Stepping into a new era where they embrace the release of their sixth studio, Brisbane indie pop-rock favourites Ball Park Music have seemingly summed up who they are as artists in an honest and punchy collection of tracks. The self-titled record has been a journey of self reflection and observation during a time where all of our personal lives and thoughts have been put under the microscope.
With the announcement of the album earlier this year, it was introduced with a different name, ‘Mostly Sunny’. The joyous name felt like a cohesive continuation from their bold and pop directed previous record ‘GOOD MOOD’. But as the year cracked on and the album came closer to being finished, they realised that the songs had a different energy and heart to it. They realised that these songs perfectly represented who they are as a band after years of performing and writing together. And it truly does.
The album begins with a punchy energy that is uplifting, brash and fun with songs that interject their classic poignant songwriting like ‘Head like A Sieve’ and ‘Nothing Ever Goes My Way’. And as the album heads into the brief interlude ‘Katkit’ the record then transitions into something that is increasingly personal, reflective and chilled out. It perfectly contrasts and fuses those two distinct moods together, and makes something that feels very authentic.
I recently chatted to lead singer Sam Cromack from Ball Park Music about why now felt like right time to make a “self-titled” record, as well explored the creative process behind songs like ‘Nothing Ever Goes My Way’ and ‘KatKit’, and discussed the production structures that this album revolved around. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your self-titled album ‘Ball Park Music’ is an honest and punchy collection of tracks that cohesively represents who BPM are as a band. So what do you hope listeners will take away from listening to this album for the first time?
SAM CROMACK: I’ve been doing press all day and everything everyone has been saying is so nice and reassuring. The way that people are perceiving it, even the way you just described it then, has been a really good feeling. It feels like that we may have hit the mark and that people are getting it the way that we wanted them to.
We had a few goals which was to lean into each song and honour the song instead of thinking of the record as a whole, and I guess approach it more as a mixtape. And then at the end we had all the songs and we could start treating it like a album and find the cohesion. It was fun to really dive into that and discover how much we really love albums even though people always lament that the days of albums are over. So we decided to make it into two parts. There was basically a Side A which is pretty rocky and upbeat, while Side B is very much a shift in mood.
TB: You made a statement earlier this year about changing the title of the album from ‘Mostly Sunny’ to becoming the self-titled record. Reflecting back on the creative processes of your previous records, was there any other albums that were close to becoming a self-titled record, or were discussed in potentially being so?
SC: It’s never been too serious, but on every record we’ve kinda joked around with the concept of it being a self-titled record. It’s something we always knew we’d do when the time felt right. It’s always come up in conversation, and maybe on ‘GOOD MOOD’ that was the best our spirits had been and was the closest we got to doing a self-titled. But once we found the title ‘Good Mood’ it was an instant winner as we all felt good about that one, and it matched the whole experience of making that record.
When it came up for this one it was in the weirdest circumstance. We had already announced the title of the album before we had even finished making it, which is something we had never done before. The title ‘Mostly Sunny’ to me kinda felt like a sequel to ‘Good Mood’ as it has a similar rhythm with two similar words. But as we finished the album, and with the world changing with all the shit that’s happened this year, we started to question if the album should be called ‘Mostly Sunny’. Like it’s still a great album name but it didn’t feel like the right timing.
So I don’t know who suggested it but the idea of self-titling came up and everyone was like “yes, let’s do it”. It even felt exciting to randomly change the title of the album after announcing ‘Mostly Sunny’. It was a weird thing that I could’ve never foreseen. But after listening to the album back it just felt different, and felt like a directional shift away from what we were doing with ‘Good Mood’.
TB: Cause I’d say that ‘GOOD MOOD’ was a lot more pop heavy than this record.
SC: Yeah, I agree! It’s something that I only really get perspective on after the fact. I never start an album, with the exception of ‘Every Night The Same Dream’ as I was really trying to not be co-operative the writing on that album, and be like “I wanna be less poppy” because I felt great after ‘GOOD MOOD’. So with this one we just tried to lean into each song and see where it’s taken us which I think has made me like the album more as we’ve had some songs off it that we really love like in particular ‘Day & Age’ and ‘Cherub’. Like those are probably two of my favourite singles that we’ve put out in years, and they aren’t the most accessible like ‘Exactly How You Are’. But I felt more proud about the album because it is a little less radio focused, and more following our hearts.
TB: You have explained that working on this album separately has been quite challenging, and really did take the album in a different direction for you. So what would you say is the biggest thing you learnt about yourselves as a band from this different creative experience?
SC: Luckily the record was mostly finished when we were locked down. But we did have to finish some songs remotely, but thank god modern technology makes that pretty easy. I just got Jen to record her vocals into her smartphone and send me those files and I just cut them up and out them in the song, and they sound great. It wasn’t high tech or anything but got it finished.
I think the nicest thing throughout this process was realising how great friends we are, and how much we missed each other. We were zooming heaps to just catch up and do listening parties for the record towards the end of the process which is how we got the track listing in the right order and decided to do a interlude and all that.
TB: ’Nothing Ever Goes My Way’ immediately stands out as a real highlight on the record. Can you explain how this song creatively came together?
SC: Dean our guitarist wrote this song. He has become such a prolific writer, and he’s got more songs than he knows what to do with, and I’m always sniffing around to see what he’s working on to see if there’s something we can pinch for the band *laughs*. And this was one that I was like “man, this is a really good song with really great and bold melodies”.
We tried a few different arrangements of the song. And at first we actually skipped over the lyric that ended up becoming the title because Dean and I were a bit worried it was “on the nose” and too whingey. But we ended up deciding to lean into that and really yell it over and over again as everyone will be able to relate to that feeling of nothing going your way and not being able to catch a break.
My favourite part of that song is the outro where it moves into this Simon And Garfunkel inspired bit with piano and drums. It was honestly such a fun song to write, and we had a lot of laughs making it.
TB: There are quite a few songs on this album that have a production part where it all reprieves for a moment before then coming back in. Was this an intentional sound and structure you were going for on this record?
SC: I don’t know if we ever had a moment where we consciously decided to do that as a whole. I guess a lot of us love Kanye West and Hip Hop generally, and there is that notion of conflicting interest that hip-hop and indie rock don’t have much in common, at least at face value. Often I think you find yourself asking how I can incorporate elements of this other genre and artist I love into my own music in a way that makes sense. And especially with the Kanye reference with the minimal production, we had a lot of moments where we were like “let’s strip it back here to the core elements and have some moments of true minimalism” which is something he does a lot.
The other thing that happened with this album that was totally unintentional was that so many of the songs ended up having these little weird synth passages that would serve as a weird finish or as a interlude to the next song. It happened so much especially on the first side of the album which I think is because it is a lot more rockier and we wanted textures that would disrupt your listening and make you feel a little lost and can’t keep up. We wanted people to feel a little mystified.
TB: ’Katkit’ is a brief little psychedelically inclined instrumental track that breaks up the album into two. Where in the process did this interlude come to life?
SC: ‘Katkit’ was the last thing to get included. We just felt like with the second side kicking off with ‘Cherub’ that listeners just needed to take a break and have a Katkit in the middle of the album. It was literally the last piece of the puzzle.
Early on I kept saying that I would love to do an album like ‘On The Beach’ by Neil Young which starts really energetic and rocky, and then all of a sudden halfway just becomes this mellow scene change which is beautiful and chilled out. And It was our keys player Paul who got all the songs in the right order, and he’s done that for all of our albums, and he was able to spot this narrative and put it in this order. And it just happens that when he did that it followed that similar energy movement of starting with a bang and then chilling out.
TB: You will be performing an exclusive residency at The Triffid later this month for the albums release. Can you give us some clues as to what to expect with these live shows? Are you playing the whole album live?
SC: We won’t do it start to finish, but we’ve actually just started rehearsals and we’ve got nine out of the eleven songs pencilled in to perform. So we hope to give everything a run over the 13 shows and spread them out a bit.
We start off by trying to learn the songs pretty true to the record and see how good we can do it and then ad-lib from there. These shows are going to be pretty special. We are bringing in a few extra bits and pieces. Like, we are hoping to bring a real piano for the bigger piano moments in our songs which we’ve never had before which will be really cool. And I would love to perform a lot of those interlude moments.
TB: This lockdown period has inspired some people to pick up a new hobby, or find a weird new obsession. So what has been something you’ve picked up or obsessed over during this period?
SC: With a one and a half year old, there’s not a lot of time topic up new hobbies *laughs*. So I would say my hobby and just been trying to get better as a parent, and spending time with my daughter and my wife. We have also actually spent a lot of time in the garden together, and put a lot of effort in looking after that which has been nice.
‘Ball Park Music’ is out now!