The Superjesus in the Jet Age

At the 1997 ARIA Awards The Superjesus proved to be the focal point of the glitterati, walking away with an award for Best New Band and also Best Debut Single 'Shut My Eyes'. At the1998 ARIA's they again basked in the limelight with 'Sumo' lapping up the title of Best Australian Rock Album. Riding a wave of rockstar triumph, the band created quite a stir in the USA, living in the lap of luxury in the Hollywood Hills, and then cruising to Germany and the UK. Not bad for a band from lil' ole Adelaide. In 1999 the Superjesus motor began to konk out. Sarah McLeod (vocals/guitars), Paul Berryman (drums) and Stuart Rudd (bassman) nonchalantly said farewell to guitarist Chris Tennent due to irresolvable disparities.

But it wasn't long before the remaining three were saying salutations to some fresh strumming (and songwriting) talent by the name of Timothy Henwood, who miraculously injected a new lease of life into the band with his lets-get-the-show-on-the-road enthusiasm. Summer 2000 is now within earshot and The Superjesus rock engine is winding up and are fuelled to commence take-off down the runway of Australian rock music. With the recent release of blazing new album 'Jet Age' and with the hit-single 'Gravity' now a friend to the radio waves, The Superjesus have proved they are keen to move into a new musical era. But hey, Sarah openly admits she still doesn't know how to send emails! Come on Sez, you'll get left behind! Femail talked to Sarah and Stuart about The Superjesus and the new 'Jet Age'.

How would you describe the sound on Jet Age?

Sarah: We originally we had a choice of making 2 different kinds of records in terms of songs. A flat-out rock record or what we ended up making. We ditched heaps of the rock songs. Songs like 'Enough To Know' and 'Fall To Rescue' are all quite unusual sounding; even 'Gravity' (the first radio single) has got a weird style. I guess it's more pop... but just weird grooves.

Stu: We began with a pretty blank palette, and there were days when certain songs just come out.

So you surprised yourself a little bit?

Stu: Yeah ...and it was a good way of doing it. The band made a conscious decision to follow on with whatever came out. So I think we've embraced what we (the band) was about originally.

Jet Age took shape at Sydney's Festival Studios with UK producer Ed Buller (Suede, Psychedelic Furs, Alex Lloyd, Ben Lee), how was it working with him?

Stu: Working with Ed turned our thinking around. We went in thinking one thing and Ed basically threw it out of the water. He made us challenge ourselves.
Sarah: I was so excited when I heard he had worked with the Psychedelic Furs, I was like 'Cool'!! I asked all these questions about the Eighties music scene in the UK - like Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Depeche Mode - it was great.

Sarah: He likes dark pop songs and never really liked 'Gravity'. He'd say 'It's just flat out pop'. It just wasn't his bag. There were a lot of other songs on the record that were a lot darker moodier, so he was steering us more in that direction. He pointed to a couple of songs and said, "I like this kind of thing, I think you should go away and try and write a couple more like this, if not better". And we were like, ahem, 'these are our best songs and we are already in the studio - surely that would mean our work is done'. We had been writing for 18 months and were ready to go, ....so the pressure was on. So we went away and wrote a couple more and they turned out to be better than some of the others. So w yeah, his idea worked. He said I wouldn't be asking you guys to do this if I didn't think you could do it.

So are you looking forward to the album tour and being back on the road?

Stu: Yeah well the nice thing is, we actually had time to take a step out of it for a while from the first album - to take a step out & watch it all go by. Then you can step back in again, and have your second love for it again, so you do appreciate it.

Sarah: I think having a break is really important cos not many bands get to regroup like that. Most of them just jump on that roller coaster and keep going. And that can be draining. That's what happened to our last guitarist, he couldn't handle it.

And Tim replaced him? What new flavour has he brought to The Superjesus?

Sarah: He's changed the band in every way. Even just down as far as our communication levels. Before, we had the worst communication ever...it was unbelievable. Because we spend a lot of time together so we have to make sure everyone is happy and there is always a group consensus. Now we've got that sussed and we never really used. That's because of Tim. He's open about everything; everybody knows where they stand all the way. We can now say to each other ' Hey I've got a problem with you, I don't like the way you are doing this'. And just talk things over until everyone can see your train of thought. If you can understand the reasoning behind something that you perhaps didn't originally agree with, then you can often come around to their way of thinking. Before we never communicated at all. So now its great! The band is getting along really well

You spent some time in America after the recording of your first album 'Sumo'. How was that?

Stu: It was awesome; we were riding a kind of wave at that time. There are some things in hindsight that you just can't recapture the innocence of - what we had when we were there. The band toured for more than 6 months and drove around America three times. We took no tour support from the record company, we just funded ourselves and just played and played and played ......everywhere, it was great!

Sarah: We based ourselves in LA, and had this awesome pad in Silver Lake, which is like this cool rock n roll suburb in the Hollywood Hills where all these bands lived. I remember thinking 'How cool is this!'. I bought a car, and every morning I would drive down to this juice place on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. I'd get my juice, the sun would be shining, palm trees everywhere, I'd look up and see the Hollywood sign and I'd think 'God this is Great'! Driving along the wrong side of the road... It never ceased to spin me out.

Were you were received well by American audiences?

Sarah: Very well.

Stu: We were playing more underground gigs

Sarah: Yeah 'Opening Act' kind of thing

Stu: And we were funding ourselves. Doing it no different to what some bands in Australia and NZ would be doing here, as in getting out there and securing a gig for Friday night. Our concentric circle from LA kept getting bigger and bigger. We were playing at places and pulling record attendances. This was through getting out there and converting people with the gig, as opposed to promotion and posters.

Sarah: Having said that, we did this thing on 'Road Rules', which is one of those reality shows played on MTV. They came to Australia to film a band in action and chose us! So that's all we heard while we were in America (imitates accent) "Oh, so you guys were on Road Rules" and "I saw you guys on TV...umm?" 'Road Rules" chips in Sarah, continually finishing their sentences.

Sarah: It was strange, Americans were not used to a band standing up there going 'Hey!' and Chitchatting to the crowd, smiling and enjoying themselves and stuff. They were quite disarmed by our natural approach, cos we were just really happy to be there.

Stu: American bands seem to be so structured like that. I remember one gig where I went out on the stage and everyone was just sitting there in anticipation. I said, "Hey listen, we're not here to change your life. We're here to have a good time and have a beer". All of a sudden everyone went 'Oh right', and got up and came straight down the front of the gig. It just kind of broke their mould or something.

Your website (www.superjesus.com.au) is looking fantastic!

Sarah: Yeah, for us to have a good website is quite funny. We were known for having a really boring website that never gets updated. Fans would complain and we would be like 'what website?' Jeez, I'm only just working out how to send emails. I was born in the wrong generation!

Does it seem like The Superjesus has come a long way since you emerged from Adelaide in '96?

Sarah: I've sort of got this David and Goliath vibe. We were in this position where all the chips seemed against us, and it didn't look like we were going to overcome the mammoth mountain we had to climb. Then we just poured everything in that we possibly could muster and overcame it. The band has got to this point of personal success, so we are just so proud of ourselves. And relieved.

Stu: You tend to see how high the peak is when you are standing in the valley; we've just climbed that next peak.

Sarah: It was awfully dark in that valley

Stu: (chuckles)I think it was called 'Death Valley'.

It's great to see you guys have staggered your way out of that valley. So as far as the future sound of The Superjesus, do you see yourselves firmly sticking with your rock roots?

Yeah (both agree in unison)

Sarah: we're Rock Kids ~ we can't help it!

- Louise Buckingham

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