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BALL PARK MUSIC Hitting it out of the park

After teasing us with new singles like Spark Up! and Cherub this year, Brisbane five-piece Ball Park Music are finally set to unveil their self-titled, sixth studio album on Friday, October 23. Like most things in 2020, putting an album out has been a little different this year; but as frontman Sam Cromack revealed to JOSH DONOVAN, the record is a realisation of meaningful growth for the group, both musically and personally.

Considering everything that has happened this year how have things been different for the band both personally and creatively?

Yes things have been good. It’s been a challenging year for everybody. Earlier on we had some times where we were freaking out, from a business perspective I guess. We were like, “oh god what does this mean for us?” Our industry is facing the challenge of being unable to perform and have events which is still really bad.

We have just tried to keep soldiering on and have a good attitude and I think it’s like a blessing really that we had a record coming out because it has been a good distraction. I can tell you that a lot of the challenges have proven to be pretty fun. We had to do a lot of thinking outside of the box and we have ended up being able to do some different stuff and we’ve survived pretty well. And now that the record is about to come out I think that is really exciting.

It’s really great to hear that you’ve managed to overcome those challenges. Could you say that you are really excited for getting back to performing live shows?

Absolutely yeah! We can’t wait to get back to playing live shows. Beyond the fact that performing is the lifeblood of our band and that we use that money to survive it has just impacted us personally too you know? We have realised just how much of a part of our identity it is to tour together and travel together and perform.

And when we put out new songs this year and we haven’t had the chance to perform that new material to crowds we realised just how much that that’s the final piece of the puzzle with each song. So we are really excited for the shows we have coming up in Brisbane where we are doing a residency at The Triffid and then beyond that we are just so excited to get back to touring eventually.

Yeah, performing truly is at the core of any artist’s heart. Where do you see yourself performing this album when it is possible, like, what would your dream venue be?

Oh well, I think that a lot of the venues that we already got to play at over the years I would classify as dream venues. There is just so many places that I am looking forward to returning to. We have performed at The Enmore in Sydney a million times but I just love it there, I think everybody does. So I can’t wait to go places like that and The Forum in Melbourne again.

In Brisbane the new venue, Fortitude Music Hall, it opened last year and we were actually lucky enough to play the opening night. I think our big goal for the future would be to work towards playing at the Riverstage again in Brisbane which we did with San Cisco in 2018 which felt like a real milestone for us and was probably our favourite gig ever. So we are hoping to be able to get back there sometime too.

So talking about this next album, it’s such a beautifully diverse mix of songs and sounds. Do you think there is a core theme or a few themes that connect the album together?

I think with nearly all our albums I’ve never set out trying to write a collection of songs specifically for a release. The songs usually come together over a period of time and all these songs tend to just rise to the top. They are the ones that feel right for the record. For this album, we put the songs in an order that really felt like it almost told a narrative. It was our keys player Paul who was like “hey, check this track listing out” and we were all like “holy fuck, that’s perfect!” Like it absolutely told a story.

I guess that narrative is about someone enjoying a sort of care-free hedonistic lifestyle but as they age they’re also coming to terms with what this means for their health and relationships, and they sink right down to the bottom and get stuck in this really dark and deranged sort of place and lose all hope. But you know, then they have to find it again and claw their way back.

Then there are tracks like Turning Zero which were really inspired by when my wife was pregnant with our daughter and when I was thinking about new life and it felt like the perfect finish, you know, fresh beginnings. It was loose but it was nice to finally do an album where it feels like you do sort of go from start to finish with a sort of theme.

Absolutely, there was a pretty significant shift in mood about halfway through the album around KatKit, so would you say that this was a natural, organic progression?

Yeah, well I mean like how an album can end up getting presented by us or any other artist and can feel like it is so carefully planned and laid out. You’ve got to be really flexible as you’re working on it and be open to anything happening. It’s often late in the game when we realise “oh, it’s feeling like it should sit like this” so yeah, once Paul kind of put the songs in that order we loved it and it made the record feel like it had two distinct halves.

One was a real upbeat rocky garage opening side. The second half was more mid-tempo and acoustic and the songs were more reflective in nature. We loved that. One of my favourite albums is On the Beach by Neil Young and that does a similar thing where it starts really up and then the mood really plummets half way through and has a real mellow kind of finish which always catches you by surprise. So we wanted to do something like that so we put the KatKit song in the middle to give listeners a break, give them a Kit Kat kind of thing.

It was such a pleasant surprise to hear those two distinct sounds and I really loved that about this album. Would you say creating this album was a very different experience considering your repertoire?

Well, each album has its similarities and differences. Again, I sometimes felt like I was so deep in the process of writing for months. And then I will look back on previous albums and laugh because it was so obvious how I was feeling when I wrote this and these were my influences. I think one of the big differences was that we tried to lean into the eclectic nature of our band and not be ashamed of it.

Sometimes we felt that we were eclectic which was a bad thing and that we tried too hard to make a record cohesive but it ended up feeling like we are trying too hard to form links which aren’t there. We approached this album as if we were making a mixtape and went about writing it with blinders on. It wasn’t until later when we finished was it that we looked at it and said “good, we have all the elements for the record now. How should we put it together?”

So you believe that leaning in to eclecticism freed up some creative energy for the band?

Definitely. It was really helpful to not have to be second guessing the song you’re working on and wondering how will it fit into the album. It’s funny because in the end, all artists will have a natural cohesion in their works anyway so there will always be similarities for us in our writing. I can’t speak for a listener such as yourself but I think the album ended up working as a whole.

Now, I don’t usually like to pick favourites but Cherub might be my new favourite song of 2020. Apart from being your longest track to date it is also deeply moving. What was the emotional inception for the song?

Well, it’s definitely one of our favourites from the record and we deliberated for a long time about whether we should put it out as a single. We knew we loved it, but as you said it was a long track so we hesitated for the dumb reasons like “will the radio play it? And blah blah blah…” It was great to make a song where you go with your gut and people just love it and we are so happy we made that choice. The song came about in really fragmented ways. The main tune in the guitar part has been around for so long. I’ve got voice memos of me riffing on that since 2015. We never quite knew how to put it together but Dean always used to mention it to me telling me to work on it.

Something I don’t usually do is sit down and consciously chip away at a song. I prefer to sit back and let it come to me but for this song I really sat down with my guitar, pen and paper and tried to make it happen. The chorus kind of flowed from the idea that everybody has moments where they wonder where their life would be if they followed a different road.

The verses just eventually came to me one day. I read a news story about someone who died near where I lived and I couldn’t get it off my mind and I ended up channeling a lot of their story into the song. I didn’t actually think it would be a song for the band because it was softer and folky and I just wanted to record it.

When I showed my bandmates the recording they loved it and we wanted to work on it. We basically kept it much the same as when I recorded it on that first day. We added the ending, that huge outro, and massaged it with some backing vocals and layers and it was awesome to finally sit back and appreciate that song. I was pretty unsure about it during its creation. I was worried it was overly sentimental.

I think it’s really beautiful that you can see how passionate the band is about the music. So what’s next for the band? Is there anything you could tease out apart from the live shows?

I wish I could tease out plans. But every plan we put on the drawing board has ended up with a bullet in it. We have just tried to make plans for the future and it keeps getting affected, naturally. So, at the moment we are just looking at what’s in front of us. It’s been nice to look at the present though and we are just really trying to get back in touch with this record as we are realising, “oh shit, it comes out in a few weeks” and we are so excited to share it with everyone.

That’s so great. We are all looking forward to when you guys can tour again that’s for sure. So finally, if you could have people come away from this album with one thing what would that be?

Good question. I think with all my music I really want people to hear something that feels true. Something that feels believable from us. We always try to think of an emotional spectrum and we try to have our music cover that spectrum. From the euphoria of feeling happy and joyous to the despair and desperation and giving up.

I would just love for all those messages to ring through for listeners and to hear it from a band that’s on their sixth album and sounding stronger and more closely bonded than before. I want people to feel some sense of hope and optimism through sticking by what you love, whether that be music, or whatever, and through sticking by your friends as we have done even when life beats you down. I really hope the album makes people feel those kinds of things.

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