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Fandom is a strange and wonderful thing – strange, especially when it comes to podcasts. Audio often allows us to listen in on conversations from hosts nattering in our ears, lending a familiarity as though you’re listening to an overzealous friend’s extended voice notes. Conversational-style podcasts let audiences fully appreciate a personality, sinking into someone else’s world perhaps while cleaning, out for a run or on a commute, feeling like you have company through it all.
Launched back in 2016, The Receipts is a podcast that has very much cultivated that kind of fandom, where loyal listeners sincerely feel as though its hosts – Audrey Indome, Tolani “Tolly” Shoneye and Milena Sanchez – are their friends or their sisters. One of the biggest shows in the game, the presenters have become known for their warm, funny, bold approach, offering advice and anecdotes as well as holding space for big-name interviews.
Harnessing social media, they have created a real sense of community, not only through the hashtag #TheReceiptsPodcast but also through, for example, setting people up with buddies for their live shows if they were worried about going alone.
It’s a podcast that is enjoyed by pretty much everyone, but at the core of its fandom is a community of Black British women.
So what happens when The Receipts come face to face with one of their fans? As part of Spotify’s Only You campaign, gal-dem brought together the hosts with avid, long-time listener Rudo Makoni, to talk all things Receipts and podcasting.
The sun is pouring in through the windows and, as soon as the trio enter the gal-dem office, it’s all hugs, joy and excited compliments meeting Rudo. It’s almost like we’ve recreated that podcast dynamic – as though we’re in a room of old friends.
Rudo can’t pick a favourite episode because it depends on her mood but says she recommends the podcast to literally everyone – her boyfriend is now a fan too. In fact, it transpires that The Receipts have been a significant part of her formative years. “So basically, I was on Twitter, literally two days after you guys had released your first ever episode,” she explains, “It wasn’t trending, but loads of people on my timeline were talking about it…so then I listened from that first week when you guys released it. And I just loved the dynamic. You were kind of awkward then, especially when I listen back now.”
Everyone laughs, and Audrey agrees, “Yeah we were so formal!”
“But I loved the genuine camaraderie I could tell you guys had,” Rudo continues, “I really liked the vibe because I don’t have any older siblings, I’m the eldest, so it was kind of like having three older sisters.”
She then covers her face when the hosts ask her age, before explaining she’s embarrassed because of how young she is, “It’s because when you guys do dilemmas, you’re like ‘oh my gosh you’re babies, you shouldn’t be listening’…and I shouldn’t have been listening when I did… but I’m 21 now.”
The room erupts into screams when they realise she was 15 that week the podcast came out. “When we did the live shows we never even considered venues that allow under-18s, it never even crossed our minds teenagers would be listening!” says Tolly.
And so we begin our discussion about being a listener, cultural impact and audience expectations.
gal-dem: Rudo, when do you listen to The Receipts?
Rudo: Every Wednesday. [laughs] But usually, I do it when I’m doing something else, I wouldn’t just sit down and listen to it. But if I’m on my way somewhere, like on public transport, or if I’m cleaning up – literally, like any task, it’s either that or music, if that makes sense. It’s nice to have on in the background.
And what’s the weirdest place you’ve listened to it?
Milena: I wonder if people fuck to the podcast…
Tolly: ….I really hope not…
R: I think, maybe–
T: Please don’t tell us you’ve fucked to the podcast.
R: [laughs] No, no, I think probably the weirdest is just, you know, if I’m moseying to the toilet or something and it’s playing on my headphones.
What is it about The Receipts that is so unique?
M: We are literally just ourselves. We don’t try tell people how they should live, I think people gravitate towards our authenticity.
T: It’s quite hard to know – Rudo, what would you say?
R: [Laughs] I think probably what stands out compared to other podcasts is being able to feel you guys are genuinely friends. You guys aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, and you’re relatable.
Audrey: I think our audience are on a journey with us, they’re growing with us and seeing our development. I think that’s really cool to be able to listen to how our thoughts have changed on so many things. We don’t proclaim to be perfect.
Audrey, Tolani and Milena, could you have ever foreseen the impact of The Receipts when you were starting out?
M: Never! And I think that’s why it is what it is, because we didn’t think it would become this. I definitely didn’t start the podcast thinking it would be life-changing in any way, or that people would relate to us this much.
A: Same. I had no expectations, for me it was just supposed to be a bit of fun.
T: I didn’t have this expectation, but I’m also the kind of person who wouldn’t do anything if I didn’t think something would come of it! [laughs] As a human being, that’s who I am. I didn’t think this would be what it is, but I was hopeful it would be something. Five years ago, I’d listened to podcasts in America but it still wasn’t a huge thing in the UK. I don’t think you could fathom what it could be.
M: I think that’s why I had no vision for it, I never used to listen to podcasts.
Is it weird when people recognise you or feel like they know you?
T: I hate it! Because I feel like you arrive before you arrive. Everyone has heard you so they think they know who you are, they have this anticipation of you when you walk into the room.
M: People sometimes say things they think you want to hear, or they’ll repeat something that you said on the podcast because they think that means we’ll get along and you have something in common. What if I lied, bitch, what if I don’t like that shit? [laughs]
A: There is an element of performing which is quite strange. Especially when I lived all of my adult life being an unknown person. And with social media, child, these people will be talking shit about you on Twitter! But for the most part, it’s lovely, I don’t think any of us have had any bad face-to-face experiences. In the toilets people always want us to answer dilemmas.
M: Especially if we’re out together!
T: People kind of expect us to be their sisters. I’ve paid for a girl’s Uber home, I paid for someone’s therapy.
We were saying earlier about how five years ago there weren’t so many British podcasts. Rudo, were you listening to anything else back then?
R: It was definitely my first introduction to podcasts. The only British one that I feel like was around back then was 3Shots [OfTequila], so I was dabbling in that. But The Receipts opened the door to so many others, now I’m really into it.
What other podcasts do you listen to? And what draws you to them?
R: I listen to a lot of ones about, like, therapy for Black girls, I listen to this podcast these two drag queens in America do, Tolly’s Netflix one with Gena [10/10 (Would Recommend)], my friend has this Christian podcast. There’s just so many different types. I definitely think that common experience draws me to podcasts – is it someone who I already know of? If it’s other Black women, women of colour, I’m interested in that; Black British, I’m interested in that. People who look like me and have similar life experiences.
T: It’s nice that you say that, because the big thing for me with podcasts is, “Would I listen to this?”. I don’t do anything that I wouldn’t watch, read, listen to, that doesn’t make any sense to me. I like that you can feel it’s relatable. Obviously, I do also listen to stuff like crime podcasts – people can be multifaceted – but I was talking with Audrey about this the other day. Every so often we’ll get a white woman complaint – an email disapproving about how we speak or something like that…but those people are visitors in our space. We’re not going to change how we talk just to fit into a certain audience. No matter how big this thing gets, I know who our core audience is. Who am I talking to? I’m talking to me.
So would you say the main listeners you have are Black British people?
T: I hope it’s Black British women, I think it is. If I was ever to let them down, I’d be so disappointed. That’s who I think our audience is, that’s who I do all my shit for, being honest. Black British women.
A: They’re the ones who have made it pop as well, you actually can’t even deny it. In the beginning we didn’t have no marketing campaign or anything, it was all word of mouth, telling friends – and we have to just attribute that to Black British women, our core audience. For me, this is for them. That’s who I’m speaking to, that’s who I’m relating to. That’s what makes it authentic, I think, that we are talking to people who look like us. I’m not trying to enter another arena, and so I feel really comfortable in the space. That’s the nicest thing about it.
M: There’s actually no British Latinos that really listen [laughs]. No, d’you know what, in the last year or so I’ve seen an influx of Latinas DMing me, being like “oh you said a Spanish word, that made me feel like I’m at home!”. So maybe it’s growing, but there’s not even enough UK Latinos.
We’re in an unusual situation where you can do this, so Audrey, Milena, Tolly, do you have any questions you’d want to ask of your listeners?
A: Oooh. I would like to know if there’s ever been a moment where you wanted to give up listening to us?
R: Not really give up on the podcast! [laughs] But there have probably been times on Your Receipts where you’ve been replying to a dilemma and in my head, I’ll be like “I feel like they cappin’”. [laughs] But I feel like that comes down to comfortability again, and needing to clock I don’t actually know you. And because of age, you guys have so much more experience than me, so it’s nice to have that.
Rudo, do you have any other questions you want to ask them?
R: What do you want people to take away from listening to The Receipts?
T: I think a big thing for me is giving our listeners company. Obviously, we’re not physically there, but no matter what – up, down, whatever – there is this podcast that will be a voice of reassurance, a voice of laughter, or even just some bullshit.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]