH. What the hell is going on with them? Why plague masks? Where are they during their mission in Episode 2? Why are they there? What are they after?

MM: i wish i could answer you, but... spoilers. what i can say regarding CONCH is to listen to the story Claire tells Magpie in Episode 2.

JC: I caught that! That's a Lord of the Flies allusion, yes?

MM: most definitely. one of my favorite books of all time. and i can guarantee that won't be the last nod i make to it. the idea that a human heart can just naturally be part vicious animal gets explored in great depth the further along the show gets.

JC: Looking forward to it! One last thing I want to ask about before I let you get back to work (hurry up already!) is the soundtrack. How much music have you come up with for the show? How much time do you spend scoring each episode?

MM: well, let's see, i have about a hundred full-length instrumentals that i've recorded over the last decade that often convey the mood i'm after perfectly. but i try to avoid my back catalogue as much as i can, just because what i'm making now is more cohesive. but like the piano pieces i've used in each episode so far are pieces i composed years ago that never really found the right home. 

(cont'd) but i also have hundreds more really basic little demos i've made on my phone using this app called Figure. it was created by Propellerhead who makes Reason. it's great. i can't drive, so i'm a slave to public transportation, which, in LA, still needs some work, but whatever. making demos on my phone means i can compose whenever inspiration strikes without having to wait to get home to my instruments and set up all that complicated gear and equipment. and the app is super basic, like, you get a singular drum track, a bass track, and a synth track and that's it. the sounds themselves are pretty customizable and you can record envelope movement and filter variation and delay sweeps and stuff like that. but the simplicity means i can't go too crazy with layering because you only ever get the 3 tracks, and as an electronic musician, i definitely need that boundary sometimes. Figure has contributed so much to the creative process for me, i can't recommend it enough.

(cont'd) but when it comes to putting an episode together, my general rule is that the present (October 29th, 2021) has no soundtrack. everyday life isn't usually scored for dramatic effect. but i try to always have music going during the flashbacks because memory is so subjective. i like the idea that these memories have a heightened magical realism, this unnecessary melodramatic quality, simply by default. and i'll occasionally try a few different pieces with a scene, but i usually know exactly what i want. a lot of times, i write the music before i even write the scene, so the music's just sitting there, waiting to be used. but then once it's all pieced together, sometimes i'll have to go back and re-mix a track so that it doesn't get too bogged down by the sound design. did that answer your question? sorry, i think i was just rambling there for awhile.

JC: No you definitely did, no worries. You've given me some great insight. Thanks so much for talking with me and answering my questions!

MM: it was my pleasure! thank you for reaching out!

JC: I look forward to doing this again once the next episode is out. Can you give us a tease? A hint? Anything to tide people over until Episode 3 drops?

MM: haha sure. episode 3 is titled The Dead Bird.

JC: Thanks so much. Take care!