INTERVIEW: Ballpeen | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Having established themselves as a deafening, bulldozing presence on the live circuit since their formation in 2017, hardcore trio Ballpeen return with their latest tape Pachinko this month: an eight track collection filled with warped noise rock moves and tense, grungy resolutions.

Consisting of Adam Gowland, Rory Rickford and Graham Thompson, Ballpeen boast a prodigious pedigree. “Graham and I were in a band [Grace] which did a split 7″ in 2012 with Rory’s band, Tide of Iron”, explains Gowland. “We had played several gigs together, and we attend plenty of the same local gigs. Grace and Tide of Iron fizzled out, any bands we tried since were a struggle to get going. It was more a case of right place, right time really. Our personal circumstances are similar which makes practice and gigging easier to deal with – probably the main reason we’ve lasted this long.” Rickford for his part is even more direct about the band’s genesis, saying: “I’m not sure if there was an inspiration to come together other than doing something we were all into. I remember getting a call off Graham one evening saying that he and Adam were looking to start another band, and would I be interested. I’ve been seeing them both playing in different bands for years so it didn’t take much convincing.”

Between them, there’s a wealth of underground knowledge and experience that keeps their music visceral but also intriguingly hard to pin down, with influences from classic Amphetamine Reptile acts like Today Is The Day and even bands like Melvins filtering into their sound. Thompson notes, “I personally think Rory has a fairly unique way of playing in the way he incorporates quite a bit of melody and we knew it wouldn’t just be chugging hardcore or whatever. I think Am Rep comparisons are fair, we’re all fans of those kinds of bands from that era. The biggest difference is with my vocals, which aren’t particularly aggressive so I think because of that we’ve drawn (some fairly odd) comparisons to bands like Hot Snakes, At The Drive-In and Get Up Kids!”

there’s a wealth of underground knowledge and experience that keeps their music visceral but also intriguingly hard to pin down

Recorded using Thompson’s own Sounds Schitty set-up, Pachinko finds Ballpeen placing a premium on raw immediacy and a direct, in-the-room aesthetic. “Apart from guitar and vocal overdubs we tracked all the songs live in a room together, so with that you get bleed into the mics from other instruments and it intrinsically gives it that kind of sound and live feel. It was a conscious decision as I think this kind of music lends itself to being recorded in that way, it’s harder to have the same energy levels and impact in your performance when playing in isolation. I find a lot of modern productions can be quite sterile and rely heavily on studio techniques to achieve a certain sound, I try my best to capture the sound coming from the instruments as best as I can without relying on overly intrusive production.”

As per their previous EP Loose Knot, Pachinko also boasts artwork from James Watts (also vocalist for a variety of bands including Lovely Wife, Mobius and Plague Rider.) “With Loose Knot I put a message out to see if I knew anyone who could accurately mimic Raymond Pettibon’s style, we got a few recommendations of people and a couple of people had a go at my idea. James was one of them.” Thompson tells me. “As soon as we saw James’ initial sketch it was perfect and we wanted him to do it. He did such a great job. With Pachinko we knew we could trust him again, I had a good idea of what I wanted but James had a fair bit of freedom to do what he wanted in terms of the design and layout, and once again we’re really pleased with his work. He’s done a great job.”

Joining up with locally-based tape label Cruel Nature Records (run by Steve Strode, part of like-minded power trio FRET!) for the release of Pachinko was another instance of established connections coming into play, as Thompson explains. “We’ve known FRET! for a good while, Rory was in Tide of Iron with Rob before that too. We saw the chance to release on Cruel Nature as an opportunity to potentially reach some new people, as we’re not really a typical example of the kind of music Steve releases, and it also allowed us to work with Steve who, like Serial Bowl Records [who released the Loose Knot EP], is very supportive and easy to work with.”

Given their links in the DIY scene and get-it-done ethos, it’s maybe not a surprise that there’s also plans for a split with Teesside garage rockers Onlooker later in the year. “The tracks on the Onlooker split were recorded in the same batch as the ones on the tape,” according to Rickford. “Out of the three on there, we’ve only started playing one out recently and another still hasn’t been done live yet so hopefully once gigs start happening again we’ll be able to get a couple booked in with Onlooker to remedy that.”

Ballpeen release Pachinko on 19th June via Cruel Nature Records


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