Ball Park Music talk gigs and Weezer
Elfy Scott has a chat to Ball Park Music about their new LP, their live show and just how excited they are about supporting Weezer in January:
When initially offered a phone interview with Ball Park Music, I leapt at the opportunity and secured the deal with an aggressively rapid reply to the email, which ensured successfully procuring the position and had me cackling maniacally on the phone at an incredibly envious best friend. I felt perhaps it was only appropriate as I had seen their fantastic live performance at the Roundhouse three days prior and Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs had recently secured a position in my cycle of top-rated albums. However, excitement promptly coursed into a bout of intense anxiety half-an-hour before the interview, which had me erratically phoning everybody I knew, dispersed with periods of lying in the fetal position around my bedroom and cursing my own spontaneity. It suddenly occurred to me that, not only was I going to be speaking on the phone (an activity for which I am utterly incompetent at the best of times), I was going to be speaking to Sam Cromack, the extremely talented lead singer whose voice regularly charms radio listeners and whose attractively unassuming demeanour is making sixteen year-old girls particularly liberal with the reblog button on Tumblr. As it turns out, he is just as friendly as the music he creates would suggest and was more than happy to discuss Ball Park Music’s creative processes, his own musical influences as well as supporting the January 2013 Weezer tour of Australia.
Firstly, your new album Museum is great and, at this point, it’s just about assured the same success that still resounds from Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs, particularly with the attention that the new single Surrender has already received. What are some of the new approaches, if any, that you took with this album?
Oh, that’s a good question, well it’s a funny position for us to be in because you put your first album out and that has a good response so when it comes time to do your second one, you don’t want to disappoint or let down the fans gained through the first record. I guess that’s the challenge with being a musician, such as myself; I’ve got to make something that sees us grow artistically and creatively so that people feel stimulated but not grow to the point that you scare them off because it’s so different. So, I think our main focus was just to enjoy ourselves more in the recording process and to feel more creative; we just wanted to explore more sonically. I think the record sounds richer, there’s a broader depth of sounds in each song and that was something we definitely aimed for. The first record is really quite eclectic and I guess that’s just the band we are. I feel like I’ve always got to cover a lot of ground when I’m making a record.
I can understand why you feel pressure from the fans, trying to maintain the same vibe you created throughout Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs; do you feel as though in Museum it’s perhaps a little less upbeat than your previous record and were you trying to run with the same themes that you established before?
Absolutely. It’s weird for me that our band is being perceived as such a jolly band up until this point because I’ve never considered myself to be, you know, Mr. Happy or anything and a lot of the songs that I’ve written in my life are actually quite moody and downbeat. It was weird for me to end up in this sort of band that are kind of happy-sounding, I don’t exactly know how that happened. It was something to consider on this record because it’s become part of what we do. I didn’t necessarily go into this record thinking that I’ve got to make jolly songs but I definitely wanted to keep the energy that our band has and I agree, overall, Museum is definitely darker and moodier, it’s taken off a few of the fidgety kind of songs.
I can see in your songs an interesting contrast. Musically it’s incredibly upbeat but at the same time I notice a kind of dark irony in the lyrics that you run with.
Yeah, I mean that’s something that a lot of my favourite artists have always done. A lot of good artists deliver something you can dance to but when you pay attention to the words it’s actually quite sad. I suppose the best example of this would be from our first album, which is Sad Rad Future Dude. Those lyrics are really, really kind of miserable.
Who would you actually deem the greatest musical influences on your songwriting?
I have two main heroes that I don’t think I’ll ever stop referring to. The two bands that I adore most are the Beatles and Radiohead so, for me, the two important guys in those bands are John Lennon and Thom Yorke. I really admire not only their music, but also the attitude they’ve brought to their careers, and I really find it difficult to try and shake off those influences. It doesn’t always necessarily come through in our sound but I feel like I get what those guys are trying to do and I admire it so much and I always feel as though I’m trying to emulate the things that they did.
I have to say, when I first caught you live at Splendour in the Grass this year, I was incredibly impressed with your performance and Ball Park seems to ride quite heavily on the energy given at gigs; you have some super rad (if a little uncoordinated) dance moves in you, do you have any influences as far as live performance goes?
Yeah, absolutely, I think a lot of live music is actually quite uninspiring, which is actually the first step in inspiring us in searching for more because I don’t really think it’s good enough to just get up there and play your songs. A lot of this sort of discussion actually came from the sound at gigs, I’m sure that you know if you attend live music that the sound is often pretty fucking bad. In fact, I would say that over 80% of gigs have bad sound. You listen to a record by a band and it’s beautiful, it’s so lush, so much attention has been given to every little sonic detail and then you go and see them live and it’s just an abuse of fucking noise and it’s so disappointing. I think that the first step is to kind of give up on the sound a bit and focus on the fact that you’re delivering a show and see it more as entertainment, perhaps. The first big influence in that area was Philadelphia Grand Jury, who have now called it quits, but I remember we saw them when we were first beginning because we supported them in Brisbane and the whole show was a real sort of punk energy. It was raucous and they got amongst the crowd. It was wild and really exciting no matter what it sounded like because you left the show thinking, wow, that was incredible. It was the same sense with a much bigger band, The Flaming Lips, who I saw a few years ago. It was freaking huge and you know they should have good sound because they’ve got the money to pay for it but it still sounded like arse, but it didn’t matter because the show was so incredible. I mean, obviously they’re quite over the top with all of their props and everything but it’s pretty hard to ignore how entertaining that show was so I think we incorporated that. It’s only now that playing in nicer venues with better equipment that we can really start focusing on the sound and the music again, I think for a long time we really just brought a party band attitude and said, “let’s leave our record at the door, let’s go to this venue and just fucking smash it. Let’s be loud and raucous and have fun and put a smile on their faces.”
Are the majority of your songs autobiographical or hold some truth to experiences that you, or any of the other band members, have had?
A lot of the songs are autobiographical and I just sort of transfer whatever I’m feeling or experiencing into song. That can work well but it’s got to be real. A piece of advice that’s always stuck with me is to write what you know. So I’ve always loved writing songs that are about my life but it’s got to be real. I can’t make shit up and if you are going to make shit up then you really have to go for it, you have to make a character, make a story, make it big, make stories that go beyond what you’re getting in your own life. I mean, I like both styles of songwriting and you hear those that do a great job of both of them.
Acknowledging that Weezer were such a huge musical influence on a generation – to the extent that I noted a girl not a fortnight ago who had their logo tattooed on the back of her neck – are you feeling the pressure in regards to supporting their 2013 January tour?
A little bit. It’s in January so I haven’t started worrying about it yet but, yeah, I get what you mean, they’re such a big band and they kind of belong to the generation before us so I’m a little bit concerned that a lot of people at the show will not give a fuck about Ball Park Music. I’ve done lots of gigs like that, where you don’t belong but all you can do is show up, do the best job you can and hope to win some people over. It was really nice; you become quite aware of the selection procedure for artists, their label and their team in getting support acts for events and usually it’s a really bureaucratic thing where a touring company will bring Weezer to Australia and they will just tell them to take A, B or C and Weezer won’t really care too much just take whatever, but as far as I’ve been made aware, the band actually had quite a heavy involvement in choosing us. They made a video where they announced their support acts and they said, we’re happy to announce Cloud Control and Ball Park Music, and it was so crazy to hear him saying our name in his sexy accent and I think that was the first kind of moment where I felt like, “they want us on their tour.” It doesn’t feel like they’re going to show up and just be like, “who’s playing?” It really felt like they picked us and they want us to be there so that was really special, I mean, it could all be smoke and mirrors, who knows? But fingers crossed it’s good.
Running with the theme of your It’s Nice to be Alive video clip; given the scenario of an asteroid hurtling towards the earth to destroy everybody, what would you do with your last day?
Oh, well, nothing in that film clip for starters. That video clip just got out of hand, the director just wanted things in his own way and we all just nodded our heads and did what we were told. I’d probably just be on the highway with a million other people trying to get to my family or my girlfriend and ideally I would spend my last moments with my loved ones drinking or something.