There's an even more vulnerable side to Sam Cromack's personality explored on his new solo project as My Own Pet Radio.
"It felt like a big achievement that I was even going to tackle trying it," he confesses. "I felt quite fearful to do it, because I wanted this to feel more personal than anything I'd done before with the band. I had so many evenings when my fiancee would come home and I'd be consulting her about work on it, and it felt like a really close thing between us."
His new record is called Goodlum, defined as the term for a good kid from the hood. Cromack thought of the pun for the title before realising it was an established term, but decided it was nonetheless a fitting description of his place in the music industry. "While I'm not from the hood exactly, I did feel a connection to the sentiment of that word. I exist in this rock and roll world, and have for a number of years, but I definitely still feel like an outsider. I'm a bit of a nerd and a goody-two-shoes, which is hard to come to terms with when everyone around me isn't like that."
"I exist in this rock and roll world, and have for a number of years, but I definitely still feel like an outsider."
Lead single No Great Mystery is emblematic of a lot of the reflective themes found throughout the album. Inspired by the careers of the early beat poets, it's an ode to Cromack's own insignificance. "I felt my own personal narrative really lacked depth, and instead of feeling at a loss about that I just accepted that it is what it is. It's better to declare that you don't have anything interesting necessarily happening in your life than to go out and try to fake it, conning everyone into believing there is some sense of mystery surrounding your life. As much as that might enrich my story or generate interest in what I do, it's just not there."
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In his opinion, there are two massively recurring themes that have prompted artists like the almost-mythic poets he referenced earlier to write throughout history. "One of them is love, and all the ups and downs that come with that. The other is some kind of substance abuse. When you're me and you find yourself in a great relationship, preparing to marry, and not being a massive drug user, it's kind of weird that neither of those things are available for my writing. I guess I've found a way to do it this far because there are plenty of other human experiences. I still feel deeply as a person, and being sensitive is probably what attracted me to this world in the first place."
Never-Ending Wave explores this process of maturing further. "That's meant to be a bit of a growing up song. I got engaged this year, and I wrote it while I was feeling really positive about being in love, using the metaphor of a never-ending wave to describe that sentiment. The song also is dealing with how on one hand you are elated to be in love and going on this new chapter, and then how society makes you feel like you have to say goodbye to a previous chapter of your life. There's a lot of different emotions there that I'm sure people feel, as you accept that you're becoming more like an adult. When you indulge in those early 20s things, there starts to be more feelings of guilt. It's about reconciling those conflicting feelings as you get older."
Cromack enjoys describing the album itself as a self-portrait in every respect. "It's the first time I've not taken a leaf out of another artist's book in designing the record cover," he says. "My girlfriend took those photographs, which she shot on film. She's quite self conscious and doesn't have a lot of confidence about her photography with no training, but I think she has a really artistic eye. There is a soft and vulnerable human element to it all. Inside there's lots of handwritten lyrics, which might seem trivial, but I was trying to make it a really direct representation of me in every way."
Goodlum is then a record that reflects the complexity of his own identity. "I know the album is probably annoyingly eclectic, but I wanted to try everything I wanted to do and not make any compromises," he explains. "I wasn't necessarily thinking 'this feels really eclectic' when I was making it, but just trying to do what felt natural, putting myself and my character into it. I'm definitely hoping that I can be the key ingredient that gives it a sense of cohesion instead of just what's going on stylistically. There is a real sense of personality that ties it all together."