Four J-award album nominations, sold-out headline tours, nine appearances in Triple J’s Hottest 100, renowned performances at major festivals around the world and five critically acclaimed studio albums have made Brisbane’s BALL PARK MUSIC one of the most respected acts in the country. There’s no doubt you’ve had one of their vibrant indie-rock anthems stuck in your head for weeks at some stage. Think ‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’, ‘It’s Nice To Be Alive’, ‘Exactly How You Are’ and so many more! Get ready for a BPM singalong in the sand at The Drop Festival!
Ash Lee Chats with Ball Park Music frontman, Sam Cromack…..
Ash: You’re in this year’s line-up for The Drop Festival, I’m interested to know; what’s the touring experience like for you?
Sam: I’ve never done the whole festival before, we’ve just done one show in Newcastle but uh, we’re really excited because it’s a touring festival and there’s simply not that many touring festivals in Australia so we’re pumped, we have done Groovin’ The Moo a bunch of times and this sort of feels like Groovin’ The Moo by the sea and yeah, I am pumped. I just love having a tour that’s got a consistent line-up that goes over multiple shows. It’s super exciting and as good as it gets for touring so yeah, I’m really pumped.
Ash: You’ve done a decent amount of touring, I bet you’ve met some interesting people – who would be the most interesting/memorable person you’ve met so far?
Sam: Oh man, these questions are always so tough for me because I feel like my memory of events is particularly bad, like, it’s literally the butt of jokes in the band about how I can’t remember everything. The band jokes that I have ten memories of my life <laughs> I’m a real one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of person but you know, maybe that’s part of having a touring personality…in like..i don’t know..not getting too sentimental about whats happened, its like always wanting to do the next thing.
Ash: Fair enough, do you have much downtime in between tours?
Sam: Yeah, sort of. It always just depends on whats going on…I feel like, a few years back, I recall having a lot of downtime in between tours or projects and it really drove me crazy. I felt really flat and a bit sort of lost and aimless and I think I almost said to myself that I am going to make sure that this doesn’t happen anymore. So, I try an keep pretty busy; whether that’s working with the band or working on our own new music or doing other projects…um yeah, I’ve played in a few other projects and been recording other peoples bands. Yeah, I try to keep as busy as I can because it keeps me in a state where I have a happier mind, if I’m active…
Ash: That’s understandable, I think that’s pretty common amongst creative people, at least it is for me. Ball Park Music has five band members, what’s the creative process like with this many band members?
Sam: Well, I still do a lot of the song writing myself and it’s kind of always been that way. I would just kind of write songs in that sort of traditional mode of playing guitar or a piano and figuring out melodies and what works and stuff like that. So that’s the predominant way that things begin, from there, I’ll share what I’m working on with the others or sometimes I’ll record a rough demo where I’ll flesh out my other musical ideas too. Either way, I eventually share what I’m working on with the others and at that point we usually start playing it together. In most cases we’ll begin just playing kind of what I’ve sketched out and then it will just naturally evolve once everyone is on their instrument, kind of giving it their own flavour and yeah, my bandmates are just really respectful of what I write and not too eager to change things too much, they’re really respectful in that regard but you know, every now and then one of them will have a crazy idea and that’s usually really exciting though. If something is really inspiring and someone’s going “oh lets try this” then we always do but I guess it just begins with me and from there it’s collaberative and its an open book.
Ash: If you had to describe yourselves to someone who doesn’t know who you are and has never heard your music, how would you do that?
Sam: ah…hmmm…<long pause>…oh man, I don’t know. I feel like I need to do preparation for these kinds of things, I feel like I have no elevated pitch <laughs>
Ash: Nah, that’s cool, people always struggle with this question…
Sam: Yeah, it is tough and I guess in many ways you don’t really refine what you think about this kind of stuff because I sort of like just letting the music do the talking in a way…yeah, sorry..I feel so clumsy not having a good response for you there..
Ash: No, no Sam, that’s fine…I’m an artist and if someone who’d never seen my work or read anything that I’ve written asked me to describe it, I would wish that I had some sort of screen that I could plug into my mind and display a visual representation for them so, I feel like probably what you might do, in that situation is play them a song with a film clip expose of performances….
Sam: Exactly!!! Yeah, I reckon like..if you could choose a handful of songs that are all maybe really different and be like, alright, these will give you a good idea of who we are, what we do and what we stand for – that’s exactly right.
Ash: Yeah, when words fail – just play music…
Sam: Absolutely, music is an excellent conduit for expression.
Ash: It most certainly is and there have been a lot of changes to they way that people listen to and engage with music over the past few decades…. If you could change anything about the music scene or industry in Australia, what would you do?
Sam: Oh, that’s a tough one. There are so many things that feel like…um…maybe they’re not fair or not ethical but changing those is so hard, you know, things do change slowly and naturally over time. I mean, we’ve watched a lot of things change in the time we’ve been in the industry and if I could really change one thing it would be that artists could still have, ah, a more significant income from the sale of their music which has basically been just wiped out in the time that I’ve been in the music industry. It’s a weird one, you know, its funny to think that music recordings really were a product and this has its own downsides of course, because anything that becomes a product is going to get commercialised to some extent but you know….back in the day, people were making records that consumers actually bought and that meant that there was significant income from the sale of the actual music recording and the songs that were written and that meant that the pressure to tour was lower. People are touring now really out of necessity, so many artists are on this non-stop cycle of touring which, it can be good but its not for everyone and it’s a pretty crazy lifestyle. I’m not saying that musicians should have this magic slush fund of money for no reason but it just sucks that we’ve switched to streaming, which, is an awesome service…I mean I use streaming, its fantastic but people are…kind of…I don’t know…maybe not fairly compensated.
Ash: Yeah, I totally agree…in terms of distribution, streaming makes music accessible on a global scale…artists have the opportunity to reach an audience anyway, to gain a bigger following however I do believe that its inequitable and I am big supporter of The Pack Australia – I would encourage any musician who is isn’t familiar with this The Pack to and it’s purpose to read it’s Industry White Paper on the impacts of global music streaming on the local music economy….So, do you have any advice for young people in Australia who want to make a career for themselves in the music industry?
Sam: Yeah, you have to love it and you have to make good music over and over again <laughs> it’s as simple as that I think.
Ash: yes, true, because for those of you out there who don’t already know it – reality is that you’re probably going to have a side-hustle job too, as most musicians today do.
Ash: Do you think your 15 year old self be happy with where you are now?
Sam: Oh, definitely yeah, 15 year old me would be rapt and blown away I think at how much that has happened in my life, it’s crazy…even 30 year old me is really pleåsed. I feel like the only thing I really dreamt of that hasn’t really come to fruition in my music life is more international stuff. We’ve done a bit of international touring but I would’ve loved to have reached more of an international fan base and been able to play to more people in the world.
Ash: You never know, there’s still time.
Sam: Yes, there’s always the future, true.
Ash: Do you think you’ll feel nostalgic about anything in…….40 years time?
Sam: Oh shit yeah, I mean I am already nostalgic about things. I’ll definitely be nostalgic about things in what did you say, 40 years time? I think in 40 years time I’ll just be happy to still be here <laughs>
Ash: Yeah me too…What would you like your legacy as a musician and a person to be?
Sam: Oh, that’s a good question, I would love to be remember as, well, a Brisbane musician. I never predicted that my music and my identity would get so tied in with the city that I live in but I have come to enjoy that more and more so yeah, I’d be so honoured if the city remembers me just as one of its musicians. Beyond that, I’d like it if people just thought that I worked hard at my craft and did it a decent job and acted with integrity. That’s all we strive to do.