Ahead of a huge regional Australia tour, Ball Park Music’s Dean Hanson found the time to chat to GROK about new music, horse pictures and Freo’s At First Sight festival.
You co-wrote a few songs off your latest album, GOOD MOOD. How would you describe the songwriting process?
It kind of varies, to be honest. I like to just start sitting down with the guitar and improvising, singing a tune. Then once I get a tune that I like I’ll record a bunch of demos, just kind of singing gibberish, with no actual lyrics. Then kind of just listen back and see what kind of lyrics stick out to me, or what I’m kind of thing I’m hearing. It’s always interesting how it normally ends up being something poignant. I think your mind kind of makes it so you don’t really know what you’re trying to say, but your subconscious notices certain things that are trying to get out. I guess when you’re searching for what words stick with that song, your mind puts forward stuff that you might not have had at the forefront of your mind. Once I get something that’s an obvious lyric, it gives me some context to finish off the rest of the song, and then we go from there.
The album got a lot of recognition, receiving Number One Album of 2018 in Triple J’s album poll. Did this come to a surprise?
Yeah, it was a big surprise. We’ve been lucky enough to have the first three or four albums making it into the album poll at some stage, so we had some expectations that maybe we would be in there again, and hopefully, people would vote. But to get the number one position was just a big surprise.
Where did the inspiration for the album artwork come from?
Sam was on a website WeTransfer, which is just a data transfer website, and then occasionally on that site, they’ll have a featured artist or something like that. There was just this photographer that was featured on this website that does a lot of photography over in Orlando maybe, where there’s this subculture called urban cowboys. They’re mostly these African American groups that ride horses around urban areas, as well as motorbikes, and she had taken a lot of cool photos of people riding their horses around in these urban locations. Sam showed us an image one day and was like ‘how good is this image, it would make a fantastic album cover or something like that’. Then we thought, how can we recreate something like that in the middle of Brisbane—we don’t have a horse, and we’re not that awesome [laughs]. It was literally that afternoon, we were getting our haircut from a hairdresser who’s a good friend of ours. We showed her the image and she had done the makeup for a girl’s wedding, and she’s a horse rider and might be interested. It ended up being her, she said she was keen as. Her horses didn’t know how to rear, so she taught them within a few weeks and it was pretty wild. We got them to come down to the studio of a Sunday because it’s the least busy traffic day. So, we took the photo and it turned out awesome, it was such a fun experience.
You guys have been playing together for over a decade now, how do you think you’ve grown as a band over the years?
Yeah, definitely. I think you can never become too sure of yourself and things change. In the beginning, you’re just stumbling across things I guess, and you’re getting to know each other as people at the same time and getting to discover what kind of band you want to be. As you start learning you become more comfortable. It does make you look back on things and make you think ‘oh, I wish we didn’t do that’, but it’s all part of getting us to where we are now. I think we definitely look back and think ‘oh no’ at the blunder years when we first began, but I think at the end of the day that maybe if we tried too hard in the beginning or were too sure of ourselves, we might not have made it to where we are now.
What was the reason behind focusing on regional cities for the GOOD GOOD MOOD TOUR?
It’d kind of just been a long time since we’d done anything regional. It’s been maybe two years since we’ve jumped in a van and cruised around, which is something I’ve always enjoyed the most about touring. Playing capital cities is great and there are bigger audiences, but in our heart of hearts, we still struggle to believe that we can get so many people to show up in the capital cities. It always just feels a bit bigger than we think it is. It’s confusing, but getting back into jumping into a van and rocking up to a regional town, not knowing what to expect, and the venues are a bit smaller—it feels like the right thing to do at this stage. We’ve been talking to our team, management and booking agent for ages, always about a regional tour somewhere, seeing if we can slot one in. This has also been a really long album campaign for us, probably the longest we’ve been able to stretch a platform off the back of an album, so it felt like the perfect way to wrap it up before something new comes out.
Are you looking forward to playing At First Sight? There’s a great line-up of artists playing.
Yeah, it’ll be fantastic. I think a lot of bands love travelling over to the West and playing in Freo, it’s not just the shows, but that actual part of the world is incredible. It’s the best because the travel is reasonably longer than to other places, in case of something going wrong or a flight delay, we can’t fly in on the day of the show, so we’re lucky enough to fly in a day before and enjoy the spot. It’s really rare that it happens like that. Normally we get up early in the morning, get a flight somewhere, roll into sound check, play the show, go to bed, and then leave. So, we’ve gotten to know the West, around Perth and Freo well from spending time there over the years.
Do you typically have a favourite song to perform?
I always like performing songs that I’ve written, I get a real kick out of hearing people sing my lyrics. I guess that’s why I always wanted to be a musician and write songs, to hear people sing them back never loses its appeal. Otherwise playing the exciting, high energy songs, when you can look out and see a sea of people moving and dancing is great.
So had you always planned on being a musician and songwriter then?
Guitarist yes, I always wanted to be a musician from when I was a kid. But for songwriting, I’ve always written music, but writing lyrics came a lot later. I think I’m getting better at it, but I still have a long way to go. I think what’s helped the most is having Sam. He’s one of my best friends, and I’ve been around him obviously for over ten years seeing how he goes about songwriting. He’s been my biggest inspiration, which is pretty handy.
What can fans expect from this tour?
Possibly something new, maybe. We’ve been jamming a lot of new stuff lately, and have a lot of demos laying around. Because these kinds of tours are so long, you have to kind of keep yourself interested and keep us as a band excited to go up there. We tend to be a lot more spontaneous on these tours. For a capital city one where production is really big, if you want to change a set list, you’ve got to bloody make sure you tell every single person there that you’re changing something. But for these ones, it’s more like we might just have a jam at some point or play something we haven’t played for ages. It’s always really fun and exciting.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Not really, but I think they should definitely come to a show if they haven’t decided yet. They won’t regret it, and it’ll be a great time!
Ball Park Music is headlining At First Sight mini-fest at Freo June 2, along with Alice Ivy, Spacey Jane, Tia Gostelow and Mosquito Coast.
Tickets and more information here.