Melody Thomas has a certain, um, unique problem on her hands.
Since her podcast, 'BANG', was launched 6 weeks ago, co-produced with Radio NZ, everyone wants to tell her about their sex lives. You see, Melody created New Zealand's first ever frank podcast about the bird and the bees. Luckily, in between running around after her kids and a busy freelance career, this doesn’t seem to phase her. So who is this Wellington woman, how did she come up with the idea to talk to Kiwis about ‘bonking’ and what is it that keeps her going?
WHO IS MELODY?
Melody Thomas is a freelance writer and broadcasters and hot mama, from Wellington. As well as creating her podcast, 'BANG', she produces Music 101 and regularly writes for Capital Magazine.
HOW DID SHE START WORKING AT RADIO NEW ZEALAND?
Melody was born in Palmerston North. “My parents met at uni - she asked if she could ‘bum a lighter’ and they became flatmates soon after. It sounds kind of gross but it was always a romantic image for me,” she says over coffee at Nikau. Her father was a ranger on a farm-forest park growing up while her mother worked as a newspaper ad rep and later councilwoman.
Melody had the whole of the outdoors as her back garden. “My earliest memories of growing up are finding abandoned lambs in the farm and bringing them inside and putting them in the oven to warm them up. We climbed trees, ran through rivers. I attribute my independence to being able to grow up in that way,” Melody remembers.
Naturally bright, Melody excelled at school quickly. However, this started to get her into trouble as she discovered an anti-authoritarian streak. “I began to understand when teachers had gaps in their knowledge. Because I was bored I’d be naughty and call them out on it, acting the class clown,” she says. Things got even worse in high school, where Melody was expelled from Wellington Girls’ College. She asked to go to Wellington High School, but her parents told her that that would be rewarding bad behaviour. Instead, she was sent to Aotea College, which Melody thinks suited her fine because she’d grown up in that part of town. “I was such a little shit, ” she remembers, rolling her eyes. “I had begged to go to Wellington Girls because all my friends were there - we’d even worked out this story about me really wanting to learn Latin so I could get in from out-of-zone. Then, a year later, I’m kicked out for throwing a tennis ball at the Headmistresses head in assembly.”
When Melody cleaned up her act in seventh form, it was because she realised she wasn’t hurting the people she wanted to (namely her teachers and parents). She started studying in secret and would rise an hour early to cram and worked late into the night. Melody ended up being awarded Dux of her year at Aotea. “It was actually selfish. I mean I wanted to do really well but more importantly, I wanted people to think I hadn’t tried.”
Melody studied at Victoria University, fast tracking her psychology degree so that she could study at broadcasting school in Christchurch. “It’s really amazing and really intense” Melody recalls. “There’s pressure on you to do well and you live in each others pockets. There was heaps of work, and it was very easy to fail if you don’t meet all the components. Less than half of the people out of the 20 who started finished the degree.”
After finishing, Melody started at Radio New Zealand almost immediately, starting on ‘Summer Noelle’ and has been working there ever since.
HOW DID SHE START MUSIC 101?
Melody had always loved music, so naturally gravitated to this area of Radio New Zealand. “When I was a teenager, bands like Fur Patrol, Shihad and Head Like A Hole would regularly play in Wellington. It was such a great time for New Zealand music.” Melody remembers. Music 101 goes to air on a Saturday afternoon, and back when she started, was where a lot of the fresh blood was at Radio New Zealand. One of her first jobs was to go to all the New Zealand summer festivals and interview musicians and crowd members at the shows. “It was incredible. I couldn’t have wished for a better job when I was 22,” Melody says.
WHAT DOES SHE LOVE ABOUT PUBLIC RADIO?
“The companionship of it. In my home… there is almost never a moment when radio isn’t playing in the background, humming away, like an old friend. I really feel lucky to be invited into people’s homes in that way,” Melody says. “I think I was only ever going to work in public radio. I love that I have complete freedom to work on whatever story feels important, without having to worry about advertisers or shareholders. All that matters is reflecting New Zealand back on itself.”
HOW DID MELODY FALL INTO MOTHERHOOD?
Relatively young by New Zealand standards, Melody was 27 when she first became pregnant. However, it wasn’t planned, she and her partner were not ready at that time and after an intense week of back and forth decided, out of the blue, to keep the baby. A few days later, she miscarried. It was absolutely heartbreaking, but the situation also made Melody and her partner realise that starting a family was something they wanted to do - though not before one last adventure.
“We took off to South America for half a year, ending in Rio at carnival for a real, ceremonious goodbye to the days of freedom,” she says.
Melody then had her daughter Sadie and last year had her son Bo. “Motherhood made me more focused. Time is so precious, you really have to prioritise. It has sharpened the vision I have for what I want to do.”
WHERE DID THE IDEA TO MAKE 'BANG' COME FROM?
Melody fell in love with podcasts almost immediately the first time she heard them, in light of her radio background. She came up with the idea of a sex podcast when listening to Dan Savage’s ‘Savage Love’ because “it sparked those kind of conversations with my partner and friends, and it got me thinking about the kinds of conversations New Zealanders might like to have about sex.”. A year after her initial idea, Radio New Zealand was looking for internal pitches for podcasts. Melody immediately applied. “I felt I had a lot to prove with BANG, so it’s quite heavily produced with a huge number of interviews and panel discussions. But the RNZ audience hadn’t really talked about sex in such a frank way before, so it needed to be well thought out, and representative of a bunch of different experiences.”
WHAT ENDED UP SURPRISING MELODY ABOUT 'BANG?'
People were happy to open up about sex. “I’m still getting messages every day with people’s stories about sex. It really surprised me how forthcoming people chose to be, and how much they trusted me,” Melody says. Surprisingly difficult, however, was putting herself in the story, guiding the podcast along. Normally, Melody would cut out herself from any radio content. “I realised quite quickly without one person’s story throughout the whole thing it wouldn’t hold together. It was a new challenge for me which made me vulnerable.”
AND DATING IN WELLINGTON?
“When I was dating, it was all about the 2 am scramble,” says Melody. “I totally missed out on Tinder.”
“Wellington gives me access to everything I love about a city, but it feels like a village” says Melody. “I love that I run into people everywhere I go. When you’re in your twenties, you maybe had a one night stand and run into the person on the bus the next day. That kind of shit is what I love. To do this podcast in my own backyard has been amazing.”