Ball Park Music have released their latest self titled long player which we have been enjoying for a few weeks now. The band have always had an uncanny ability to write music that resonates with a demographic that now crosses a couple of generations and yet still seem as fresh as the day they left school. Building up an impressive catalogue of hits has meant Ball Park Music have cemented themselves into the hearts and minds of the Australian music-loving public. Hi Fi Way speaks to Sam Cromack about the album and a whole heap more.
It must be a good feeling now that the album’s is out, all things considered with what’s going on?
Yeah, absolutely. It has been a wild ride this year, but yeah, we’re really excited that it’s out now.
After playing thirteen shows at The Triffid in your hometown Brisbane do you think this is the new normal playing more shows to smaller shows?
Short answer is I don’t know. It has absolutely brought that question up in our minds. I think ultimately for us and most other artists it is still not a feasible way to do shows, unfortunately. It does make you think just about the nature of shows, and how things could be different, because even though we have got to play thirteen shows, we would play to the equivalent amount of people in one show under normal circumstances. The plus side of the residency is it’s just so nice to be based in one place for a length of time.
In terms of just mentally how the band and the crew approaches it; one load in and then no load out for a week in our case, gives the opportunity to expand upon what we would normally do in a show when we are rolling in and out of cities every single day. We had the opportunity to plan a lot more for the shows, shake the set lists up, and try some different things. That’s made us really energized.
It must of been quite a buzz when you look at how strong the pre-order side of things were for the album particularly with the vinyl packages selling out?
Honestly, that has been probably one of the biggest highlights of the year, is that this is our first record on our own record label. We put a huge amount of effort into that pre-order campaign, and it feels extra special given that Dean and I, we did all the design and artwork for the records.
Having this product we love and are so proud of is great. We made all the music, recorded it ourselves, we put all the packages together and with no touring going on, we were just concentrating on that alone. The reception was just insane, we literally couldn’t order enough stock. We had to set a limit at some point, because all our vinyl gets manufactured in Germany, and the wait times because of COVID are just insane. We cannot even get it here by air, it’s going to come by ship.
In terms of album number six, was it harder than the rest? I read a few things saying it wasn’t always easy.
It really had nothing to do with the music, the songs that we wrote we are really proud of, and really excited to record. The feeling amongst us was amazing, and I feel like our playing is as good as it’s ever been. It was just that our studio environment was just really, really shit to work in. We moved to a new room that we’re really excited about because it’s really big room, but we recorded throughout the summer. I don’t know why we don’t learn our lessons and not record during summer in Brisbane. Our air con unit just cacked it; just turned into a water feature. It was icing up and pouring water all over our equipment over and over again, couldn’t keep the room cool.
We had drummers all around us rehearsing nonstop, and we had a mechanic on the other side of the wall. It was just fucked. It was just so hard to record an album in this room. I think we just had our head in our hands a lot of the time. I know it sounds petty, but it really knocked the momentum out of so many of our recording sessions. So in that regard, the album felt like a real hassle to get it done. We didn’t want to labour over all the little details as much as I think we would have liked to. I think in hindsight, that ended up shaping the record in some cool, creative way when we had windows of quiet we had to work fast. It resulted in the first half of the record probably being the rockiest section of music we’ve ever done as we had to knock something out while could.
We were all frustrated too and that was coming through in the music. It did end up influencing things in a cool way. So being unable to record easily a lot of the time, because the noise we ended up looking through all these old bits of audio that we had; old jams and things we had made and plonked them all on to the album. What’s the saying? Necessity’s the mother of invention or whatever.
What I like about the album is the energy that shines through. How do you think the Ball Park Music sound has evolved on this album compared to the previous five?
I never know what to say to these kinds of questions. I feel like my perspective is nearly the worst; I’m just so deep inside the whole process, it feels like I can’t see the forest for the trees. So much of our music making the across the years has just been putting one foot in front of the other, and actually not trying to think about it too broadly, and what each album means. It’s often years until I can look back at an album and see it for what it is or see it how a fan might see it. In terms of our approach, and our guiding rule for the album was different this time around. We decided to not worry about the eclectic nature of the band, and to actually just embrace it. When we were recording each song, we tried to not think about it as part of an album or think about the sound of an album as such, we were just putting blinders on, and really trying to lean into each song.
So, if it was Spark Up for example, and it’s kind of dancier, we were like, “Fuck it, don’t worry about how this will fit on the album, let’s just enjoy this and work on it.” Same if we were doing a song like Cherub, which is much more chill and folky than anything we had ever done in the past. We were like, “Who cares? Let’s just lean into this song and do whatever feels right for this song, and we’ll worry about piecing the album together when everything’s recorded.” That was really liberating. It was good to just be present and just concentrating on each song, because I think we have just accepted that the band does have an eclectic nature and we like to do lots of different things. So yeah, we are just trying to embrace it more.
Did you have that feeling that as it was starting to unfold, that you had something quite special here?
Absolutely. I think it is like this feeling that eventually comes along. We usually know when it’s arrived, and all five of us start to sense it. There’s a lot of working, working, working, recording lots and lots of different songs, and you can just naturally suss out which ones are feeling right or not right. Eventually you hit this point where it feels like you’ve got, I feel like there’s some scientific term I’m looking for here. It’s like you’ve got the core of the record done, like you’re past the tipping point kind of thing, where it feels like the most important chunk is complete and you can start to see the finish line a bit. It feels like you know what you need to do to finish it off. We always just keep working until we get to that point where it feels like, “All right, no matter what happens from here, we’ve got at least 60% to 70% of this record, we feel really great about it”, you know?
Did you have a lot of ideas floating around in your head in terms for the album title?
When we first announced that the album was going to be titled Mostly Sunny, we hadn’t finished the record at that point. As we started to finish it, and as this crazy year unfolded, we started to feel la bit differently about the album. I think for a long time that title, Mostly Sunny, which we really liked, it felt almost like a sequel title to Good Mood. With the two words and the rhythm of the words, it felt similar in our mind. As we finished the album, we were like, “These albums don’t really feel very similar at all.” It’s got a flavour of its own, we just felt like we wanted to change it and it was after we decided to change it to the self-titled thing, we still had no artwork for anything. We were like, “We just want to do something really big and bold, and simple for the artwork, if it’s going to be self-titled.” Almost to the point that the album could get a nickname for itself. So yeah, just so many changes that we never could have foreseen, but this whole year, I guess it taught us to not really foresee anything, just roll with whatever is happening, and try and enjoy it.
Interview By Rob Lyon