Interview: With Sarah McLeod Of The Superjesus – 20 Years Of Sumo

The Superjesus July 2018 bw med res photo credit Nix Cartel (1)

Interview By Terresa Allen 

Sumo, the ARIA nominated, platinum selling debut album of alternative Aussie rockers The Superjesus turns 20 this year. To celebrate GC Live caught up with The Superjesus front woman Sarah McLeod ahead of the album’s 20th Anniversary re release and the start of their National 20th Anniversary Sumo Tour.

First up congratulations, ‘Sumo’ is 20 years old and still such an important part of the Australian Music Scene. How does it feel to have created something that has stood the test of time?

Thanks, I try not to think about, I just keep making records and you make one, sometimes they work sometimes they don’t. I’m just like a relentless song writing machine. So to have something that’s worked and is still a part of contemporary music and people still actually care about 20 years later is, well besides the fact it’s a massive relief, it’s a massive honour.

Speaking of honours, The Superjesus were recently inducted to the SA Music Hall of Fame alongside some heavy weights in the Aussie Music Scene and with some impressive induction criteria, how was that?

Yeah, that was last year we got inducted in to the hall of fame. We got given medals, had to do a speech, we had an orchestra. It was great, Gala Night. We are pretty lucky; I saw the list myself and felt quite honoured to be involved. I think we are the youngest people too.

 To celebrate Sumo’s 20th Anniversary it’s being re released, what can we expect to see?

There is a vinyl release of ‘Sumo’, which is exactly as ‘Sumo’ was but remastered, so same track listing as the Australian version, but remastered and the vinyl is red which is bad arse – it’s really cool. There’s also a  CD reissue that’s got a whole bunch of bonus tracks, it’s got Live at the Wireless, it’s got the B- sides and we just recorded a cover of Confide In Me by Kylie Minogue, we put that on there as well.

It’s a great version of the song, one of my favourites, what does Kylie think of it? Has she every said?

You know what she hasn’t told me yet; I’m waiting by the phone but nothing from Kylie, nothing, nada. B**ch… ha ha. No I haven’t tried to ask Kylie, I’m just doing my thing, she’s doing her thing. I hope she likes it.

Backing up this re release you are going to start a National 20th anniversary tour kicking off at the Governor Hindmarsh in Adelaide is that right?

Yes that’s our first gig, our hometown, had a lot of good gigs at The Gov, I love playing there. This time we are going all around the country, it’s a 2 month, 2 and a half month tour – a lot of gigs. We don’t normally tour that extensively; we normally just play weekends and then go home. This time we are going to tour like we did in the 90’s, we are going to heaps of regional towns and we are just staying on the road and playing 5 nights a week.

So you are coming to Queensland, we’ll be seeing you at the Zoo?

Yeah, that will be a great gig, we always have good gigs in Brisbane and Cairns, that will be great fun, can’t wait to get up there.  Playing at the Tank Art Center up there, which is an amazing venue – I played there as a solo artist.

Your touring line up, is it just the three of you going out there?

Yeah Ruddy (Stuart Rudd) has been with us from the start, Jason (Slack) was with us from our 3rd album (Rock Music 2003) onward and Travis is our temporary drummer, because Paul (Berryman) has moved to Seattle and had a baby.

Ruddy (Stuart Rudd) said that some of these Sumo songs hadn’t been played live in years?

Yes, some of them have never been played so we’ve got our work cut out for us because they are very complex, very involved pieces of music and it’s taken me ages to re learn them. There’s so much to do, I’m cramming at the last minute.

Have you decide on your support act for the tour yet?

No, we haven’t announced it yet; I think we are doing that this week.

You always look so well rocked out on stage, Bad Valentine Clothing is that your own label?

Yes, it started because I use to make my own clothes to wear on stage – I couldn’t find anything I liked to wear.  Then I started making T-Shirts that had empowering slogans, so that I would feel tougher on stage.  I sometimes get scared when I go out and I’d have these fear issues. So I started making these T-Shirts that said how good I was going to be, so that when I walk out there and I’m wearing a T-Shirt that says “I’m Fucking Unreal!” I’ve got to be. It was a mental thing I over came and I thought these are cool; maybe they can help other people.  So I started a label and got excited, I went into street wear and god knows where I’m going next, I’m doing all sorts of things.

You certainly don’t look fearful on stage, you appear the epitome of the Aussie Rock Chic, in line with Chrissy Amphlett and Suze De Marchi , do you fear in that league?

No, but thanks, no, I feel like they are one better than me. I feel like Chrissy is the best, then there’s Suze, then there’s me. I feel like there’s this hierarchy ladder and we all have to respect it. I think it’s just not really what we do, it’s who came first and that kind of the hierarchy ladder, but I make up that ladder, in my mind.

I imagine its tough being a female rocker and certainly one that’s the leader of an alternate rock band. Is that how you feel?

Yeah it can be tough at times; you have got to work really hard because the music industry is difficult, it’s probably one of the hardest industries to make a go of. It’s blood sweat and tears – it’s so much work, song writing is so much work, it’s more work than anyone would ever think that it is. And then it’s the obvious, like the lugging and slugging on the road, the late nights, the update of your equipment and the practice, it’s your whole life. You can’t even really have a life when you want to be a muso, especially if you are writing songs. If you are not a song writer you could probably have a life, because you just wait for the gigs to role in and then you just hit the road. But if you have got to write as well, then the times that you aren’t on stage you are sitting at home writing, preparing to get on stage.

Your time away from The Superjesus, do you think that has helped you come back with a renewed vigor for the ‘Sumo’s’ songs?

Yes, the time has made me appreciate the songs more, because when we first wrote them I thought of those songs as weird because they were ‘unpigeonholeable’ and I use to look at our peers like Jebediah, Grinspoon and Killing Heidi and they had these tight, succinct pop songs. Where we had these songs that were sort of grandiose, with section after section and were building and building and I use to think what even is this stuff that we write? I can’t believe people even like it or it gets on the radio, because to me it always felt like a succession of bits, because I was to in there.  Then having the space and going back and listening to it years later I love them, I look at them as beautiful pieces of music.

And your solo stuff, do you think that that’s given you an appreciation of coming back to the band, being part of a unit again?

Yeah, because it’s harder when you are a solo artist, then having a band around you, you sort of feel a bit more comfortable. You walk into a room, you got your boys with you, and you feel like you’re in a wolf pack. You are untouchable. Usually I just walk into a room by myself with my acoustic guitar and I’m like …” Helloo I’m Sarah, I’m the entertainment, is there any one here?” So it’s good having the wolf pack. I’m lucky to have them – they are good boys.

Playing with some of the great local bands that you have, what would be your favourite gig, your most memorable?

Probably the tour that we did with Shihad and Front End Loader in 1997, which I think was our first national tour, we watched them every night and they were so good, they taught us how to rock. Before that we were shoe starers, we were trying to be like Sonic Youth, but we realized we needed to be tougher, we need to be more like Shidad . You learn watching someone really good, night after night after night.

You have also been on the bill with some huge international acts, which one of those was your most memorable? 

Oh God, hard to say really cause there’s been quite a lot, but I got a few tips from Courtney Love, I did a few shows with Hole and she gave me a few song writing tips which I always liked. About how you construct hooks, it was something that was straight out of the mouth of Billy Corgan that she regurgitated to me. She was staring at me going “…Hooks, Hooks, Hooks, it’s all about the Hooks! It’s when you don’t sing” and I’m like “Okay, I get it, right.” Good information about the space where you don’t sing.

You spoke earlier about your fears, what would be the worst, nightmarish time on stage?

When your equipment is not working and you have to adapt new techniques on the spot – I hate that. Like if one of your pedals doesn’t work and you’ve got to change the way you play. Or the worst one actually is if the guitar tech gives me a guitar that’s in the wrong tuning, because we use a lot of alternate tuning and if you get something in the wrong tuning and you’ve got to try and transpose it on the spot, that’s the worst. You have to make that last second decision of whether you just stop and call it, or if you quickly try and transpose it while you are singing it and sometimes I’ll do that and I’ll get three quarters of the way and I’ll go “Oh, that’s right I forgot about the bridge, there’s no way I’m going to be able to transpose this in time” So sometimes it’s just better to stop at the beginning and get it right.

And get it right they have! Grab yourself a copy of 20th Anniversary edition of Sumo, due for release on the 17th of August and catch The Superjesus live on their National 20th Anniversary Tour which kicks off on the 29th of September.

THE SUPERJESUS 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF SUMO NATIONAL TOUR

Presented by Triple M* and New World Artists

SAT 29 SEP | THE GOV, ADELAIDE SA | 18+ *

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 05 OCT | BARWON CLUB, GEELONG VIC | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SAT 06 OCT | MAX WATTS, MELBOURNE VIC | 18+ *
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

WED 10 OCT | TAPHOUSE, BENDIGO VIC | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

THU 11 OCT | BEER DELUXE, ALBURY NSW | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 12 OCT | ANU BAR, CANBERRA ACT | 18+

Tickets available from www.moshtix.com.au | 1300 GET TIX | All Moshtix Outlets

SAT 13 OCT | NARRABEEN RSL, NARRABEEN NSW | 18+ *

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 19 OCT | MANNING BAR, SYDNEY NSW | 18+ *

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SAT 20 OCT | TATTERSALL’S, PENRITH NSW | 18+ *

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SUN 21 OCT | CAMBRIDGE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE NSW | 18+ 
Tickets available from www.thecambridgehotel.com.au and www.oztix.com.au
THU 25 OCT | BYRON BAY BREWERY, BYRON BAY NSW | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 26 OCT| RACEHORSE HOTEL, IPSWICH QLD | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SAT 27 OCT | THE ZOO, BRISBANE QLD | 18+ *

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

THU 01 NOV | PRINCE OF WALES, BUNBURY WA | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 02 NOV | NEWPORT HOTEL, FREMANTLE WA | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SAT 03 NOV | CAPITOL, PERTH WA | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 9 NOV | YORK ON LILYDALE, MOUNT EVELYN VIC | 18+ *

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 16 NOV | DALRYMPLE HOTEL, TOWNSVILLE QLD | 18+

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SAT 17 NOV | TANKS ART CENTRE, CAIRNS QLD | 18+ 
Tickets available from www.ticketlink.com.au | 1300 855 835

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