Trippin’ the light fantastic with "Ball Park Music": live review and interview with bassist Dean Hanson.
The last time I saw Ball Park Music was almost 18 months ago at the 2015 edition of Groovin’ the Moo. It was an incredibly fun-loving, energetic and engaging set with all of Ball Park’s trademark idiosyncracy, highlighted by their cover of the Friends theme song. Since then, so much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same. Touring the nation to promote their recently released album, “Every Night the Same Dream,” the Brisbane indie pop rockers arrived at Capitol for a sold out Saturday night show. We also got the chance to interview bassist Dean Hanson a few weeks ago, providing fantastic insight into the making of the new album, and what we can expect in the future from the band.
“Every Night the Same Dream” is unlike any previous Ball Park release. With a more mature, moodier, emotional direction, you get the sense the band are moving more towards the style of frontman Sam Cromack’s solo work, “My Own Pet Radio.” But Dean explained that this mature undertone wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision; “Our frame of mind going into this record was to not kind of succumb to outside pressures and to make a record that we really wanted to make and to not chop and change styles or not take risks thinking that you know, that’s what other people wanted to see… Now we’re all around 27 so I think as you grow up you have more life experiences and everything becomes a little more real. So I think that reflects in our music for sure.”
The night kicked off with supporting acts Sahara Beck and indie rockers The Creases delivering fantastic sets to warm the crowd up. The angelic yet powerful vocals of the young, independent artist Sahara Beck built the ideal atmosphere for a Ball Park concert, whilst the Brisbane outfit excited fans with a range of catchy covers to go with their own popular tunes.
Then it was time for what we’d all been waiting for; Ball Park Music. The band performed a huge set, alternating between material from “Every Night the Same Dream’ and all the favourites they’ve released since they first began. Visually stunning, the lighting matched the fluctuating mood perfectly, moving from an atmospheric red for tracks from the new album to a chaotic rainbow assault for all their up-beat past favourites. The crowd observed and swerved to their first look at a live rendition of the new material, before the mood rapidly escalated into a high energy singing and dancing frenzy whenever an old classic began.
Ultimately, the band’s performing style and the tracks from the new album are decidedly different; for better and for worse. With so many hits over the years, the band is extremely well established, with a dedicated and passionate fanbase. “Every Night the Same Dream” challenges the Ball Park Music norm, with an experimental, moodier new sound that has cast the fanbase net even wider, yet has perhaps let a few past admirers slip through the holes. The new album is full of quality music, there is no doubt about that. However the tracks are quite simply not as bubbly, fun and easy to dance and sing along too as they used to be. Of course, many fans are less familiar with the new material, so that plays a role, but Ball Park’s classic tunes are so uplifting and enjoyable that even if you’d never heard them before you couldn’t help but get swept up in the fun.
Essentially there a two main traits that have characterised and even defined Ball Park over the years that now appear to have been left in the past. Fun-loving anthems and cute quirkiness has been replaced by a sense of professionalism and perfectionism. The band seem to have moved on from their youthful exuberance and spontaneity, taking a new, emotionally mature direction with their music. But above all else, Ball Park Music makes terrific music and perform it without fault. Whether you’re a fan of the new material or the old classics, this show had the balance to appease and excite any variety of fan.
So what’s next for Ball Park Music? Well, aside from touring, according to Dean it shouldn’t be too long until we’re treated to some new material;
“I would say that our next record after this lot probably won’t take as long, like this ones been almost two years between sort of putting it in this record and it sort of hit me after this record was received so well, because we were a little bit anxious about putting this record out, and that it’s a bit different to our other stuff, and it’s a little more kind of, it was a bit of a self-absorbed record, like we kind of made a record that we really liked but had no idea you know whether other people would love it. Seeing and giving that the response has been so good, it’s kind of given us a lot of confidence that we’re heading in the right direction with our music and that we can keep pushing that boundary and have a bit more freedom with what we’re making, and I think that that just makes you just super keen to get back into the studio or at least keep writing.”
If you’d like to see more of our interview with Dean Hanson, you can continue reading below!
Tell us about your new album, “Every Night the Same Dream.” It’s been described as taking a more mature, moodier, emotional direction, is this what you were going for?
Yeah I guess so, I don’t think we ever kind of sat down and decided it would be more mature. Our frame of mind going into this record was to not kind of succumb to outside pressures and to make a record that we really wanted to make and to not chop and change styles or not take risks thinking that you know, that’s what other people wanted to see. I guess like, the maturity thing comes with age. Now we’re all around 27 so I think as you grow up you have more life experiences and everything becomes a little more real. So I think that reflects in our music for sure.
Do you have a personal favourite track in the album? Why?
Hard to say, I like a lot of them for different reasons to be honest. One of the songs on the record, track 9, I wrote that song. So, it’s my first ever song on a Ball Park music record so it’s kind of, not so much a favourite of mine but kind of one that’s definitely close to my heart.
What has been the highlight in your music career?
There’s so many, I always think about this, obviously being able to travel overseas with my mates playing music for people in Europe and the States is great. And then also close to home, I grew up in Lismore in NSW which is like 40 minutes inland from Byron Bay so I grew up with Splendour in the Grass down the road and all my friends going there as teenagers and having a great time then years later and suddenly my band is playing at the festival to thousands of people. It’s a bit bizarre really, I think if I had to pick a real personal highlight it would be every time I go there. Because if you’d told 18 year old Dean that in 10 years he would’ve played Splendour 3 times and just like had some of the best gigs of your life sort of thing I would’ve just gone, no that won’t happen.
What are the some of the bands main influences and inspirations?
We’ve had a lot different ones, I think like consistently over the years we’ve all listened to a lot of the Beatles. which sounds cliched, everyone listens to a lot of the Beatles. There music is just so timeless, I hear all these bands coming out now that are good, even us, we wear our heart on our sleeve, the Beatles are a big influence and you listen to the biggest bands in the world now, or our country anyway, Tame Impala and like obviously there’s a massive Beatles influence there like you know from the same sort of similar vocal tones to John Lennon to the whole psychedelic thing and then even you go into King Gizzard territory and then like the Beatles have some songs off records that are similar to that! So they just stand all these incredible territories. I think that’s what just had bands written into them and wanting to emulate that so much, it’s just how incredible they were at pioneering certain different styles and being good at it, so yeah they’re definitely one big influence. But I guess the rest of it, like we’re just a big mess of influences to be honest like someone who loves listening to Hip Hop to reflect on some of our songs with the drafts and the grooves and the you know, we love listening to Radiohead as well which is good because it’s throws in a little bit of sort of obscure stuff in there which is nice.
Can it be difficult to juggle band priorities with Sam and Jennifer’s solo work?
Yeah I guess like, you know, Ball Park has always been priority, but at times when people are wanting to work on solo stuff, you’re always working on lots of different things, so we’re working on songs here and there and some of them are right for Ball Park some of them aren’t. Whenever the time feels right for people to take a break from Ball Park to go and work on other things it’s a little bit therapeutic sometimes. Sam’s last solo record that he released was very much a case of that, he had a lot of stuff that didn’t really stick with Ball Park and he was passionate about putting that out and not letting it go to waste and you know kind of capturing that moment in time. So that’s when we all decided alright we’ll take a step back for a time, let him get that of his chest, and then it pays off, it pays dividends in the end when you all come back to this project and everyones fresh and has like a really good solid of vision of where we’re taking it.
You’re well known for performing fun covers, from Bohemian Rhapsody to the Friends theme song, can we expect this trend to continue?
I think so yeah, we always tend to plan those covers just super late and always just like on a whim, it’s kind of ridiculous really, I remember sitting down talking about Bohemian Rhapsody and joking about it because it’s a ridiculous song to cover, it’s so difficult to pull of but I think we always just joked about it and then one day sort of said look, why not just give it a go, so then that eventuated, and then I remember yeah we were practicing for the Groovin the Moo tour like rehearsing for it and Sam just decided one day to say “aw I reckon it’d be cool to do the friends theme song, it’s kind of cool and interesting, but a bit worldy” and we just did it. It’s a bit silly but you know, the punters love it, they get into it, and it’s all about entertaining you know, so I’m glad it went well.
Obviously you’ll be touring your new album for a while now, but beyond that, what’s next for Ball Park Music?! Have you got your sights set on another album, or is that at the back of your mind for now?
Yeah for sure, I would say that our next record after this lot probably won’t take as long, like this ones been almost two years between sort of putting it in this record and it sort of hit me after this record was received so well, because we were a little bit anxious about putting this record out, and that it’s a bit different to our other stuff, and it’s a little more kind of, it was a bit of a self-absorbed record, like we kind of made a record that we really liked but had no idea you know whether other people would love it. Seeing and giving that the response has been so good, it’s kind of given us a lot of confidence that we’re heading in the right direction with our music and that we can keep pushing that boundary and have a bit more freedom with what we’re making, and I think that that just makes you just super keen to get back into the studio or at least keep writing. I know personally, that as soon as the record came out, I kind of had this want to pick up my guitar again and start making music since the record came out. Sam’s shown me a couple demos he been writing and stuff already, so I think yeah if we just ride that kind of confidence and stuff then it shouldn’t be too long before another record, but you know definitely not two and a half years like this last one, but yeah we’ll see how we go, obviously that’s not a ‘foolproof’ plan, it’ll probably be decade and we’ll be like “aw yeah it took longer than we expected.”
Yeah I definitely think that now that the band is so established and you have such a dedicated fan base you can sort of experiment a bit more and do what you want to do and they’re probably going to appreciate it.
Yeah exactly I hope so, and that’s when I think yeah we’re lucky to kind of have built our fanbase over a reasonably long time, we kind of haven’t had anything that’s sort of transcended our other songs massively. There’s some bands who have a big hit and then it’s really hard for them to kind of keep people interested but for us it’s kind of been this big long slog so I think that’s why people are always so kind of, I guess, for a lack of a better word, sort of dedicated to you know listening to what we have to say, which is awesome.