Sarah McLeod is one of music's great chameleons. In the late 90s she joined the likes of Suze Demarchi (Baby Animals) and Chrissy Amphlett (Divinyls) as one of the very few female singers to make any kind of real impact on the Australian rock scene. Her band, The Superjesus, epitomised the post-grunge movement and their debut album "Sumo" was pretty much unavoidable when I was a teenager. After recording another couple of albums with The Superjesus, Sarah struck out on her own and released her solo debut "Beauty Was A Tiger" in 2005. The project wasn't a huge success - until someone decided to try something different and remixed the third single. "He Doesn't Love You" was a #1 club smash and remained on that chart for over 6 months. I was completely obsessed with the song and included it on my inaugural end of year countdown. At the time I ranted "if only the silly bitch would buy a dress and realise that pop is her calling, the entire world would simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief". A little bit dramatic I know (sorry about the silly bitch comment, Sarah!) but strangely prophetic. Since then Sarah has focused on dance music - scoring a massive US and UK club hit last year with "White Horse" - and has finally returned with the official follow up to "He Doesn't Love You". I was lucky enough to chat with Sarah recently and here's what she had to say about her new single "Tell Your Story Walking":
Sarah, your new single "Tell Your Story Walking" is a great fuck you anthem. Was it written about anyone in particular or inspired by various arseholes?
Actually , it masquerades as this type of sentiment but actually it is about a very intense personal struggle within myself. It's actually me talking to myself, trying to eradicate all my negativity to push through to become the best I can be. Everyone wrestles with that little voice in their head that tells them that they can not achieve something if it seems too far fetched or too hard. Without these voices we can achieve anything. I'm just telling mine to hit the road and get out of my way. I think this struggle paves the way for great personal triumph.
What are your favourite break-up songs? You mention "I Will Survive" in the lyrics. I didn't picture you as a disco fan.
That's just a classic, you can't escape it, and yeah, I can rock a bit of disco from time to time! I also like "Respect" by Aretha Franklin and I LOVE "Breakin' Dishes" by Rihanna.
The song is another club banger. Since the release of "Beauty Was A Tiger" you've really found a niche on the dance scene - what inspired the move away from rock?
It was a perfectly natural progression actually, we had a remix done of "He Doesn't Love You" with Hook N Sling and it took off without us actually doing much at all. The same with "White Horse", we gave it over to the girls and boys in the clubs to decide... and it just happened, I couldn't stop it. When I got into production I discovered that electronic sounds were much more fun to work with from a studio point of view. As I got further and further into the realms of the thudding sub kick, live drums and guitars seemed to create too much trashy top end white noise for me. I couldn't go back, I had seen the other side and I LIKED it! There's so much more you can do with electronic sounds, it's way more fun from a production stand point.
The remixed version of "He Doesn't Love You" was one of my favourite songs of 2006 and spent most of that year on the club charts. Why has it taken so long to follow it up?
It was never supposed to be a big release, it's purpose was to fill the gap between albums and have some fun. It's not like that was the first single and then a year later I released the rest. I had to make sure I was confident of my direction before putting out the next song. I do chop and change a lot as I like so many styles of music, so I had to solidify my path and then walk it with confidence. Sometimes this takes time.
I read that NY based producers Questionable Intent worked on your album. Who else has been involved and when is it being released?
Most of it was done by myself and the QI boys but there are also a couple of tracks that I did with Jimmy Douglas and ILL Factor in Miami. This was a session I had done prior and I picked the best from that collaboration and fused it with what I had learned in Brooklyn. I also worked with a French rapper named Fredrick Da who is amazing, he is a great friend of mine now who I met through Paul Mac when he was in New York.
Will the album feature "White Horse"? That song is stunning. Why wasn't it an official single?
"White Horse" may be on the album, I'm 99% sure it will be but as I write better songs, things start to get bumped. "White Horse" is hanging in there by it's chiny chin chin but I think it will survive!
I hear you're heavily involved with fashion and styling these days. Who inspired your sexy new look?
Living in New York City really inspired me. I would see the coolest people walking around my neighbourhood and it was all very eclectic but super cool. I would get ideas for things I could wear and the way I could style myself in general. I started to see the creativity in it. It became less: "I have to go out, I'll throw this on" kinda thing, to a more "Oh how exciting I can try this with this and maybe do that". I got really into the idea of the personal statement that finding your style creates.
Would you ever leave the house dressed in garbage bags or wearing a Kermit the frog jacket a la Lady GaGa?
Every artist has their own way of expressing themselves and she really takes it to the extreme, God love her. It's way to over the top for me though.
Do you ever miss being Australia's premiere rock chick? How different is performing on the international club scene to gigging around Australia?
Playing in clubs is a pretty different scene, Its less rowdy and raucous than the Aussie pub scene. People are less likely to yell things out to you while your performing, they just keep on dancing with a grin from ear to ear and kinda stare at you!
Speaking of your musical past, I'm pretty sure I vomited to the glorious strains of "Down Again" at a school disco. Do you have a favourite song from The Superjesus catalogue?
That's a tough question for me, I like certain songs for different reasons. My life changed so much with record to record and each track means something different to me. Especially as each record had a different guitar player and my role in the band grew more hands on with each record. Probably for me, I was most into the 3rd album "Rock Music" My favourite tracks from that are "Manic" and "Shudder".
"Tell Your Story Walking" hits Australian iTunes tomorrow. The stunning video is currently being streamed exclusively on Nova's website but will probably hit youtube next week. In the meantime, check out this brief "making of" preview: