Interview: Vulture Chirps with Ball Park Music

Ball Park Music have been, well, busy. After their discovery in 2010, the release of their first album Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs in 2011, the release of their second album Museum in 2012 (which won a coveted spot on Vulture’s Top 5 Albums of 2012 list), and approximately one million live shows in between, they’re gearing up for a (somehow) even bigger 2013. They’ve recently announced their mid-year Thank Ewes tour that will see them covering the nation before heading back into the studio to get cracking on their much-anticipated third album. Vulture Magazine spoke to guitarist Dean Hanson about the year that will be.

Ball Park MusicVM: Your upcoming tour is dedicated to your fans as a thank you. Has the Ball Park Music fan base been more important than most for the success of your band?

DH: Something we work really hard on is having a really close relationship with our fan base. At one point in our career we’d sold more records than the amount of Facebook fans we had, you know? For us it’s important to keep your fans understanding that we’re real people too. With social media and stuff like that it’s really easy to just have thousands and thousands of people that sign up to hear news about your band and then just ignore it and let management take care of it. But that’s not really our bag.

VM: You’ve been touring pretty relentlessly since you guys made it, what kind of a toll does that take on the band?

DH: Not a lot, I guess we get along really well so as a unit we can survive. Individually, I guess, I’d say a lot of bands or people who travel for work would say that going through lots of climates and spending time on planes and having late nights and early mornings, you start off pretty fresh and then get pretty tired. But doing it more and more we’ve become used to it.

VM: You’ve been pumping out your albums in pretty quick succession, how long do you reckon you can keep up that level of creativity for?

DH: I think it’s something that comes naturally to us, that level of creativity. Sam is a prolific songwriter and instead of letting those songs bank up and forget about them we tend to get a bit over eager and work on things a bit too quickly. We don’t like letting songs go by the wayside. We really like writing songs and arranging songs and we’ve got a good chemistry for that sort of thing.

VM: Sam and Jennifer also have solo projects on the side. Does this impact on the song writing for the band?

DH: Not necessarily. Jen doesn’t have a very heavy song-writing role in Ball Park Music. Sam’s solo stuff used to but since we’ve gotten a bit busier Sam has shifted his focus to writing most of his stuff for us and our sound has changed a bit to accommodate some of the songs that he used to like to write for his solo project.

VM: How does it work playing music with your twin brother Daniel?

DH: It’s a strange thing. For me being a guitarist, it was always pretty cool having a brother who played drums.  One of the hardest things about music is to be able to play with a band. He was a pretty accomplished drummer before I started to play guitar seriously so we’d just get home from school and head downstairs and play a lot of heavy metal and hardcore music when we were in high school – as everybody does. We wouldn’t even talk about what we would play, we’d just improvise for an hour every afternoon. So I guess we’ve got a really good natural connection.

VM: So guitarist Brock left Ball Park Music at the end of last year. What happened there and how has that changed the dynamic of the group?

DH: What happened there was – and the expression is overused – creative differences and differences in the direction he thought the band was going. If we kept the band in the structure it was in, it was just going to be an unhappy structure for the band as a whole. You have to make hard decisions to make sure everyone’s happy. It affected the dynamic a little bit. Having three guitar parts was hard. It was difficult to arrange songs. It affected our live performances for a little while but we got our heads around how it was going to work. Now that we’re a five-piece, there’s a lot more room on stage!

Ball Park Music Thank EwesVM: After this tour, you’re going to begin work on your new album. How’s the pre-production going?

DH: Really good. We’ve already got too many songs to work on. I think it’s going to be a little bit different this time. We’re going to try to write a lot of songs and we’ve written the songs specifically for the album. We’ll record a lot of songs and then pick the best ten or whatever. I don’t think the album will be much longer than a year, maybe 18 months, but for us that seems like an eternity because our other albums have been so quick over the last few years.

VM: Your first album was pretty widely acclaimed and I assume there was a bit of pressure to follow up with your second album. How does that pressure relate to the pressure leading up to the third album?

DH: We tend not to think about it too much. I think following up our first really quickly helped. It was kind of our aim in the beginning to put together our first album, which was a combination of everything we’ve done since the beginning of our band. We always thought we’d follow it up quickly. We had the songs and we thought, “while we’ve got a bit of a roll going on and people are aware of us we might as well put out some new music.” We didn’t really feel the pressure at all. We spent 16 days in the studio tracking and it felt really natural. We don’t really worry about what people’s expectations are, and it’s a little bit the same with the third album. With this album we’ll probably take a few more risks and try and do a few things that might surprise people. I guess now we’ve got people’s attention we can afford to take a few more risks.

VM: With the likes of Custard, Regurgitator, The Go-Betweens and now Ball Park Music, what is it about Brisbane and humourous pop-rock?

DH: I’m not too sure, to be honest! I see a lot of Brisbane bands start playing music that’s a bit friendly, I’m not sure why. Brisbane bands often get boxed into that cutesy, funny genre when they begin. For us, when we were starting out, we didn’t think about making music that sounded anything like those bands. People don’t really feel the need to be super cool in Brisbane, it’s pretty supportive and you’re not trying to impress anyone with how cool you can be. Sydney and Melbourne are a little bit different, but in Brisbane people just go, “Fuck it, let’s make the music we want to make!” Brisbane’s just a big country town and I don’t think anyone thinks anyone here’s that cool.

VM: If you’re playing to a room that’s three quarters full and no one’s really getting into it, how do you guys go about getting them going?

DH: I can give you an actual example. Last tour we did, we were playing in The Coolangatta Hotel and it’s an 1100 person capacity, which is a pretty big venue for what I guess you’d call a regional area. It ended up being three quarters full and the crowd were a little bit not-into-it, so I said to Sam just before the end of the set, “I think you should take your shirt off, I think people will get into it if you do that.” So he just took his shirt off and then from there we had a better finish to the set. We ended up doing an impromptu cover of Sweet Home Alabama but changed the lyrics to Sweet Home Coolangatta and it seemed to go pretty well!

VM: One last hypothetical: If you’re all stranded on a boat at sea and you’re forced to eat one band member to survive, who would you choose and why? And who would they choose?

DH: I would probably eat my brother, Dan. He’s my twin brother and I’d feel like I was eating myself. I know that’s a bit strange but I’d feel a little less guilty. And I’d say that he’d probably choose me because everybody else is skin and bone and compared to the rest of the guys, I’ve got the most meat on me. So I’d last the longest, unfortunately.

Catch Ball Park Music (before they cannabalise each other) on their Thank Ewes Tour, with special guests Eagle and the Worm and Jeremy Neale

Friday 28 June – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Tickets available from www.ticketek.com.au | 132 849 | All Ticketek Outlets

Friday 5 July – The Forum, Melbourne
Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100 | All Ticketmaster Outlets

Saturday 6 July – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tickets available from www.ticketek.com.au | 132 849 | All Ticketek Outlets

Thursday 11 July – HQ, Adelaide
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix outlets

Friday 12 July – Metropolis, Fremantle
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix outlets

Leigh MacDonald

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