When Ball Park Music returned to performing live after roughly seven months out of action, they did not gently dip their toes back in and test the waters.
To borrow a phrase from their first album, they got shot straight out of a cannon.
'The Residency', as it came to be known, saw the Brisbane five-piece play not one, not two, but thirteen shows back to back at one of their city's most beloved venues, The Triffid.
Needless to say, it was a baptism by fire but a wholly worthwhile experiment for a band that initially made its name entirely as a live act. "It was so great," recalls Dean Hanson, the band's guitarist.
"The weirdness, and the whole surreal nature of even going to a gig. . . we just forgot about that so quickly. It just felt amazing to be back, more than anything.
"I think there was definitely some uncertainty in the lead-up to it – we're obviously a band that is very used to playing to lots of punters that are standing up. We were all like, 'Will it be weird that it's a small crowd that's all sitting down?'. To be honest, it kind of wasn't."
"Unless we one day get to play a three-hour set, there's just no way to please everybody." - Dean Hanson
Instead of performing the exact same set every night, as one may find themselves doing on a festival run, the band made a point of switching up the set list every single night.
Only a sliver of the band's discography served as repeat offenders across the run, as the quintet delved into deeper cuts from all six of their studio albums.
Hanson notes that it was part indulgent experiment, part trainspotter's delight. "We really took advantage of the situation, I think," he says.
"We took the opportunity to play a few more songs that we knew people couldn't escape from," Hanson laughs at the prospect, before continuing: "If we were playing a festival, we probably wouldn't be chucking in some random album cut. We'd lose 'em! They'd go off and watch bloody 360 in the dance tent or something.
"With those shows, there was a real freedom to just do whatever it is we wanted. Unless half the audience all got up to go to the bathroom at the same time, there was a very strong chance all the songs were going to be heard."
The band's return to live shows have coincided with the release of album number six, an eponymous record. Like the last five Ball Park Music records, it debuted in the top ten – and, like the last four Ball Park Music records, it debuted in the top five.
That's a remarkable effort for a band that generally remain on the outs of mainstream exposure – and even more remarkable given the environment that 'Ball Park Music' was released within.
Hanson is incredibly thankful that he and his bandmates – which includes his twin brother Dan on drums – have been fortunate enough to experience some real-time responses to the songs from the album.
"It really seems as though people are embracing the new material just as much as they've embraced the old stuff in the past, which is so great to see," Dean says.
"It's not without its challenges, of course – every time you're factoring a new album into the set list, some other stuff has got to go. It's like dropping your favourite children!
"Unless we one day get to play a three-hour set, there's just no way to please everybody – and trust me, we love pleasing everybody.
"We did two shows in Adelaide the other week, and on the second night we had people messaging us asking why we didn't play 'Surrender'. We played it last night! You just feel bad for them."
At this point, Hanson's dog chimes in with some timely barks. "We've definitely got a 'Surrender' fan on our hands," Hanson quips with a laugh.
Of course, of all the songs from Ball Park Music, it's no secret that 'Cherub' has become the golden child as of late.
Arguably the band's most beloved song in years, the single recently took out fourth position in the 2020 triple j Hottest 100 – marking the highest ranking one of the band's songs have ever received across a decade of entries.
Hanson fondly recalls the news of 'Cherub''s ascent over the January weekend, feeling validated with the risks he and the band took with that song. "It was reaffirming, more than anything," he says.
"I can remember the day 'Spark Up!' came out was literally the day that all of the news was like, 'the world is going into lockdown'. We had to make some serious decisions about whether to roll the album out like we normally would have.
"No one really knew what the right answer was, but we went full-steam ahead. The success of 'Cherub' made us all think that we'd really made the right decision there.
"It's honestly hard to comprehend just how many votes that song would have gotten in order to get that spot. I don't understand how it happened at all, but I'm so glad it did."
The next, big chance to see the band performing live – which will inevitably feature 'Cherub' and plenty more of the band's best-loved songs – comes as part of the Summer Sounds concert series in Melbourne
at the end of the month.
Having played two sold-out shows in Adelaide's Bonython Park
, Ball Park Music will follow it up on the series' opening night at Melbourne's famed Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
With a line-up including Bernard Fanning, King Gizzard and fellow Hottest 100 top-fivers Spacey Jane, there is a palpable excitement surrounding the shows – especially in a city that experienced the throes of lockdown harder than anywhere else. "It's really special," Hanson says.
"From just an individual point of view, I love touring. I love seeing different parts of our country – the landscape, the people, it's just so nice. We can't take it for granted anymore.
"We had the best time in Adelaide. Everything that we'd normally just think, 'oh that was fun,' just seemed to be accentuated times a thousand.
"Melbourne – and Victoria as a whole – have always really embraced this band, so we're incredibly excited to be coming back there. It's definitely the longest we've gone without being there since this band first started. If it's anything like the Adelaide shows, I feel like Melbourne is really going to embrace the whole experience."Ball Park Music joined by Thelma Plum play Summer Sounds Festival at Sidney Myer Music Bowl (Melbourne) on 11 March. The series also features King Gizzard (26 Feb), Bernard Fanning & Something For Kate (27 Feb) and Spacey Jane (23, 25 March), with more acts to be announced.Ball Park Music also play Live, Loud & Local at The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane) 3 March and The Basin Concert at Cataract Gorge (Launceston) 26-27 March.