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The Superjesus- Sarah McLeod

The Superjesus shot to fame in the mid ’90’s and if you hadn’t heard of them, you were clearly in a coma or in a place that banned television and radio. Shooting to fame with the release of their ARIA platinum album ‘Sumo’ and touring around the globe, was the band actually ready for what was to come? 20 years on from its release, The Superjesus are touring again, and we couldn’t be happier.
Our Melbourne correspondent, Kylie Carns, caught up with lead singer Sarah McLeod- hot, wet and with no pants on. Ok……Truth is she just stepped out of the shower when she answered our call!
KC. 20 years since Sumo. Man. I’m feeling very old when I hear that.
SM: Ive been told that everyday… 20 years since Sumo – Yes for fuck sake Yes.. Yes it’s been 20 years (laughs)
KC: Its just gone so quick. I remember the Big Day Out Shows.
SM: They were the good old days weren’t they?
KC: I loved big day out
SM: Oh rock’n’roll was so electric in this country back then.
KC: Yes and the ‘Australian Made’ concerts as well. I’m an Adelaide girl as well and I remember going down to Footy Park.
SM: Oh you went to that? My sister went to that and I wasn’t allowed to go and I really wanted to go.. It looked awesome . 
KC: It was. They were great concerts. So anyway, 20 years on. So obviously there is a lot that has happened with the band itself, but how do you feel touring again being more mature and experienced in this day and age?
SM: Completely different actually. Back then it was just a matter of follow the leader. I didn’t really know what was going on and I just would just do as I was told and just follow the tour manager. We never really knew where we were going. I just focused on the show. Where as now there is so much else to focus on. Like, I am in charge of so much more in the band now and it’s not follow the leader anymore. I sit down with my laptop and I’m working on schedules and plans and organising everybody else and there’s so much more to do but I enjoy it, cause I feel like I am in control of what’s happening now whereas everything was out of my control before. So I just let it become that way and if it’s out of your control, its harder to care, like, whatever, it will happen, and I’m going to have nothing to do with it, but when you actually feel like you have a hand in it,  you feel more attached to it. I feel that things that happened back then went so fast, it was a whirlwind of action and I could never really appreciate what was happening cause it was just all coming in thick and fast. Everywhere I turned  there was something to do and something scary going on.
KC: Is it more gratifying now knowing that you are doing the back end of things?
SM: Yeah it is.. I feel like that panic that I had in my youth, being thrown in the deep end, has sort of dissolved and I can I carefully sort of appreciate where I am, step by step.
KC: So going on with that kind of panic that you had in your youth, how do you feel with these overnight wonders with the likes of X Factor, Idol etc? How do you feel about those winners that were classed as “nobody’s’ one day and the next they are thrown into the spotlight. If you take Sumo and knowing you were prepared for it, but these kids are thrown into it.
SM: I mean they are even thrown into the spotlight before they have even have the success. They are thrown in during the competition. They are singing on live TV, in front  of millions of people or whatever, from the very first audition. And that is terrifying. Singing on TV is terrifying because TV is a really unforgiving medium and when you’re at a (live) show and you get the bounce back of the room and the reverb and people hear whats happening and then its gone, but when its on TV there’s not the bounce back of the room  there’s not the vibe , there’s not the energy. It’s very unforgiving and its really scary because like you focus more on your pitch cause every slightly flat or sharp note sticks out and it makes you sound like a bad singer. It’s a really terrifying way for people to start their career. It puts too much focus on the wrong areas. It puts to much focus on them being entertainers and too much focus on dancing around, their choreography, too much focus on their pitch; pitch is important, but it’s not what makes an artist. What makes an artist, is the feel and soul and songwriters with heart and life on the road and pain and if they sing a note a little bit flat, comments of “you where flat there, you seem nervous.. were you nervous? Of course she was fucking nervous. You’re kidding me. Like, I hate it when they say “where you nervous?”. like if they say no they shouldn’t be on the show, if they are not nervous it means that they don’t care. But I think they focus on the wrong things on those shows. I do think there is merit to those shows, that are good for the music industry as it gives a chance for them to get in front of people. I mean now we don’t have Recovery, we don’t have Rove, we don’t have Hey Hey Its Saturday, we don’t have means like this for people to play to audiences who want to stay home and watch, so there’s merit in it, but I think that they go about it the wrong way, because they focus on the wrong things and they throw them into these overnight sensations. They make a record scarily quick, which has none of the feels in the record, its just what they are told to make and then they are gone. The record company made their money and then they are gone. Then what do they do? They are like “Hang on”. That changes you forever and then you get really confused about how to build a career there. As entertaining as they are and believe me I find them entertaining, I watch The Voice like glue, I love it, but I watch it a little bit like a car crash thing. Like my teeth are clenched, and my heart goes out to them sometimes. Im in tears listening to some of the feedback that they give these kids and its just awful. That’s wrong and its all on the wrong level. They have just ruined any chance of that dude being an artist because they strip them (sorry I’m ranting here ) but they strip them of of their own sense of self. And that’s so important . That is in the music or anything in the entertainment business really, even in life, but its the main thing that people have to find above anything. Above anything you got to find who you are and the most important with any job, and they rip that from them and they keep telling them that we have to find who you are, they say it a lot but then they say “while we are here, can you please wear this, with these glasses and sing this song but we need to find who you are” and they are so young and malleable they ask “can you please tell me who I am so I can get on with it?” (laughs) So you know it is a double edged sword.
KC: Well going on that medium as well and touring differently as you did in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Do you look at recording differently as well because of those mediums now like Itunes and Spotify? It’s not all about record sales anymore and airplay these days?
SM: Unfortunately we don’t make records the same anymore because people don’t appreciate the subtleties in the sonics. So back in the day, when people used to listen to vinyl through stereos, bands would spend a lot of money in the studio of things to tape, the nuisances, the crackle and the sound, the bottom end, you would get each instrument. Where as now, most people listen to music through those Apple headphones. I have been in the studio many times, where we have finished records on speakers where we would normally mix on and they go “now we are going to listen to it through what 99% of the public will be listening it through, and they mix it again through a shit house tiny little computer speaker and they need to make it sound good in this and if we can make it sound good in the good speakers as well as the small speaker then that is the goal. It’s a sad fact that we dumb it down, but you have to, cause that’s what people listen to it through, but if you make it sound great in a normal studio, thats good and all, but no one is going to hear it like that, cause it sounds shit on their little headphones and they are going to think its a crap record. 
KC: Was that hard to accept?
SM: There are so many things that the way the music industry has gone that it has been difficult to accept. We don’t have a choice. We have to learn how to make lemonade and make it to our advantage of strange situations. 
KC: Well do I go from here (laughs ) ..least I am dressed
SM: This is the first half naked interview that I have ever done
KC: I am going to quote that
SM: Yeah go for it… That puts a bit of pizzaz into it doesn’t it?
KC:  Certainly does (laughing) So you had a hiatus with the band, you went through different band members coming and going. So why did you get back together? I know that you have your 20th anniversary, but what was the driving force? I know that music is in your blood, but what was the driving force to get back together and on the road again?
SM: It just felt like it was time. We were doing all different projects. I had gone off on a very strange project doing dance music for a while in London and New York and was doing club music. I came back to Australia and I was  doing acoustic stuff and I wanted to do something heavy and rock again and I didn’t want to start another band that was rock cause I figured that I had that vehicle sitting there and it was just a question if the other guys wanted to do it again, and after that it was whether the public wanted us to play and would they come to the shows and would anyone care? 
KC: Oh hell yeah
SM: And we sort of did it bit by bit. We were very cautious. We would play one show and shift around and we would be like “how was that everybody?” and we waited a year and then did a couple more and “how was that” and we were very trepidatious in this reunion and in 2013 after we played our first show in 10 years  and we pussyfooted around for 5 years around each other and thought maybe.. We wrote a couple of songs and then when it came up to last year and we said lets do this and stupidly we thought that last year was our 20th anniversary. We were like we should get back together and do a tour for the 20th anniversary of Sumo.  I thought Sumo came out in 1997 as it was the ‘dream year’. We were touring with Grinspoon, Jebidiah and we were the class of 97 (laughs) So we just thought 97, that must be it, and then we looked on wikipedia and we were like err… Its 98 guys (laughs). Which was great, cause it gave us extra time to plan.
KC: That’s funny that you went to Wikipedia to fact check it.
SM: Oh I go to wikipedia to find out all the things that I have done. I cant remember! (laughs) I do wonder who these people are that update the wikipedia, cause I notice that it changes . I don’t know who they are. I do ask “when did I do this” and I check wikipedia and it’s all there.. and Im like. “oh good thanks.. good stuff.”  Sometimes I go into there and ask how to play my own songs and the chords come up and Im like “thats right” although some of the words are bit hows your father, but generally most of its there and it saves ramming my own brain. There’s enough going on in here as it is . The people help me (laughs)
KC: Being a prominent female figure in the music industry and being listed as one of the greatest chicks along side Chrissy Amphlett and Suzy Demarchi, who I know that you toured with recently, how does it feel to wear that badge? There are not a lot of prominent female rock singers in Australia and you’re one of them.
SM: I don’t really think about it because to be honest I don’t look at myself as the same league as those two. To me, they are in a different league. They are my heroes, so thank you for even suggesting that I would be in their league. I love that. I just try to do what I do to the best of my ability because I find that its all about confidence and if you walk on stage feeling unconfident you shouldn’t be  there. Nobody wants to see an unconfident performer. Nobody wants to see a scared performer, sweating to death and panicking about what is happening next . They want you to bring it and have fun and bring the party to them. They want to have a good time and I think if you can do that , then it puts you in a position of somewhat of authority on the stage and I really think that that’s important. Thanks for that… That’s cool.
KC: Its funny, cause we just interviewed Rick Szabo from Q Live (the Queensland promotor) and he listed you as one of the top rock chicks in Australia too.
SM: Oh That’s cool
KC: Sarah.. What advice would you give your younger self?
SM: Find one style of music and one instrument and stick to it and get really good at it. I jumped from instrument to instrument, song writing styles to song writing styles, to bands to bands. One of the things which I thought was a shortcoming of my career is that I jump so much from style to style to my solo work just cause of the short attention span and I think  if I just stuck to it and if The SuperJesus just stayed together and did one thing, I think I’ve could have been in a different place. I think its really important to have that consistency in the things that you do and to make sure that everything that you release is the best thing  in your heart of hearts that you think you can do at that particular point in your career. 
KC: Funny you say that cause Scott Darlow said exactly the same thing. Which brings me on to the point of Scott. How did it come about that you did this project with Scott with new released version of Rain for fundraising for the farmers?
SM: Well… I didn’t know Scott and he attacked me from all angles so I could escape him. (laughs). I just started getting text messages from people in the industry going “theres an indigenous Artist called Scott Darlow who wants to work with you and Im like cool”. Then I would get it from someone else like “hey this friend of mine Scott Darlow..blah blah”.. I just kept getting them left right and centre and I was “yep Ok.. Ill get around to it, I’m juggling 1000 things at once so I didn’t jump on it straight away and then it came from my agent as well, and then it started coming from good friends and I was this has come from people that I don’t know to good friends and my agent, I better called this guy. So I called him and he was like “Great.. we are going to do this immediately. He wanted me to do it like that afternoon and I was like “I thought you meant like next year” (laughs) so he is very proactive. So I was a bit like alright alright hold your horses, I will be there when I get there and it’s funny, cause I didn’t know him and when I first rocked up and he told me the address of the place and it was with these scatty scatty directions and it wasnt the actual address and I was standing out the front and I was like “Scott, what number is it?” and he was like “Its behind the church, behind the big tree” and I was like “No! Tell me what exact number it is” – and he was “Just walk down the hill”.. I was like.. “Dude.. Im not walking.. i’m driving.. What’s the god damn number” but we have this funny relationship where we just give each other a bit of stick, which I like relationships like that, but we did this song together which was just great. But then we had this moment where I was explaining to him that I was having trouble picking what  guitar to take on my tour and I was going through all my guitars and you know what one had, and one had the other didn’t have, and I couldn’t find the perfect one and he said’ Just a second” (this is the best moment by the way) and he walked over and he came back in and he said “I have this, but I am not using it at the moment, should you wish to take this on your tour you can borrow it”… and he opened it up and it was a vintage white Gibson Firebird and I stood there in silence and just looking at it.. Firstly thinking, “dear Lord, are you seriously going to let me borrow this?” and then the next part of my brain, was like..  is this going to work from my sound cause the pick up configurations are really different. Maybe it wont even work and I don’t want to look like looking a gift horse in the mouth and I was just there in silence looking at it and then I looked at him and said “Im not sure if this is just going to work for me but I would love to try it if you don’t mind” and he was like “its a really good guitar” and so I thanked him for the offer and took it home and played it and I rang him back and I went “How much do you want for it? Its mine so I bought it off him”
KC: So you didn’t get to just meet him, you got his guitar as well.
SM: Yep and I would have taken the shirt of his back too.. nah.. just joking (laughs) So that was great.. Then we did that really cool song for the farmers and I loved it and it sounds really cool and also got to meet Erwin Thomas (formally Jack Jones).
KC:  Was Adam Brand is on it too?
SM: Yeah.. Adam was on it too.
KC: Just finally Sarah, who are you listening to right now? Who is on your playlist?  Is there anyone that you are listening to that are up and coming and you think that they have it?
SM: I have found an artist in Melbourne that I really loved called Belmont Haze. She has only released a couple of things, but she has a really beautiful voice and I follow her instagram and she is doing that thing that kids do to get discovered where they sing covers and put themselves on the internet singing all these different covers. She puts up loads, like five to six a day. Like she is at it all the time and she has her own style of singing that is really beautiful and when she does a cover, she doesn’t do it exactly like the cover, she doesn’t change it per se` but the way she sings, she puts her own inflictions on it and it sounds like hers. She has a beautiful voice. I’ve even heard her do a couple of my songs and she changes melodies in parts of it and I think “oh thats really nice, good idea” She is really clever and has a really nice sound.
Oh and I’m totally in a Lemonheads phase at the moment. I have rediscovered them the other day and I listen to them every morning in the shower .. Me and Evan… yeah.. 
KC: Thanks so much for your time today Sarah. Really appreciate you speaking to The Rocker Rag. Looking forward to seeing you guys in Melbourne.
SM:  I wont tell you about my outfit. I will keep a surprise. 
KC: Hopefully you will have pants on for that one.
KC & SM: (Laughs)
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