So few artists can really lay claim to a career as diverse and lively as Sarah McLeod. From the glory days of The Superjesus, to her first solo success (following her band’s The Superjesus turbulent split in 2004), through to her experimentation and interest in electronic music (in the process topping various dance club charts in Australia and Europe), and a short time ago back to fronting The Superjesus in a reunion that made many a fan gasp with excitement, McLeod has proven she is anything else but idle.
More recently, after a stint in New York writing new solo material, Sarah now prepares for her forthcoming Australian tour in support of her new solo album Rocky’s Diner. With that in mind, I had the pleasure to briefly reminisce with The Superjesus-singer-turned-solo-rocker about some of her past achievements before shifting our gaze to the present. Here is what we talked about.
I still truly have a soft spot for 90’s music. Lets face it, the 90’s were massive, whether we are talking about alternative rock through to electronic music, the bands I followed had a profound effect on me. One of those bands was The Superjesus and to be honest with you, I was kind of bummed when you called it a day in the early 2000’s. What are some of the best memories you have about those days with The Superjesus? (Not counting the reunion)
My best times in The Superjesus were in 98, 98 was a good year for us. We toured the world 3 times over and everywhere we went we drew good crowds. Especially in Australia and the UK. We used to leave sound check and there would be a cue going all around the block for people to get in to see the show , which was still hours away! It wasn’t even dark yet! We were very much in our little bubble during that time, it was cute. But boy was it a roller coaster.
Stepping away from The Superjesus inevitably allowed you to experiment with your love for other genres such as electronic or dance music. Do you consider those days as equally enlightening as an artist?
I was really inspired when I realized that a deep dirty synth was way heavier and more commanding than any guitar could ever be. This is what changed my view, those big kick drums and dirty synths were massively enlightening. I was learning as I was going because it was all new to me and I love to learn new things about music, I’m still learning every day. I just learnt something before I did this interview actually, imagine how much I will know when I’m 50! 🙂
As a solo artist you have had some modest success. Your album Beauty Was A Tiger (2005) for instance, showcased the strength of your abilities as a songwriter and there were still plenty of amazing guitar riffs to please the faithful. Do you look back fondly at that record and what you originally set out to achieve with it?
Yeah its funny I haven’t listened to it since I did it but the other day I was looking for songs I may want to re work for my new show and I gave it a listen whilst I was at the gym (because I had listened to royal blood over and over and needed a quick break) I actually liked a lot of it, I thought it was about 4 songs too long but there were about 10 on there that I still really connected with which is really cool. And yeah I achieved a mark as a solo artist and that’s all I was trying to do, come out of the superjesus gates with something substantial then take it from there.
Does your enthusiasm for music ever wane? How do you recharge your batteries so to speak?
Never, because I switch it up. I have a short attention span so I switch up my focus. I make all kinds of different music and it doesn’t necessarily have to be for any reason, I just like making music because it makes me feel good.
Musician Ali Barter recently poured out her love for ‘The Stealing Beauty’ soundtrack and how it affected her at the age of 14. What was the first real important album that you bought growing up that inspired you? And why?
Ha ha ha, well my life changed when I heard the album ‘Please Please Me’ by The Beatles. Every song had a great hook and the songwriting was really simple and memorable, I know all those songs backwards.
I hate the phrase rock chick, it seems like such derogatory thing to say nowadays. But it also reminds me of a conversation I occasionally have with a female friend around the topic of misogyny and women in music. I’m sure you have heard or seen it all (the derogatory aspect of human nature) during your early days, maybe you still have to deal with criticism of trolls today? What else can we do nowadays to stamp out this double standard between the sexes?
Oh its still very much there. I was in a rehearsal room just yesterday and I asked the dude if I could please use one of his ampeg bass heads. He asked which one and I said an svt please, he said which one or don’t you know much about them? When I asked for the svt2 he said it was the light one, the girly one and maybe he should wrap a pink bow around it for me. I told him to go and fuck himself and grabbed the heaviest one and took off to my room and turned it up obnoxiously loud and left the door open. I can hold my own with most male musos I know anyway so I figure its coolest to just lead by example.
If I can name just one, I am personally blown away by indie artists Bec Sandridge, with her great sense of style and creative flair. Who, of the latest crop of amazing Australian female artists, should we also be listening to Sarah?
I really like Thelma Plum’s style and voice. The new wave of female musicians know how to stand up for themselves and aren’t afraid of their own sexuality, its fucking awesome.
You’re back again this month with your new album Rocky’s Diner. Your first single from the album called Giants feels and sounds quite anthemic. Is it a throwback to what was great about 90’s alternative rock? That said, I also feel something positive creatively has changed with you too?
Yeah I feel I have become a better songwriter because I care so much about every line in the song now, its not enough to sound cool and rhyme, if its not contributing to the feel of the story and the picture I’m painting then its not allowed to be in the song . There are not many lyrics in songs and every line is hallowed ground and expensive real estate within the song, so you’ve gotta make it count… Every word.
Is it correct that you spent three months in isolation working on the songs for Rocky’s Diner in New York? What are some of the things about New York that inspired you to go there or was it a case of getting away from home?
Yeah I spent 3 months in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It was freezing and snowed most days. I set up my studio next to a window where I watched so much carnage from, South Williamsburg is pretty scary at night and it was non stop. I loved it. I wanted to get away from everyone and have no outside influences or temptations. I just wanted to shut the door and work. I chose new york because it is the city of wonder and magic . I wanted to sit within its magic and create my own magic.
Sarah, you have mapped out quite an extensive tour for the rest of the year in support of your new album. I believe you’re in Melbourne late August. (I might have to get a wriggle on about securing some tickets!) What can we expect to see from your forthcoming shows? Or better yet, what excites you about touring?
This new live show I’ve put together is something I’ve never attempted before. I have designed a rig whereby I am playing bass and guitar at the same time. I am touring with just myself and drummer Mick Skelton from the Baby Animals. Its quite unique and I’m finding it really inspiring, it feels amazing to play. I can control when the bass comes in and out and use each instrument in isolation or together, its a real work out!
Sarah McLeod’s album, Rocky’s Diner is out through Revolution Records on August 18. Pre-sales are available via her website and iTunes. You can also connect with Sarah McLeod via her Facebook page and twitter feed @SarahMcLeod1. Check out Sarah McLeod’s national tour dates below:
Friday 18 August – Crown & Anchor, Adelaide, SA.
Saturday 19 August – Tetsuo, Perth, WA.
Sunday 20 August – Transit Bar, Canberra, ACT.
Tuesday 22 August – Crowbar, Brisbane, QLD.
Wednesday 23 August – Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC.
Thursday 24 August – Factory Floor, Sydney, NSW.
Thursday 5 October – Sol Bar, Sunshine Coast, QLD.
Friday 6 October – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba, QLD.
Saturday 7 October – Miami Shark Bar, Gold Coast, QLD.
Sunday 8 October – Byron Bay Brewery, Byron Bay, NSW.
Thursday 12 October – 48 Watt St, Newcastle, NSW.
Friday 13 October – Baroque Room, Katoomba, NSW.
Sunday 15 October – Miranda Hotel, Miranda, NSW.
Wednesday 25 October – Pelly Bar, Frankston, VIC
Thursday 26 October – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave, VIC
Friday 27 October – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC.
Friday 3 November – The Waratah Hotel, Hobart, TAS.
Saturday 4 November – Club 54, Launceston, TAS.