Ball Park Music’s third album, Puddinghead, is released this week. AARON BRYANS chats to guitarist, Dean Hanson, in the lead-up to their show at the Astor Theatre on Thursday, April 24, supported by Jesse Davidson.
If you’re an avid triple j listener, chances are you’ve heard of Ball Park Music. If you haven’t, you’re missing out bigtime.
Ever since releasing their debut EP, Rolling On The Floor, Laughing Ourselves To Sleep in early 2009, the band have received mass airplay nationally, drawing the attention of numerous triple j presenter and reviewers. The rave reviews would follow them throughout the release of their second EP Conquer The Town, Easy As Cake, leading to their signing with Sydney label, Stop Start Music. The quintet would go on to release their first studio LP Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs and win the triple j Unearthed Artist of the Year.
“It was pretty mind blowing to be honest,” Dean expresses. “You grow up listening to triple j and hearing people speaking about it; then one day they give your song a spin and then a few years down the track you’re releasing singles and getting added to rotation and you’re in the car hearing them speak about you. It’s bizarre. It always seems like a third person thing, I personally hear it and think ‘shit this is bizarre’.
“I remember going to that awards ceremony thinking we had no chance. We were up against so many good bands and they ended up giving us the nod. I guess it gives you a lot of confidence knowing that those people have given you the nod and said we think your record went really well. That record was the first record we released and it didn’t get the feature album on triple j and that was a big thing we really wanted to achieve. When we didn’t get it, it sucked and we thought we had failed.
“And then we were driving between Sydney and Newcastle one day listening to the radio and triple j were announcing their Unearthed artist for Album of the Year and we had no idea it was going to happen. We were all tired or sick or hung over and they mentioned our name; it was like ‘get out of town, no way’. That was the same year that Gotye won Album Of The Year and I remember hanging out at that awards ceremony talking to him about Somebody That I Used to Know; it was fairly fresh, sort of breaking out in the world. And it just seemed a bit ridiculous where that song has gone and we were just this little Unearthed band. It was really cool.”
The success of Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs resulted in headline tours, festival gigs and support shows with bands such as Boy & Bear, Jungle Giants and Loon Lake. Ball Park Music never stopped. A year later they released their second LP, Museum, following inspiration from the Beatles’ rigorous and continuous music writing abilities.
“It just seems so natural,” Hanson explains. “We’ve never really had to force any of those songs out. We kind of have to force ourselves to slow down, actually, in contrast. We often tell ourselves once we’ve put out a record ‘let’s just take our time this time and not rush it’ but then Sam (Cromack, vocals), being a prolific songwriter, just comes up with something and it sounds awesome. We get all antsy and can’t stop ourselves just getting into the studio and making records. We feel like sometimes we’re working way too slow, but you look at other bands who spend a good three years between releases and still struggle for material. We’d be back in the studio now doing album number four if our time management allowed it. Sam sent a demo two or three weeks ago of a track he’d written for the fourth album and I already love it. I wish that it could be on this album. It’s a hit so we’ll use that one. We’ll get in there and record it soon. I dare say it won’t be too long before the next album.”
A lot of bands use time between albums to evolve their sound or discover new layers to their sound. For Ball Park Music, this discovery was made in their early years; and now that they have found their perfect sound and songwriting formula, they don’t want to stray from it.
“It took us a long time to figure out what sort of band we wanted to be. You constantly go through that struggle. The first record was really innocent and accessible; it’s pop song after pop song. During the second record we were going through the thought process of what we wanted to do and what sort of record we wanted to make and who we wanted to impress and ended up over-thinking it a little bit. In our minds, we think the first record we made when we weren’t thinking about what sound we wanted to make was better. On this new record we tried our very best to throw back that first record and play to our strengths and have straight up pop songs and 11 tracks that are hopefully interesting and will get everyone to sing along.”
It’s been a year and half since the 2012 release of Museum, but come Friday Ball Park Music fans can relish their third LP, Puddinghead. Full of the pop-hooks fans have come to love, Ball Park’s new album is sure to turn heads with its catchy tunes and engaging lyrical content; an area that the band was headstrong on perfecting.
“Sometimes when Sam writes a song we’ll all sit down to try and think about what the universal meaning is of that song. I think one of the most important things about Sam’s writing is that he’ll nail one lyric that everyone listens to and thinks ‘I always thought that but no-one’s ever said it in a song’. But there was one track in particular, Girls From High School, on this new record that Sam had written that we workshopped heaps, and we thought it would be a really great song. We made four or five different versions but it was just missing that one lyric that was a real winner and would make people catch onto the song and make it mean something to them. That was probably the first time my brother Dan (drums) campaigned that the song needed that little extra touch to make it a masterpiece.”
Puddinghead was recorded in a dirt-cheap rental property in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. With a muddy doorway, a broken door, rotten food and insects and leaky taps. It was far from the comforts of a professional recording studio, but somehow it worked.
“It was a funny house to record in,” Hanson reveals. “We started recording around winter and it was pretty cool and cold, we’d wear our jumpers there and drink our coffee and cups of tea. And then a month into recording there it got ridiculously hot. There was no air conditioner there, we had to sit around and it was so hot, we didn’t want to move. I don’t know if it rubbed off on the musical sound, the main thing that rubbed off was that we had so much time in that little space to rework things and change them I they were rubbish. If the album sounded anything like the studio it would be the worst ‘70s porno soundtrack ever. That’s what the studio was like, this ‘70s bachelor pad.”
Now, Ball Park Music are hitting the road for a national tour to promote the release of Puddinghead.
“This tour is probably, in terms of production, the least we’ve done in a while. But we’ve always had this thought for every tour we do, to grow it and make it bigger then the next to have people keep coming back. But on this one we thought to ourselves, growth doesn’t particularly mean going crazy on production and having more lights and crazier stage props. We did a tour with Weezer last year and they were playing entertainment centres to thousands of people and it was so charming. The production on that tour was just those dudes, their instruments on stage, they had their big white logo at the back and it was just them smashing out tunes for two hours straight. I thought it was awesome.
“So on this tour I think we’re just focusing on people hearing the new tracks. We’ve got five new songs we’re playing and hopefully everyone will sing along to the old songs they love.”
Ball Park Music play the Astor Theatre on Thursday, April 24.
Get your tickets here.