If you're a fan of Australian music, chances are you've heard of Brisbane's Ball Park Music. They've been mainstays of the Australian festival scene for over a decade, and are one of the country's most beloved bands.
They've just released their 6th album, Ball Park Music, and it's a record that's been heavily inspired by their past. We spoke to guitarist Dean Hanson about leaning into the band's idiosyncrasies, their residency at iconic Brisbane venue The Triffid, and the easter eggs to keep an ear out for on the new record.
Cool Accidents: Hey Dean! How's your day been so far - busy or quite relaxed?
Dean Hanson: Pretty relaxed! I've just had a couple of other interviews, but nothing too crazy on the schedule yet.
I guess at this stage interviews are pretty much par for the course for you.
It's nice! We started the press campaign for the record yesterday. It's felt like the campaign's been so long, it's nice to talk to some other people about the record outside of our circle.
Especially this year, I can imagine that you wouldn't be talking to as many people. I imagine it's nice to actually get the narrative out for the record through other people. Have you spent much time apart as a band, or have you still been able to catch up quite regularly?
Luckily enough, we have. Jen [Boyce, bassist] lives in Sydney normally, and she came up for a week of rehearsal. She got here, and the next day Sydney was declared a hotspot. She decided to stay up here until the record campaign is finished, she's probably been here for about 2 months.
It sucks because she can't go back down and see her partner and go back to her house. However, we've been able to get together a lot as a band. We've done a couple of weekly rehearsals and been hanging out, having lunch together. It's been nice - we're lucky.
It gives it a bit of a sense of normality in what is quite a strange year.
Exactly! Jen used to live in Brisbane but she's been in Sydney now for a few years. It feels like it used to. It feels like she's here for good. We don't want her to go back.
I wanted to pick up on that thread. Firstly, I wanted to say congratulations on the album! As a long term fan, I never know quite what to expect when I listen to one of your new records, but I'm always blown away by the result.
Playing on that feeling of going back to those times when the band started, is there a reason that you've decided to make this a self-titled record, rather than taking that step with any of the others?
It's definitely something we've considered for all our other records. If you're in a band, and you haven't done it yet it's always on the cards. But as soon as you float it, sometimes you just don't think this one's right for it.
For this one, we didn't really float the idea until very late in the piece. We'd already announced that we were going out with something else, but then that title just felt like it wasn't gonna fit with the record.
I think I floated it in a Zoom meeting we had and said we could self-title this one. For the first time ever, we kind of all went, 'You know what, it feels like it could work'. If anything, this record is the most we've ever not thought about pushing it into some other territory.
We weren't influenced by what was going on in music in the rest of the country or the world. We leaned into our strengths as performers and what we've been doing over the years. If anything, it felt like the biggest inspiration for this record is our past, and it's all come to this point.
When you do try and take influence from yourself, does that involve going back and listening to your old music? Or, do you capture what kind of sounds and songs you're writing and put them onto a record without much thought of what's happening in the wider musical ecosystem?
Definitely. Our attitude going into the record was 'right, when we've got the songs and they've been written, let's just lean into every song as an individual thing.' In the past, we might have worried about the record being too eclectic or spanning too many different genres or whatever, but this time, we've learned so much about our dynamic as a band over the years performing together.
Everyone's got their little nuances, the things they do on their instrument, or with their voice. This time we said, 'Everyone just play what you think should go on this song', and eventually those ideas would snowball and take the song to the point where it'd finally end up. It was fun doing it that way
The band's always released a record every year or two. Was there always a plan to release an album this year or did it come as a result of getting spend time together and not being able to tour?
It was always planned! If anything, we pushed back the release date as a result of the pandemic. I think like every band, when all the restrictions started to kick off, we had one of two options. We could either push ahead with the plans, or press pause and wait and see how this pans out.
We chose the option to push forward. Let's just go with it. It might be a weird year for the rest of the world, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't put out music. We even thought to ourselves that if we get enough time we might be able to get to the studio and start working on the next one.
The actual reason we had to push back the date a little bit was because shipping is really tough. We get our vinyl printed in Germany and they had to be sent via a boat on the ocean. It was too expensive otherwise because of the lack of international flights. That pushed things back a little bit because we had to allow for some time for if any mistakes happened - but everything seems to be ok.
I wanted to ask about the artwork of the album. It's a smiling moon, and there's a mention of the moon on Bedroom. Is the reference to the moon on the artwork a reference to this song tying the album together, or is that just me trying to find meaning in something that just looks good?
It definitely could be! It was Sam [Cromack, lead singer]'s idea for the album to have that face. The picture is actually just a public domain image from a postcard that's hundreds of years old. We found the image, and we thought we'd try and draw up a mock-up of a similar design. However, none of them looked as good as the actual image.
Sam definitely has a fascination with a face on the moon. We have a song we've never released that we wrote for the 4th record called Moonface. He's referenced the moon throughout our back catalogue.
It's a really striking, beautiful image, so it's interesting to hear that it actually has quite a storied history.
I can't really read what expression is on its face, and I think that it suits the record.
It really suits the ambiguity of the album. Something I wanted to ask about is the inclusion of little snippets of conversation or sounds on different songs from after you finish recording. Can you talk to me about why these little snippets are included on tracks throughout your discography, and how you feel that ties into the overall sound of the songs?
Yeah definitely. It's something we never think about until afterward. The environment we're in when recording is always pretty fun. We're always in there joking with each other all the time A lot of the tracking we do for songs will actually be live. We'll have guitar, bass and possibly keys as well all recorded live to kind of emulate the energy we have at live shows.
Often at the end of the recording, the snippets you'll hear are us talking about whether we thought that was the take that we would keep and whether we thought it was any good. We tend to do four or five takes generally of what we call the bed of the song, or the bed of the recording. The noises are because we're excited that we nailed it and someone will say some tokenistic line or copy a sound.
On the record, the last track Turning Zero features my guitar going up in pitch. Daniel, who's sitting behind the drums goes 'WHAT?' to make the same sound. It's us just mucking around. I think the reason we like to keep them on the record is to encapsulate the fact that we're just humans making music, mucking around, and hopefully it transports people to that environment.
I think it really humanises it as well. It puts you in that space but also reminds you that these are people making music and that comes across on every song.
It's really common on a lot of Beatles records - they're yelling at each other and making noise. It's too perfect if you cut those elements out.
Something that I know that I noticed is that there's a Bad Taste Blues (Part III) on there. Given the gap between the first two installments and the third installment, what made this the perfect time to release the third part of the trilogy?
\We've always thought we'd wanted to do Bad Taste Blues (Part III), and there might be a part IV in the future. I think all those songs have become Bad Taste songs because we couldn't initially come up with a title that we liked. Bad Taste Blues (Part I) and Bad Taste Blues (Part II) were back to back on Museum, and one lyric says 'so bad' and the other one is 'bad man' and that's what they were originally called.
They've now got kind of a cult following within our fanbase, with people being like, 'Oh, my God, Bad Taste'. The working title for Bad Taste Blues (Part III) was Got To Be There which is the beginning of the chorus. Nothing was feeling right to title the song. I just felt that it couldn't be called that. Sam went 'what if this is Bad Taste Blues (Part III), part three of the trilogy?' It felt like it fell in that same category as the other two.
We're excited because it's a bit different from the other two. I think people will be surprised by the way that song sounds. There are a couple of easter eggs on the song that are bits of the recordings that are borrowed from both Bad Taste songs as well to tie them all together.
I wanted to quickly touch on the Triffid residency. It's different, and it's very much a celebration of the band. How is the band approaching those shows that are such a different format to how you might otherwise have toured this album?
We're excited to perform! Obviously, on paper, it's a little bit different. Sam and I went and saw our friends' band Sweater Curse play at the Triffid a few months ago. It was the same format, a sit-down kind of thing. And this was when we'd into conversations about performing at the Triffid, but nothing was confirmed back then. Nothing is truly confirmed this year.
We were there and saw the gig, and it was really awesome. Sweater Curse have some hectic moments and some lighter moments in their set. The contrast between people sitting down enjoying it and them on stage giving it their all was actually really exciting.
There was a palpable feeling of people not taking things for granted. There's every chance we'll never perform like this again. We're gonna go in there, and, we're definitely not stripping things back or making the whole show like an acoustic performance or anything.
In saying that, we feel like we've got the opportunity to go back and perform some songs that we might not normally put in a festival set. We can play with the set's dynamics a little bit more. We can be a bit selfish with it, and throw in a few songs that we'd never normally chuck in. Hopefully, people like it!
At this point, it's definitely deserved! You're putting on so many shows in such a short timespan, you might as well own it and really indulge in it.
Yeah, exactly, and it'll keep it interesting for us. There's every chance we'll get up there and forget how to play something, so it's keeping us on our toes!
Thanks so much for chatting with us today Dean! Finally,with touring in some states still off the table, are there any plans in the works to virtually tour the album like we've seen with some artists?
We're live-streaming the first night of the residency, which will hopefully be available worldwide, which goes some way to opening up the live show. I think we're going to try and record most of those shows as well. Potentially we'll put out some sort of compilation album.
At this point, like most bands, we've got plans for about six months ahead of now, but you're very much planning for that to not happen. Everything at the moment revolves around planning month-by-month and pushing things back. Rest assured, as soon as we can get back on the road and start performing around the country, we'll be doing it straight away!