Q&A with My Own Pet Radio, aka Sam Cromack
Sam Cromack, best known for his lead vocals in indie Brisbane outfit Ball Park Music, has had quite a busy year so far. On top of touring with BPM, he’s also been working under a solo moniker: My Own Pet Radio. The project’s debut album, Goodlum, drops on the 25th of September. I had a Q&A with Sam about the project, album inspiration, and the confronting truth of not being interesting.
Bridie: How long have you been focusing on My Own Pet Radio?
Sam: I created the project in 2009. I mainly made music for myself and for my friends, but as Ball Park Music got busier, I put it to the side. It’s only this year that I decided I’d like to focus on it again.
Bridie: When writing, how do you differentiate the music that you make for Ball Park Music and My Own Pet Radio?
Sam: Originally, I don’t think I differentiated between the two. I just wrote songs and would let the production dictate the overall vibe. BPM was loud, rocky, energetic and MOPR became a softer, more DIY-sounding project. On this new record I’ve been more aware of separating the two. I’ve deliberately explored musical ideas that I haven’t had the chance to in BPM.
One of my biggest goals in MOPR is to not give a shit, to forget about all of that industry chit-chat and do whatever interests me.
Bridie: How would you describe the sound of My Own Pet Radio?
Sam: It’s pretty eclectic. Even more so than BPM. The new album moves from wild free jazz stuff to 70s dance music to acoustic singer-songwriter stuff. One of my biggest goals in MOPR is to not give a shit, to forget about all of that industry chit-chat and do whatever interests me.
Bridie: What inspired the name?
Sam: The film ‘My Own Private Idaho’. I had borrowed it from a friend and when I needed to give my new project a name, the packet was sitting on my desk.
Bridie: How much of the recording process did you do alone?
Sam: Most of it. I reigned in the the help of some friends this time though. My friend Alex L’Estrange played a lot of drums and is mixing the record. I also had drums from Daniel [BPM] as well as Ryan Strathie [Holy Holy, Hungry Kids, Sans Parents].
Bridie: You have previously noted that “some artists construct such a mysterious narrative for themselves”. Do you notice this a lot? Do you feel that you have done this in the past?
Sam: Maybe I’ve made small attempts and have fallen short. When I was a bit younger I was still very charmed by rock’n’roll mythology. I think I wanted to participate in that world a little more than I do these days. I notice lots of different things in other artists. Some are truly magical; it feels like they’re part of some genuine folklore because their narrative is actually interesting. It’s hard to accept that you can’t fake this. Life deals out what it deals out.
Bridie: You’ve said that you got the idea for No Great Mystery by watching a film about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation. How did it influence you?
Sam: I can’t remember the name of it. I know Daniel Radcliffe is in it. I felt somewhat intimidated by the tale of these old artists. You’re left with this feeling of, “Shit, they’re so much more interesting than me. Why would anyone give a shit about what I do?” It’s confronting but it’s better to be honest about yourself.
Bridie: Was a solo project always an aspiration?
Sam: I don’t know. I don’t see it as a breakaway, but rather something that can exist alongside my existing projects. In the past twelve months I’ve made a big effort to get involved with more stuff. In my mind, MOPR is something that has been there from the beginning.
Bridie: Do you find more room for self-expression when working on your own material?
Sam: I think so. That’s not to say the result is necessarily better. It’s just a feeling of freedom. I have a lot of ideas and I like realising them in a fast, unrestricted way.
I wanted the album to be concise, distinct and memorable. I want people to finish and feel like they can immediately play from the start once more.
Bridie: What can we expect from the album?
Sam: It’s pretty short and eclectic. I used to worry about things jumping around stylistically but now I don’t care as much. I still think there are elements of my personality that tie it together. There’s quite a lot of instrumental passages and dirge-like sections. These were something I was busting to explore but they’re also functional. I feel like they highlight the actual ‘songs’ on the record. I wanted the album to be concise, distinct and memorable. I want people to finish and feel like they can immediately play from the start once more.
Bridie: How are you feeling about the release – any nervousness?
Sam: Not really. My heart always breaks if people pan my work. I agonise over it and I’ve really tried hard to innovate on this record. Either way, I’m really excited for people to hear it.
Bridie: Will anybody be accompanying you on stage when you tour, or will it be completely solo?
Sam: There’ll be a band.
Bridie: Name three of your favourite artists that have gone on to do solo projects:
Sam: Elliott Smith, John Frusciante, Neil Young.
My Own Pet Radio plans to tour Australia in late 2015.