The Screaming Jets have released a new 5-track EP, titled BITTER PILL. Faced with an uncertain future and cancelled tour dates, and a very slim chance of getting together as a band in the short term, The Jets set to work earlier this year to reflect on the band’s past and carve a way forward. Six months of weekly Zoom band meetings which started out as impromptu late afternoon drinking sessions, have delivered fans an unexpected treat!
Putting their pandemic time to good use the band selected five iconic and much loved songs, tracks that have stood the test of time over their thirty year career, and given them a fresh paint job – reworking and re-recording Helping Hand, Shivers, Friend of Mine, Sad Song and October Grey, whilst still paying the utmost respect to the originals. Helping Hand made its appearance first, with a social media and YouTube release in May, garnering enormous response from fans and industry alike, reaching over 200,000 people. Hi Fi Way spoke to the great man Dave Gleeson about Bitter Pill.
Congratulations on the EP. It’s really great to have some new music out.
It actually is nice to be releasing something in this crazy time and to know that we could put something together and come up with a product we were pretty proud of was unreal.
Was that always the intention to go back and rework some classics as a bit of a stopgap for the fans?
Yeah, partly that, we were supposed to be in the studio recording new stuff at the start of the year, and when we were sitting around in Zoom meetings with each other, that’s a strange thing that we do now, we were just hooking up once a week and we thought we’d try some recording. We didn’t want to try it with new stuff because that obviously would take a bit more nutting out] in the studio, so we just picked some songs we were really comfortable with.
Do find that some of these classics probably take on a bit of a different meaning or a bit of a different interpretation now?
Absolutely. I mean most of them have in a way, funnily enough it came out in October and things were still a little bit grey, so October Grey was fairly poignant, Helping Hand, obviously the first one to make sure that you look after your brothers and sisters. I think that the good thing for us is that we’ve played them live for so long those songs that there’s lead breaks in parts that didn’t used to have lead breaks, so they’ve grown in some ways. It wasn’t just doing stuff note for note.
How do you cope with going digital, being 100% Spotify with this release as opposed to a CD or a vinyl record?
I’m not a huge fan of it, but we are going to do a vinyl release, in about two months I think we’re going to add a brand-spanking new track to that Paul Woseen wrote for that it. So that’s exciting. We haven’t done a vinyl release for a long time. The digital thing is not as exciting. It’s just not as exciting as having the box of CDs come to your manager’s office and everyone grabs a few and that kind of thing.
How is working on the new material going?
I really think we got into a good sound space with the last album. The album that we brought out in 2017, which was Chrome. It was still based in blues rock. Paul did a bit of keyboard stuff and things like that. Just keeping it to The Jets but move on in subtle ways I guess.
Sometimes do you forget which band you’re in, whether it’s The Angels or whether it’s The Screaming Jets? Do you write for a particular band?
I write just however it comes out which is probably why I don’t get many songs on record. If ever do get it mixed up like live-wise, John and Rick will tell me if they see Dave Gleeson from The Screaming Jets when they’re in front of The Angels. Sometimes I get a bit loose and with The Jets I can say what I like, but with The Angels I’m there to bring the songs to life and do them as close to as they should be done. So I learned that lesson, keep the two very separate.
Having Cameron in the band now, that must bring a fresh new dynamic in to The Jets?
He’s a brilliant drummer and he has played with some of the best in the country and we’ve known him for a long time. I think the first time we ever did a tour with him was he was in a band called Maeder in 1999 or 2000. We hit it off instantly and with all the other guys in the band. To have him in the band now brings a real spark, a real energy, and he’s a great drummer to watch. He’s a real asset to the band.
Are you feeling optimistic about live touring at all? It just must be hard for any touring band?
Oh, it’s torture. I think for Australian bands the next two years are going to be a great time to make hay while the sun shines. Even when they do open up to international bands to come over, I don’t think anyone will be rushing to get to the other side of the world hoping nothing bad happens. I think it will take a few years before people are confident enough to do that type of traveling. This means that, I think, Australian bands will have the run of the joint for a little while at least.
That sounds a great idea.
I think a lot of bands have been writing new material and using this time to do all the stuff that is passing you by while you’re doing the day to day things and trying to keep the band running. I think everyone’s been able to take stock and hopefully what we’re going to see is a bunch of great songs and great albums waiting to be discovered.
Or there will be songs about sitting in your bedroom looking out the window!
Or walking in the house saying, “Yeah we know, mate, we are too.” Hopefully there’ll be some great albums coming out because the studios are going to want people in there, so there will be better deals for bands. So I’m very optimistic about the path for Australian bands in the future.
Have you enjoyed the Sunday sessions at The Gov? You must be thinking, “What do I do with myself now that it has come to an end?”
Yep, that would have been 31 Sundays in a row that we’ve played. The stream when it started up in my backyard and then to moved in to The Gov a while back, was really great of them to be able to do that. It helped them out, and us out. It will be nice to be able to do something normal with the kids and the family. Having said that, the kids have had a great time being a part of it as well, help set up and do all that type of stuff. It has been being really great family time.
What’s next for Dave Gleeson and The Screaming Jets? Are you taking a bit of a break for a bit?
No, no! Next year, we just got back to re-record the thirtieth anniversary edition of the All For One album, which will be out next year. We’ll be touring that from February and everything rests on everything opening up.
Interview By Rob Lyon