There’s something to be said for taking the DIY approach. Such was the case when the time came for Brisbane’s Ball Park Music to start work on their third full-length album, Puddinghead. Opting to record and produce the LP entirely on their own, the quintet rented a “cheap, crummy” fibro shack well out of the way in Brisbane’s northern suburbs and, far removed from the professional studios where they recorded their back catalogue, dived headfirst into crafting the follow-up to 2012’s Museum. While relatively new territory for the band – producer Matt Redlich had been pulling the strings on albums one and two – frontman Sam Cromack says the experience afforded a level of creative and experimental freedom that proved liberating.
“I think it had always been on my agenda. I didn’t pick that it would happen on this record, it just kind of came to be,” says Cromack. “We were travelling when we were touring for the second record and a guy in our crew had an audio technology magazine with a DIY special. I remember passing it around and everyone having a read, and having this feeling that maybe that’s what we should do next. It became a reality really quickly, we bought a bit of gear and booked a place and it all just came together.”
Finding that place was one of the first big challenges of the album, with Cromack acknowledging that locating “somewhere temporary that you can make a lot of noise in” was initially a difficult task. Once packed in and ready, however, the group revelled in being the collective captain of its own, less-than-pristine ship.
“I think in many ways it was similar to the process that we already had, but having our own space and having a lot more time and flexibility just allowed us more opportunity to try things, to make mistakes, to write more and just indulge in the whole experience, which I think was what we were really craving after the first two records.”
To coincide with the album’s release in early April, Ball Park Music will be heading out on an extensive 20-something date jaunt throughout the country, hitting capital cities and regional areas alike, and kicking off at the new Mountain Sounds Festival on the Central Coast. For Cromack and co., who tend to be in a near-constant state of creative activity, it can’t come soon enough.
“Between finishing the record around Christmas time and heading off on tour in a month, there’s been a reasonably big period of downtime. I’ve definitely been going stir crazy, I’m itching to be on the road and play shows and just be active. I don’t really handle doing nothing really well – boredom sets in and I feel quite flat if I don’t have little challenges and tasks in front of me; I feel a bit lost. I think we all enjoy just keeping busy, and I think that’s prompted a lot of our activity.”
‘Busy’ is something of an understatement. Puddinghead is the band’s third album in something like 24 months, and follows an ambitious couple of years that included several national headline tours, spots on festivals including Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival and Groovin The Moo, a run of dates supporting alt-rock legends Weezer and, most recently, maiden voyages to the US, UK and the Netherlands.
“It was a pretty big, exhausting trip; we were gone for the best part of a month and I’d never been to any of those places before in my life, so it was quite full-on to be travelling there but also really great.” The band’s international debut included appearances as part of the CMJ Music Marathon in New York. “I love travelling with the band, it gives me a good sense of purpose when I’m in a new place,” says Cromack. “It’s nice to go somewhere for a reason and be able to interact with people who live there, so it went really well.”
While Puddinghead includes a generous selection of tracks taken from as many as three years ago to ones penned closer to recording, Cromack says they share a cohesive thread in their source material. “I think it’s quite an autobiographical sort of record. It pretty much all deals with personal experience, sometimes in a really direct manner and sometimes in a more abstract way.”
Musically, Puddinghead is a little more rambunctious and less demure than prior work. It’s something evidenced by first single ‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’, a slick, synth-driven slice of infectious pop. An increased sense of immediacy was a clear aim for the new album, according to Cromack.
“After we finished the first two records we sat down and kind of went, ‘Well, what kind of thing do we want to do here?’ and made a conscious decision to make a really direct and lively record. I think we started to accept that that was our strength, that’s what people knew us for and enjoyed, and that we ought to play to that strength instead of run away from it. There’s a fair bit of colour across the sort of moods of the songs but we definitely decided to keep it energetic and short and direct. We tried to make every song as if it were a single.”
Puddinghead out Friday April 4 through Stop Start/Inertia.