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BALL PARK MUSIC: AT FIRST SIGHT The X-Press Interview


Ball Park Music are no strangers to the stage, but with their GOOD GOOD MOOD national tour on the horizon, the band are taking their music into every nook and cranny of the country. Ahead of their performances at the highly anticipated debut of Fremantle’s At First Sight festival on Sunday, June 2 across Metropolis Fremantle and the Newport Hotel, and Bunbury Entertainment Centre on Monday, June 3, Ball Park guitarist Dean Hanson spoke to CAITLIN NORRIS about, the importance of regional touring, 
intimate shows in Berlin and the inspiration behind the massively successful GOOD MOOD album.

It’s exciting to see Ball Park Music returning to WA for At First Sight Festival in Freo this June! Are you guys pumped?

Yeah, very much so! We love visiting WA and especially Freo, it’s one of our favourite places so we’re stoked to be back.

Does it ever get nerve-wracking playing a new festival of this kind?

Definitely, yeah. Not so much nerves anymore, we get like excited or like an excited anxiety kind of thing about it. But it’s always fun, especially doing something new that we haven’t done before.

2018 was such a massive year for you guys with the release of GOOD MOOD. What was it like to be receiving Aria Award nominations and to be voted Triple J’s number one album of the year?

It was awesome! The whole year was great. I think collectively as a band we all agree that 2018 was definitely our biggest and best calendar year. It was probably the first time that we’d ever – I don’t know, it just felt like everything that happened after the rollout of the album was a success. It just felt great. It almost felt like it was happening easily like it was hard to sort of sit there and be a part of it.  We’re a little bit surprised sometimes that stuff even happens and people wanna come and see our shows and stuff so it was hard to ignore just how well everything was going last year.

Did you have any inkling or feelings when you were writing the album or when it came out that it was going to be so big, or was it just a complete shock?

Complete shock – well, sort of both. I think making the record felt really great this time.  We were really sure of ourselves in making it. We had our own studio in Brisbane and we were just treating it very much like a 9 to 5, going in spending hours making tunes and everything just felt really good. It felt really positive, so I think deep down we were kind of like, well, if it’s kind of received as well as it’s felt to make it then it’s gonna be really good. But yeah, you can just never know.

What kind of influences did the band pull from when you were recording the album? Musically, who and what were you guys listening to?

As usual with us, we listen to so much different stuff, which is why we seem to have a really eclectic spread of styles on all of our records. But I think our main focus was really just keeping the album sounding positive. We kept going back to sort of thinking, what context would you want people to listen to this album in? And we just kept going back to like the road trip vibes, especially for young kids to be able to get in the car and be like, “what are we gonna put on for our road trip?” And have them be like, “let’s just chuck on Ball Park because it’s a great album and it makes us feel excited,” so that was always in the back of our mind while making the record. We really wanted to bring that kind of vibe into the album.

That’s really cool! The album artwork for the GOOD MOOD record is captivating. What was the inspiration behind that and how did you come to create it?

Yeah! Well, it was Sam’s idea with the original image. He just stumbled across an image one day – the morning before he rocked up to the studio – of this girl, a photographer from America. He found a collection of photos of her and she was shooting a series called Urban Cowboy, which was just kind of like these groups of people in America that ride horses around urban areas and it’s a super colourful subculture, it’s really awesome. So Sam was just showing us these images saying like, “how striking are these? They’d make a great album cover.” Especially since they sort of fit in with the whole mood of the record,  just kind of having people who are so free-spirited and roaming about some sort of urban wasteland. We talk about a lot of rubbish when we’re in the studio and come up with stupid ideas but we sort of thought like, how awesome would it be to get someone to come and rear their horse in front of our studio which is just this old, dank looking shed. And then that afternoon we were actually getting our hair cut and talking to the friend of ours who does our hair about the images and we showed her a picture and we were like, “we just don’t know anyone that could do this,” and she was like “I know a person who rides horses!” And then she passed her number on and one thing led to another and before we knew it we were having this girl called Mindy and her partner come down with their horses to the studio on a Sunday afternoon and she taught the horse to rear and she was keen as! So we just took the photo and the rest of the images in the album are made up of photos that were taken in the process of planning for the album cover.

With the GOOD GOOD MOOD tour, what was the thinking behind taking the show beyond the metro areas and into regional parts of Australia?

Australia has always definitely been our market. We love this country and owe a lot to it. For years and years we’ve just been travelling around and every show we’ve played in any place no matter how big or small, it’s just always been a great time and we’ve felt really appreciated. There’s no real necessity to go regional other than just us wanting to. I think we all love travelling this country so much and seeing different places, the kind of places where we might not have been for a few years but just going back there and exploring even more. Whenever we consider that we’ve been playing for over a decade now and there might be people who have known our band since they were, you know, pre-high school and we haven’t been to their town for a number of years – it’s exciting thinking about how they can finally come and see a show. I know what it was like because I grew up in a regional area in Lismore in NSW and we didn’t get a lot, but whenever there was a band that had a national profile coming through I just swear everybody knew about it and there was just a buzz. It feels cool that – hopefully – people feel the same way about us.

What can we expect from Ball Park on this tour?

It’ll definitely be a mixture of all the records, I don’t think we’ll stick too heavily to the new stuff or the old stuff. To keep it exciting over 21 separate dates we always like to change it up and throw little curveballs in there. We tend to change things up night to night just to keep it fresh and exciting. I think as long as we’re feeling excited about the show we’re playing, hopefully, it’s translating across to the audience.

Do you prefer intimate shows or the big stages?

There are good and bad things about both. The best thing about an intimate show is that there’s always potential for it to be a bit of a surprise and blow your mind. Like with a big show you’re going out there and expecting it to be good. You’re feeling anxious and you know there’s gonna be thousands of people there and sometimes you walk off going, “was that good?” but with the small shows you don’t know what to expect and you walk off some nights just going “oh my god,” that was only a couple of hundred people but we all sit there and look at each other like that was the best show.

What comes to mind when you think of a show that made you feel like that?

We played a gig in Berlin a few years ago and it was our first time ever playing there. The room had – I think – a 100 person capacity and we had no idea who would show up. When we got there the stage didn’t really exist so we kind of built a stage out of like milk cartons and bits of timber and I think I was standing with one foot on a windowsill. So yeah, you’re kind of worried you don’t know how it’s gonna sound and then as soon as you get the energy of the show – I think we ended up having a hundred people come through the door so it was really tight and packed in and you know what Europe’s like, there are people smoking cigarettes and it’s really grimy and dingy but the show was just incredible and the energy was amazing. I remember even our manager after that show came out and was like, “that’s the best Ball Park show I’ve ever been to,” which was bizarre. Just wasn’t what you would it expect to be such a great show but it just happened.

As for the future, what have you guys got coming up? Any new releases? 

We’re definitely working on new stuff already. Because we’ve got our own studio now we kind of don’t stop working which is the way we like it. We haven’t really had a chat about any plans of releasing stuff but we’ve already got maybe more than an albums worth of demos and songs that we’ve been working on that we’re really vibing. Hopefully, if all goes well, we might have some new music before the end of this year but it definitely won’t be long. We’re always trying to turn it over quickly and I think in this day and age with streaming and the way people are accessing stuff it doesn’t really feel like bands have to wait that long anymore before you’re releasing, so it’s kind of playing into our hands because we like releasing things quickly – and we’re gonna continue to do so.

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