The Superjesus formed in Adelaide in 1994, cutting their teeth in the Adelaide club scene. They released an EP Eight Step Rail in May 1996 which garnered the band two Aria awards at the 1997 Aria Awards for Best New Talent for Eight Step Rail and Breakthrough Artist – Single for Shut My Eyes. From there they entered Triclops Studios in Atlanta for what was to become the break through album Sumo. This sent the band to the next level, and here they are 20 years later celebrating just brilliant that album was. We caught up with The Superjesus leading lady, Sarah McLeod to talk about the upcoming reissue of the Sumo album, the upcoming huge tour and more. So straight from Hell’s Kitchen to 2018 and beyond, we present Sarah McLeod
H2Z: Hey Sarah
SM: Hi Andrew, how are you darling?
H2Z: I’m great, how are you?
SM: I’m great, I’m tagging up Bad Valentine clothing as we speak, you know me, I am always multi-tasking (laughs)
SM: I know right! We made it, can you believe we made 20 years, woo hoo! (laughs)
H2Z: I have to ask, what was it like walking in the studio on day one for recording Sumo, what do you remember about it?
SM: I remember just being blown away by the amount of gold records on the way, it was just endless. Like a sea of success. We were like “Wow, we are in good company”. The Smashing Pumpkins had just recorded there, and I was totally obsessed with them, so that was our main point of excitement. I was like “I wonder if Billy Corgan drank from this cup? I wonder if he used this bottle opener” (laughs). I was pretty much doing that the whole time (laughs).
H2Z: As you are recording what became Sumo, was there a point where you realised this was the album that would break you and make The Superjesus a household name?
SM: Financially, I knew this one had to be the one, because we were in debt $250,000 to make it, and if it wasn’t successful, we were going to be in debt forever. I remember just thinking “this has to sell, or we are F@#ked” (laughs).
H2Z: What about a particular song, was there one where you went “This is it, this is the one”?
SM: Yes! When the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra came in and played on “Now and Then”.
H2Z: Then comes the release of Sumo, the hits, the Aria’s, a big tour. Did you have a moment where you took it all in and took stock of the massive achievement?
SM: To be honest with you, that was a really rough time for me, that whole Sumo era. I didn’t really enjoy anything that was going on, any of the success. The inner turmoil that was going on within the band at that time, overshadowed any success and fun I could have had. Every day was a drama and a nightmare, and I couldn’t really enjoy it. Paul (Berryman – Drums) and Stuart (Rudd – Bass) enjoyed it more than me. I was fighting with Chris (Tennent – Guitar) so much, that I don’t really remember the good times as much. It was just a whirlwind of hard work, action, and a lot of dramas.
H2Z: Does that make this upcoming tour even more exciting, where you do actually get to take stock of that album and achievements with this current line-up of the band?
SM: Absolutely! I cannot wait to play live and really enjoy that album finally in a pure form, and not feel like I have a gun to my head if I don’t play right or something. I am really looking forward to it. Finally, for the first time in my life, I will finally be able to enjoy that album.
H2Z: Will the songs be played live pretty much as they are on the album, or do you see some being reworked?
SM: Not sure yet. We will work that out in rehearsals. We will start with them as they are, and then go from there. Knowing us, they will change. Of course, they will change (laughs). You know me, I will be like “This is great and all, but can we just rewrite this?” (laughs)
H2Z: Why can I see you doing that for some reason? (laughs)
SM: I know right, but I’ll try not to, because I know people, want to hear it as it was written, so I will do my best to not reinvent the wheel.
H2Z: Any plans to record the shows for a Souvenir DVD/CD?
SM: We haven’t discussed that actually. I don’t know. It hasn’t come in in our conversations yet, as all I have been thinking about is when to do a new record. But I guess we should, right at the end of the tour when we are totally on fire (laughs).
H2Z: So, you are saying we can expect new music from The Superjesus after this tour?
SM: Absolutely, now we have cranked the engine up for the tour, I think we should just keep it cranking. I think that should be the next writing project. Because I have sort of been writing for a solo album, but I think I should put that aside and write for this first.
H2Z: That’s excellent news, cannot wait for that. Back to Sumo, were there any leftover tracks that you had for the album, if so, any reason they weren’t on the reissue?
SM: No, we don’t have left over tracks. We write for the album. We say, “Ok we need 10 tracks, so let’s write 10 songs, and maybe one or two for B-Sides”. But we take so long to write one song and do it so carefully and meticulously. If a song doesn’t feel like it’s working, we just ditch it, and when we say a song is complete, then it’s on the album. We have always been like that. I am like that with my solo stuff too. Most bands write hundreds of songs and pick the best. I just spend ages working on one song, and I know when it’s done. I would rather take all the time I need and be critical of myself during the process, to make sure the music is really good, the lyrics are really good, and I am proud of the work.
H2Z: In the last year you have gone between solo shows, musicals and The Superjesus. Do you, personally find it hard to switch gears, or can you just click in from one to the other?
SM: I am a serial gear switcher. I don’t find it hard, I just go for it. It’s weird. I sometimes laugh to myself and wonder how I am pulling all of this off, but it’s all in there, and it’s all muscle memory.
H2Z: You also have the Kylie cover on the album. You recorded it back in the day and have now re-recorded it.
SM: Yup. Do you like it?
H2Z: Yeah, I do actually, I think it’s really (pauses), it’s really you Sarah. That’s the best way to put it.
SM: (laughs) Yeah, I really like it too. I’m glad you dig it
H2Z: It’s just got this, a mood and vibe, where you know it’s The Superjesus, even though it’s not your song.
SM: Yeah, that’s because of the tuning it’s in, and just the groove.
H2Z: Yup, that’s it, the groove.
SM: Yup, I know our groove. (both laugh)
H2Z: Have you ever recorded any other covers?
SM: No, the only cover we recorded prior to that was “Something in The Air”, which would have been done with Chris, so that would have been around 1999. Do you know that one?
H2Z: No, I don’t. I will have to track it down now.
SM: It’s a great old 70s song (Sarah sings the song down the phone to me at this point). We did that. It was a bit unusual for us, a bit experimental, but I really love it
H2Z: When it comes to the tour, will you find it hard to pick the “Non-Sumo” songs to play?
SM: We will probably do a few random B-Sides, and a greatest hits set at the end. It’s going to be a long set. I can’t wait.
H2Z: Did I see that you got yourself a new Gibson SG?
SM: Yes, I bought it for my birthday, for myself. It’s the same age as me, so it was like we were meant to be together. I played a song at the Australian Open Tennis. It was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life. So, I decided, if I pull this off, I am going to buy myself a new guitar, and I pulled it off, so that was my prize to myself.
H2Z: We were watching that night, you did great! It was a great way of interpreting the song.
SM: That’s great to hear that. I copped a lot of flak for that in the beginning, because they wanted me to mime to a track with an orchestra, and I didn’t want to do that, so I suggested doing it live with a sea of marching drummers, and they looked worried, and I think that threw them a bit (laughs). It was really hard because of the sound reflecting off the walls in Rod Laver Arena, so there was always going to be a lot of uncertainty when it came to that performance, and there was a lot on my head, because it was my idea, because I really pushed for it. I was originally told no, so I asked to speak to someone else as I really loved the idea, so I wanted to fight for it. So, I fought for it, and I won, and it worked, and I was so happy.
H2Z: So, you have your clothing label Bad Valentine. What’s coming up with the Bad Valentine label?
SM: I’m very, very excited about the label. We are having a sale to clear out our summer stock. I have some cool new designs, which are going in a totally different direction, more of a streetwear direction. We have some cool hoodies and crewnecks and I love them, and it’s going to be a bit easier now, because I started with seven different designs in men’s and women’s which is so hard. I didn’t realise how hard it was to run a label. I should have just kept it simple and done two designs, but I know that now, and it will be easier from here. And I love the new s@#t and I cannot wait for to come in.
photo: Bad Valentine
H2Z: Are you designing the merch for the upcoming tour?
SM: You bet your sweet ass I am. (laughs)
H2Z: Anything else you want to tell the fans?
SM: I hope they really enjoy the new cover song and pick up the new Sumo record when it’s out and we look forward to seeing them at a show.
H2Z: Thanks for the chat Sarah, see you soon!
SM: Thanks darling, talk to you soon.
Make sure you all get out and pick up the new version of Sumo when it comes out on August 17th, and check out the tour dates below and get out and see one of Australia’s greatest Rock n Roll Bands
Visit The Superjesus online
Visit Sarah McLeod
Visit Bad Valentine Clothing Label