The Last City: An Immersive Fictional Audio Podcast From Wondery - A Review + Interview With Lead Sound Designer Steve Bond

A review of Wondery’s new fictional audio podcast The Last City, plus an in-depth interview with the lead sound designer and re-recording engineer of the podcast, Steve Bond.

By Eimear O SullivanMusicngear Editor

Article photo - The Last City: An Immersive Fictional Audio Podcast From Wondery - A Review + Interview With Lead Sound Designer Steve Bond

Wondery’s new fictional audio podcast The Last City is mixed within Dolby Atmos; teleporting you directly into the lavish soundscapes of the blissful Pura, and immersing you in the other ambient environments in which the mystery at the heart of the story unfolds.

We have a quick review of the podcast, in addition to an in-depth interview with the lead sound designer and re-recording engineer of the podcast Steve Bond, where we discuss the sound design process, building the audio worlds and soundscapes, inspirations for these environments, and, advice for people who are interested in getting into this line of work!

You can listen ad-free on Wondery+ and on Amazon Music; and everywhere you get your podcasts starting April 22. The Dolby experience is available only on the Wondery+ app.

Listen to The Last City here  / Download the Wondery App


The Last City transports you to a futuristic utopia called Pura, a paradise-like city with its own climate, that functions as a safe haven from the ravaged wasteland outside. It stars Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), Jeannie Tirado (Soul) Maury Sterling (Coherence), Skye Lourie (BBC's Hustle), and more.

The Last City takes place within the lush, tropical ambiance of Pura; combined with flashbacks of the time before Pura; detailing the events and extreme weather conditions that occurred as a result of climate change.



We primarily follow Demetria and her Belle (her personal AI) throughout this story.

The Last City is mixed exclusively within Dolby Atmos; teleporting you to the lavish, rich climate of Pura; a green, plant-filled paradise, where gentle birdsong surrounds you, and the warm, sun-soaked air is fresh and invigorating. Fictional podcasts are generally immersive; however, the choice to mix this within Dolby Atmos brings this to a whole other level; footsteps come from behind you, a bike passes you by in the background; voices chat softly in the distance, glasses tinkle all around you at social events (all sounds behaving as they would within a real-world environment), futuristic transport machines whizz by, slightly above you; you are not merely listening to an audio world; you are, in fact, inside of that world and its sonic environment.

When it transports you back to a time before Pura; or even to the Outerlands, the sound design gets more apocalyptic and ominous; in one episode that takes place in Demetria’s childhood home, a storm rages outside the walls of her childhood home; you feel like you are actually there, sitting within the cozy sitting room as the TV plays in the background as the thunder, rain and wind howl outside. Rhea Seehorn’s performance is incredible, playing the ferocious climate activist Nora (Demetria’s mother); as are all of the performances in this.

It becomes evident in the first episode; that all is not as it seems within Pura, and I will leave you there. 

We were lucky enough to get to speak to the lead sound designer and re-recording mixer Steve Bond, on creating this rich, sonic world within Dolby Atmos.

Interview with Steve Bond (lead sound designer and re-recording mixer on The Last City)

Article photo - The Last City: An Immersive Fictional Audio Podcast From Wondery - A Review + Interview With Lead Sound Designer Steve Bond

What were some inspirations or reference points for creating the audio environments and overall sound design of this podcast?

The Last City is a dream project for a sound designer, as it features such a huge range of different environments and spaces, each with their own unique acoustics. It’s also a journey with a rollercoaster of emotions, so it's a great challenge to use sound to try to enhance that aspect of the storytelling.

I tend to work quite visually, building up in my head the look, feel, scale, and geography of the spaces as I go, and then trying to match that in the sound. For the world of Pura, The Outerlands, and Last City itself, various influences were in my mind - the otherworldly films of David Cronenberg and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, sci-fis like Stalker, Paprika, and Bladerunner, David Attenborough documentaries... all sorts!


In a fictional audio podcast, the sound design functions as a visual cue for the listener; could you maybe run us through this process?

I tend to mix pretty much all of my film/TV/audio projects through Dolby Atmos these days, even if it’s only destined to be heard in stereo - it’s a good way to future-proof them for whatever mixes you might need down the line. But for some shows, like The Last City, the immersive sound possibilities with Atmos are also incredible narrative tools. Being able to create a sense of environmental elements that are positioned around and above the listener can help to make the spaces feel real, and also clarify important moments and details in the story. Finding ways to guide the listener with sound means having to rely less on voice-over and exposition in the dialogue.

Movement is important too - in audio drama, I think it’s often as we move through acoustic spaces, and from one space to another that our brains start to really build a 3D visual image of the world. I always record a lot of bespoke foley material and use this together with the Altiverb plug-in to fine-tune the acoustics of each space in the drama. My aim is to create a cinematic sense of perspective, shifting between long shots and close-ups, constantly steering the listener’s point of view.


What resources were used for creating the sounds in the background?

One of the things I really like about working in Atmos is the way I can make use of Ambisonics audio material - I’ve been building up a library of recordings I’ve made all over the world with my Sennheiser AMBEO mic which I can later decode into binaural, 5.1 or Dolby Atmos. In The Last City, these recordings are often slowed down or processed in other ways to add a sense of the uncanny, but they still retain an organic feel because they’re from real environments. I often combine these with synthesized layers to highlight a particular emotional shift in Demetria’s journey. 

Ioana Selaru’s brilliant score for the show also forms an important part of the background textures. Together with director Nicolas Jackson, we all worked together to try to really integrate sound design and score into a single, holistic soundtrack.

What was the overall workflow for this, and how would you recommend other audio professionals to stay organized for a project like this?

For a project on this scale, and with several collaborators feeding in different aspects of the tracklay, I run everything through Dropbox. You need to set up some good structures and rules for this, but it can be really powerful having everything in one place and be able to have several people contributing to various episodes at the same time. I also like to work with a single ‘super-session’ for each season of the drama so that work from one episode can easily be re-worked for another and to help create an over-arching sound for the whole project.

I was lucky enough to have the fantastic Andreína Gomez Casanova as an assistant on this, and she was instrumental in helping to organize everything, managing recording with the actors, and prepping the material for the mix.


Do you have any general advice for an audio professional interested in getting into this line of work?

Compared to film and TV, creating large-scale drama with audio is quick and cheap. If you have a story to tell that involves car chases, huge crowd scenes, crazy stunts, interplanetary travel, or anything else you can imagine, you can save millions on sets, locations, costumes, visual effects, etc! So it’s an amazing medium to explore as a sound designer if you can find (or create) a good script that really makes the most of these possibilities.

Some of the best audio drama is actually recorded on location, so using real spaces rather than expensive studios can be a good way to create a sense of reality without blowing a small budget!


Connect with Steve Bond
IMDB / Brain Audio Bio / LinkedIn

Listen to The Last City here  / Download the Wondery App

About Eimear O Sullivan

Eimear Ann O Sullivan is a multi-genre music producer, audio engineer and vocalist. After receiving a Masters in Music Technology from the CIT Cork School of Music, she went on to operate as a producer under the name Blakkheart. Her releases have received critical acclaim from Ireland's biggest music publications, such as District Magazine and Nialler9, alongside receiving heavy commercial radio airplay. She currently works in Cork recording studio Flashpoint CC. Previous clients of hers include the likes of Comedy Central’s Dragony Aunt star Candy Warhol, rapper Darce and Outsider YP. (Photo credit @Fabian Boros)

Contact Eimear O Sullivan at

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