Ball Park Music just released album number 3 last Friday, kicking off a huge tour in the process. We caught up with lead singer Sam to talk ‘Puddinghead’, the upcoming tour, and the joys of having your own studio.
Album number three is coming out, ‘Puddinghead’. Singles ‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’ is the first real taste. What can we expect from the rest of the record?
I guess that the single is a good taste of what to expect on the album. We tried to create a record that had a consistency to the sound, and I think that the two single represent the record really well. We tried to make a whole album of singles really. After the first album we reflected on the process and decided that trying to write songs that you can release as singles is a good way to approach it. Overall the album is pretty short, sharp and direct. There are a couple of longer album tracks but yeah.
The first record and EP, were very fast and punchy, whilst museum had a lot longer more mellow tracks. Is Puddinghead more like your debut stuff, more like museum, or something different entirely?
Yeah, after we had done the first two albums we sat down and talked about what we did and didn’t like about the records. The first record was really good, very upbeat and direct, and that was something that really resonated with our fans. I felt like some of songs on ‘Museum’ were trying out new ideas, and the songwriting wasn’t quite as strong on ‘Museum’, like it wasn’t bad, but it could have been better. On ‘Puddinghead’ we wanted to explore the studio a little more and incorporate new sounds into what we do. We are trying to take the sonic elements even further again and I guess that is a driving force behind us getting our own recording studio. But we wanted to combine the really lovable easy to digest songwriting from the first record.
Given you have set up and recorded this album in your own studio, does that change a lot of things in respect to the sounds we will hear on ‘Puddinghead’?
It doesn’t change things completely, but it does offer some new opportunities. I think previously, even though we have worked in great studios with great people, the time you spend in that studio means that you can rack up huge amounts pretty quickly. This time we have spent about the same amount of money we would normally spend on recording to get all the gear and create our own studio. In the main week we opted to go back and redo tracks, and rerecord them, it bought us more time. It meant that we could make progress on our sounds. We could change our process a bit to cover new ground. We had more time which allowed us to record songs more than once. There were some songs that we recorded three of four times. That was something that allowed us to try new things, and record it differently, and really led to us producing a sound we were happier with.
Does having your own studio also allow you to work quicker too, given that this is your third album in 24 months?
I guess it does speed it up a little, but we have always worked quite quickly. We had built our own studio which was exciting, and this was our own space. It meant we could go there like every day, or one of us could go there and play. I found myself going there often by myself or with one other person to go through song lyrics and melodies. We had only had the studio for 6 months and we already had enough songs to finish the album. So we took some time off, did our overseas tour, came back and added a couple of more tracks. We then tinkered and re-recorded some things, and having the studio allowed us to do that. Previously we didn’t do that, we recorded 12-13 tracks and we didn’t get to re-record them, those takes had to be our album.
If the first two albums are single takes, then you guys are sounding pretty good.
Ah thanks man. But yeah, there are definitely some things on our previous album that we never got to record the way we wanted to, and I would love to re-record those.
Your debut record had songs such as iFly, with the ‘I fucking love you’ lyric, ‘It’s Nice to Be Alive’, ‘All I Want is You’. They are all a pretty positive take on modern love. Then Puddinghead comes along and it’s much more negative, with ‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’. What’s been going on in the background?
I don’t think anything has really changed. It’s interesting you point that out, because I think all our releases have aspects of positivity and negativity. Even the album you mention still had negative tracks, I mean ‘Sad Rude Future Dude’ says, “I Only have sex with myself, etc.”. There was ‘Shithaus’, so it wasn’t all happy, just more the singles made the album reflect that way. On ‘Museum’, ‘Coming Down’ definitely has a bleak message to it. I guess we have always tried to channel whatever feeling I’m having, but I will try and set it to an upbeat song. Whether I feel good or bad I try and write a happy song. I think people perceived the first record as a happy record, and they perceived us a happy band. And I mean, the music was happy, but a lot of the lyrics were quite deep and emotional, and it was really just an illusion created by the music. And I think this is the same on ‘Puddinghead’, there are some dark themes, but the music is all quite upbeat. I love songs that sound happy, they are upbeat, but have this really sad message behind them. I think it’s a challenge and so fun to write songs that sound fun, but have these heavy undertones. The one example I always like to refer to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division, because it is one song that is upbeat but has these dark tones.
So where did the idea to call the album ‘Puddinghead’ come from?
We first decided that because ‘Puddinghead’ was a song we recorded for the album, and we loved the name so much we picked that. But strangely it didn’t end up making the cut, so it will now be released as bonus track maybe on the iTunes version etc., but yeah we kept the name for the title, because we liked it so much. The song had this chorus that goes ‘If you don’t run with me you are a Puddinghead’. It’s a term I first heard about in high school, we were studying a Shakespeare piece, and I remember asking the teacher what that meant. He said it was a Shakespearean insult, which I found really funny because, it was almost like a pretty weak insult, it was almost loveable. So we went on the internet and googled it, and it basically means fucking up the unfuckable, and that was a sentiment that we liked and made us laugh so we stuck with it. Embrace the inner nerd I guess.
‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’ has these thick baselines and is heaps punchy, what tunes have you been listening to that have really shaped the sounds on this album. Or have you guys stuck to the same process.
It was definitely the same process. We tend to be very open, funnily enough there are a whole bunch of bands that all 5 of us dig. So when we’re are writing it’s a very flexible and open-minded process and if we all like and get into something it will stay. Previously we were recording in quite dingy areas and we didn’t really let any of that come across in our music, so this time we allowed that to come across in our music with some particularly funky rhythms. Yeah, so this time we tried to mix things up and used some more funky rhythms. I mean a lot of the ones we are trying are older bands like the Beegees, and more instrumental bands that nobody really listens to these days. Sometimes we listen to more indie bands like the Dandy Warhols. They just have some great indie rock hits that have crossed over into mainstream singles. We were trying to write songs that would take our band to the next level, so we were kind of channeling their vibes.
Half of The Dandy Warhols live in Melbourne, you should totally try and organize a tour with them.
Oh yeah, I vaguely recall that. That would be sick, they are a great band and we love them. That would be very cool.
You’re about to head off on the Puddinghead tour. The last tour was the ‘Thank Ewes’ Tour. Who’s the person behind the witty names?
We are all particularly interested in puns, but when we put ‘Museum’ out, we thanked everyone in the album booklet by writing thank ewes. When it came to do that tour, we felt like we had already done so many tours, and that before we went AWOL to write this next album we should really thank all the fans who have been so supporting so far. So “Thank Ewes” it was.
So you have the Puddinghead tour coming up. Where are you going, and are there any shows you are particularly keen for?
Yeah there are a few new places we are going to that we have never played before, so we are all pretty excited to stop there. We are playing a lot of more regional places that I am really excited for, like Darwin. Not that Darwin is regional, but you know what I mean. So we have Darwin, Coffs Harbour, Tasmania, and Albany in WA. Then we have all the capital city stops. Capital cities are always exciting and fun, but then we are stopping at some truly beautiful places along the way. And those smaller cities are great, their hospitality is incredible, and their crowds really interesting and get into it. So we really are touring all of Australia which is exciting cos it’s been a while, and playing new material. So yeah, can’t wait.