INTERVIEW: Sarah McLeod, The Superjesus – April 2015
By Shane Pinnegar
The SHE WHO ROCKS tour featuring Baby Animals and The Superjesus kicks off this weekend with two huge shows at The Charles Hotel, Friday & Saturday 22 and 23 May. SHANE PINNEGAR grilled Superjesus singer/guitarist Sarah McLeod about the tour.
Both bands are Australian icons with strong female singers, and they’ve thrown out the offer for other bands with a female presence to put their names in the ring to support each gig of the tour, with The Joy Evelation and Legs Electric scoring the Perth slots. It all adds up to a great lineup.
“Yeah. It is, yeah,” says McLeod. “We’ve been talking about doing it for so long and we’ve never played together, the two bands, but I got up on stage with The Baby Animals one night and did a song with them. I actually did two songs, and it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.
“They are such a great band and the drummer and I have been best friends for ten years, so it was funny to be standing on stage with him. But with The Baby Animals, who I’m massive fans of, to actually get to play side-by-side with them night after night and hang out on a long tour is going to be really fun. I can’t wait.
“Was Suze a role model for me? Absolutely, are you kidding!” she gasps. “Yeah. I went and saw her at so many times and I was just standing there going, ‘oh, my God. This band is incredible.’ It’s one of the reasons I learned how to play guitar.”
McLeod goes on the explain that female role models were always important as she was learning to play.
“Well, it’s as important as anything. If I want to learn how to… say for example, I’m a kid and I don’t know what to do, but I look at my Mum and she does telemarketing advertising from home and I’m watching her doing it everyday, I’m going to go, ‘when I grow up, I want to do telemarketing advertising.’ We’re all creatures of our environment, so whatever we see, if we can see it, we can picture it, then we can see ourselves doing it.
“If you don’t have any passion watching someone do something,” she continues, “then you just don’t even know you can do it because you don’t have that picture right in front of you. To have role models like that is the only way, really, I think, that you can become anything. Because, otherwise, how do you know? How do you know what to do if you haven’t seen someone do it before?
“You can break the mold, but it’s always nice to know that someone’s got away with it before you.”
The She Who Rocks tour finally coalesced after the two bands were dumped off the line-up of a Day On The Green tour that was to have starred Cheap Trick and The Angels. That tour was rescheduled without either band, and with Billy Idol added as the headliner, prompting a very annoyed McLeod to label the new line-up a “sausage fest”. She’s adamant she wasn’t meaning to imply that they were dumped because of gender, though.
“No, no, I never implied that gender was anything to do with it. I was just saying, ‘hey, we got booted off, here’s the new line-up,’ which totally looks like it was all guys. I’m not saying we got booted off because we’re girls, I’m just saying, ‘here’s what you’re left with – it’s a bunch of guys, so if you’re still interested in attending this sausage fest, go ahead.’ I didn’t mean to say we got booted off because it’s sexism or anything like that.
“It became like that,” she continues, “and that’s why I had to put in a retraction going, ‘no, no, no – that’s not what I meant.’ I’m not like that; I don’t care about that. I’m just saying, ‘here, now you’ve got a bunch of blokes and you can go to this sausage fest if you wish.’ It was just a bit of an off-the-cuff comment. That’s just my humour and some people don’t know my humour and they just thought I was trying to poke a stick at sexism, but I totally wasn’t.”
McLeod is also adamant that she’s not bearing a grudge for the cancellation.
“No, no, no, no, I’m not at all. It would have been fun to do it, but now that we’ve got this, and that’s going to be even more fun. My main thing was that I wanted to tour with Baby Animals. I also wanted to play with Cheap Trick. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass, really, about the rest of them, but I really wanted to play with Cheap Trick. That’s disappointing, but at least now I get to play with Baby Animals.”
Baby Animals frontwoman Suze DeMarchi said exactly the same thing, that from her perspective, it’s looking like it’s going to end up better anyway, with the two bands doing their own tour.
“Yeah, exactly!” laughs McLeod. “Day On The Green was 3, 4 shows or something, whereas this is at least seven or nine. Now it looks like they’re selling out, so we may add more, so I think it’s going to become a bit of a thing. When we put it together, we were like, ‘let’s just start with this and see how it goes, and if it becomes a thing, we can do it on a more regular basis.’ Because the bands are good mates. They work well together and so if this goes well, it could be a beautiful marriage.”
With plenty of bands around the country boasting talented female musicians, the potential is endless.
“Yeah, exactly, which is what we’re trying to achieve here,” McLeod agrees. “We were hoping that, maybe, it could become an annual thing, under the banner of She Who Rocks. It doesn’t always have to be us and Baby Animals on it. It’s just like that’s the banner, and then you pick bands that work for it.”
McLeod says she sees this reunion and tour as a second chance for The Superjesus, who originally disbanded in 2004.
“I would like to think so, yeah. If not now, if this is not the second chance, then there is no second chance. It’s now or never, yeah.
“I feel like we’ve chance after chance. We’ve got nine lives, because after our third guitarist left and we thought it was over then. Then we had to pick everything up and start again, get a new guitarist, and we thought that was our second chance. Then he left. Then we had to pick it all up, make a record, get another new guitarist, start again, and then we decided to quit after that. If anything, this is our, 1, 2, 3, this is probably our fourth chance, to be honest.
“Only time will tell these things. I always figured you just throw enough shit at the fan, eventually something will stick to it.”
As a woman in rock and roll, has McLeod come up against much sexism and prejudice in the music industry?
“I have and I haven’t,” she says enigmatically. “I did a lot more in the ’90s. It seems to have died off a bit now, but I do find that it’s still a bit of a boys’ club, to be honest. There is a lot of, ‘hey, why don’t we do this?’ [from her, then] ‘no, we’re doing this” [from the guys]. I find myself getting shot down from time to time – but I don’t know if that’s because I’m a girl or if it’s because I just had a shitty idea!
“Sometimes I just stop and go, ‘don’t not listen to me just because I’m a girl’. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a girl or they didn’t like my idea, so I try not to find scapegoats to blame. I try and look back at my suggestions and think, ‘well, okay, can I better that?’ I’d like to think not, but it is very true that there is a helluva lot of men running the show, even to this day.
“But it’s getting better, gradually. It sort of got better in the ’90s and then it got worse, and I think now it’s slowly getting better again, but it takes a lot of maintenance. If you turn your back on it, it just goes back to [being a] boys’ club.”
McLeod attended a religious girl’s school in her teens, but says she wasn’t rebellious at that age.
“No, no. I was really good then because my sister was bad-ass. She was older than me, and I just watched her dance from fire to fire and just get burned on a continual basis.
“I just sat on ice going, ‘oh’, until I got older, and then I thought, ‘I don’t need this ice anymore because it’s melted’. Then I created my own fires, but when I was young, I was very wary.”
“The iconic Aussie rock chick” is just one epithet that has been used to describe Sarah McLeod. She says her transition from well behaved Catholic girl’s school student to rocker was supported by her parents.
“Well, my mom is quite theatrical herself,” she explains, “she used to be an actor and she’s been a television presenter. As much as she would’ve loved me to get a proper career, if that’s what you call it, I think she is awesome. She loves the thrill of being in the entertainment [business], showbiz. She’s really supportive and she collects all the articles and she speaks highly of me in public to her friends. Which is nice, because I always think that she’s out there going, ‘oh, my God, now she’s done this bad thing,’ but she doesn’t.
“The only thing she does do, though, is she also teaches a finishing school – elocution lessons, and she uses me as a what-not-to-do in a lot of her classes, because Mum always says that I speak too fast and that I don’t speak clearly enough and that my posture is bad. There’s that, but as far as just being in the entertainment industry, she celebrates that. I think she’s just celebrating it whilst having a little dig at me. It’s the McLeod way. You can’t have it all.”
What about the whole sex, drugs & rock n’ roll side of things? Did that side of things rear its head?
“Well, we’re still alive – put it that way,” she says diplomatically, before continuing. “Well, it’s a balance. I’ve always found a healthy balance of that stuff… if you ask anybody that’s a mate of mine, I love to party. I’m always the last one at the bar. I love it, but I also have a healthy balance. I know how much to drink while I’m out. I know when to stop, basically, and I know when I have to work. I know when I can relax and just put my party hat on and I know when to bury my party hat deep in the basement so that I can’t find it when I know I can’t trust myself.”
I put it to McLeod that the constant debauchery of a touring rock band would probably get tired after a while and start detracting from the music and performance of the artist.
“Well, I can’t speak for other bands because I think it does detract from a lot of bands, but, for me, I think that as soon as you feel like the show is slipping in any way, then it’s time to reassess. I find, with playing in The Superjesus, I can’t really party too [hard]… I can after the show, but I can’t really party before the show because it’s so exhausting and physical, the show, that I find I’m like two songs in and I can’t breathe. Singing or playing aside, it’s just general fitness.”
Anyone who has seen The Superjesus live will attest that McLeod bounces around like the Energizer bunny!
“That’s because I give myself three vodkas, tops, and then I don’t drink until after the show,” she explains, “otherwise I find that when I’m banging around the stage, I’m scared that I’ll fall over because you get dizzy. You’ve got to remain relatively sober.”
Not content to rest on their laurels, McLeod says The Superjesus plans to release new material soon.
“Yeah, we’re doing it. We’re working on a new EP at the moment. We’re hopefully going to have new single out before the She Who Rocks tour. We’ve recorded a bunch [of songs], I’m not sure what the first single is going to be but I’m pretty sure that I know which one it is. Yeah, it’s a progression [from our old sound], but it still sounds like the band. You’ll hear it and straightaway go, ‘ah, that must be them’. I think we just have a sound, when we all play together it just sounds like that band. I don’t know why, it’s just one of those things, chemistry.”
When I sat down for an interview with Jeff Martin, singer and guitarist with Canadian rockers The Tea Party late last year he hinted at a project he was producing involving McLeod, but wouldn’t go into details. Sarah’s happy to spill the beans now though.
“He’s funny, because sometimes he’ll tell everyone everything and then other times he just decides to keep it to himself. Back then we were wondering whether we were going to do it or not – we started questioning what we were doing, but if you ask Jeff now, he’ll tell you everything.
“I can tell you everything now,” she elaborates, “because it’s cool, but, yes, we’ve already made an album. It’s going to come out in the second half of this year, and it’s me; the drummer from Baby Animals, Mick [Skelton]; and Jeff. It’s called Black Diamond Express, and it’s a really eclectic record – no song sounds the same. It’s just all about being musical. There’s no theme, it’s just song after song, we just picked the best songs. You wouldn’t know from song to song that it’s the same band. Completely the opposite to The Superjesus.
“Some songs are like, African [sounding],” she continues proudly. “Then some songs are like Big Band, Frank Sinatra, Swing, some sound like a two-step sort of thing. It’s really, super eclectic, but it all ties together. It’s really random but an exciting body of work. We’re all pretty keen to see what people are going to think of it.”
She Who Rocks Tour Dates:
22 May 2015 Perth, Charles Hotel
23 May 2015 Perth, Charles Hotel
29 May 2015 Melbourne, The Hi-Fi
30 May 2015 Melbourne, The Hi-Fi
5 Jun 2015 Wollongong, NSW, Waves
6 Jun 2015 Sydney, Metro Theatre
13 Jun 2015 Brisbane, The Tivoli
19 Jun 2015 Adelaide, The Gov
20 Jun 2015 Adelaide, The Gov
26 Jun 2015 Hobart, Wrest Point Entertainment Centre
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