On this week’s show, we’re talking with audio makers who are doing what they love — and doing it really, really well. We follow one musician’s odyssey as she becomes the person she was raised to be and transforms that into something more. We’ll also touch base with some podcast masterminds who are building community in music, design and more.

The through line? A deep commitment to the values that got them where they are now.


Luz Elena Mendoza draws upon her Mexican-American heritage, her religious upbringing, and her womanhood to create music for her band, Y La Bamba. 

Luz Elena Mendoza draws upon her Mexican-American heritage, her religious upbringing, and her womanhood to create music for her band, Y La Bamba. 

Courtesy Luz Elena Mendoza

The Many Identities of Luz Elena Mendoza: Artist, Mexican-American, Mujer - 1:30

For more than a decade, Luz Elena Mendoza and her band, Y La Bamba, have been melding traditional musica mexicana with dreamy folk pop. Last week, she released her eagerly anticipated fifth album, “Mujeres.” Much of the new record deals explicitly with Mendoza’s upbringing in southern Oregon, where she was raised by devoutly Catholic Mexican immigrants.

Mendoza generously granted us access to her songwriting process, her musical evolution, and her emotional reckonings with the past. At its heart, the work is an earnest, raw exploration of identity — what it means to be a Mexican-American woman today. Y La Bamba’s new album, “Mujeres,” is out now.


Portia Sabin runs the independent record label Kill Rock Stars, whose new podcast "Girl Germs" documents the making of an early, iconic release: Bratmobile's "Pottymouth." 

Portia Sabin runs the independent record label Kill Rock Stars, whose new podcast “Girl Germs” documents the making of an early, iconic release: Bratmobile’s “Pottymouth.” 

Will Watts

Are Podcasts the New Frontier of Punk Rock? - 23:30

Portia Sabin is the president of Kill Rock Stars, the independent record label that popularized and immortalized the Northwest’s burgeoning music scene in the early ‘90s. Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith and Bikini Kill had some of their first major releases under Kill Rock Stars.

Almost 30 years later, Kill Rock Stars’ new podcast, “Girl Germs” chronicles the conception and legacy of one of the label’s most iconic releases: Bratmobile’s first album, “Pottymouth.” We spoke with Sabin, who also hosts her own show, “The Future of What,” about the label’s unique place at the intersection of punk and podcasting.


A veteran of the podcasting business, Jesse Thorn hosts the show "Bullseye" and manages his own podcast network, Maximum Fun. 

A veteran of the podcasting business, Jesse Thorn hosts the show “Bullseye” and manages his own podcast network, Maximum Fun. 

Courtesy Jesse Thorn

Jesse Thorn, Podcasting’s Wunderkind - 32:35

Jesse Thorn has been podcasting since before podcasting was even a thing.

In 2000, Thorn started broadcasting his weekly show “The Sound of Young America” on his college’s radio station. A few years later, when he began circulating the show in podcast form, it received national attention and rave reviews. Since renamed “Bullseye,” it’s now distributed by NPR on over 50 public radio channels — and on Maximum Fun, the hugely popular podcast network that he created from the ground up. OPB’s John Notarianni spoke with Thorn about this rapidly developing industry, his rejection of big-money investors and his rigorous code of podcasting ethics.


Roman Mars is the host of the "99% Invisible" podcast and co-founder of the Radiotopia podcast network.

Roman Mars is the host of the “99% Invisible” podcast and co-founder of the Radiotopia podcast network.

Allison Frost/OPB

Roman Mars and the Evolution of the Audio-Narrative - 41:23

In some circles, podcaster Roman Mars is known as “the Ira Glass of design.” But if you’re looking for a show about Gothic cathedrals and the Bauhaus school, Mars’ podcast “99% Invisible” isn’t it.

Instead, the show is a fascinating examination of how architecture and design shape human lives, relationships, and perceptions. To date, “99% Invisible” has amassed over 150 million downloads, but Mars’ contributions to the podcasting industry don’t stop there. In 2014, he launched the crowdfunded podcast network Radiotopia, renowned for its innovative approach to audio storytelling. Dave Miller of “Think Out Loud” spoke with Mars in 2017 about the ever-expanding landscape of podcast artistry.


Music Heard On 'State Of Wonder'

A Spotify playlist to share all the music we feature on our show and anything else that inspires us while we’re making it.