It’s been 20 years since The Superjesus released their definitive second album, Jet Age, and the band are reuniting once more to celebrate not only that but also the beginning of their next chapter. The Superjesus are already in writing mode for their fourth album. But first, will you please welcome the 20th anniversary Jet Age tour.
“We had started writing the songs while we were in LA, touring,” bass player Stuart Rudd remembers of the making of Jet Age.” Released in October 2000, Jet Age was produced by an American named Ed Buller, whose CV included records for The Psychedelic Furs, Suede and Australia’s own Ben Lee. “He was really quick to work with. He cut the fat off the songs – ‘Let’s make melody king,’ was his approach. He squeezed a different texture from the band where Sumo was more raucous, Ed tended to smooth the edges off a little bit and refined it, made it more about the songs.”
Sumo was The Superjesus’ debut album, released February 1998. It reached #2 on the ARIA Albums Chart, shipping platinum and selling 70,000 copies-plus and scoring three ARIA nominations. Sumo had been recorded in Atlanta, Georgia with another American producer, Matt Serletic – all sound very glamorous, doesn’t it?
“On paper it was the rise and rise,” Rudd admits. “At that point it was pretty steep. A year and a bit after releasing the debut EP we were off to Atlanta. We got picked up by Warner Brothers, which was fantastic for the band, getting national radio at this point, Triple J. It was the first time an Australian band had been co-signed, for Australia and America. So in order to keep everyone happy, we went over to America to record, so they could be involved with the band at that point.”
In the event, it wasn’t quite that glamorous – fun, yes, but glamorous… “Seventy-two thousand miles in under six months across America. Now the original drummer Paul Berryman and myself are driving and playing the gig, packing up and start driving again. It was great. Hard yards but it was good fun. We were over there living in Los Angeles, three or four tours of America, driving round and around and around, and we would use that as a springboard across to the UK, Germany, Australia, do a run – every two tours, the second tour we could afford to get to Perth.”
So Jet Age was born out of those hard yards, and the loss of the guitarist who had taught singer Sarah McLeod how to play guitar – and write songs. She and Chris Tennent had written all the songs on Sumo.
“He left the band in a bit of a whirlwind,” Sarah explains, “‘cause he and I were actually in a secret relationship together. I broke up with him and he quit and it was awful, because everyone was, like, ‘What happened to our band?’ So I thought, okay, I need to learn how to write songs now, like fast, by myself, so that I never have to rely on anybody ever again. So I bought a book called How to Write Hit Songs,” she admits with a laugh, “and I read three chapters of it and went, ‘Okay, I know enough.’ I never even read the end and I started writing songs and I was really happy with what I was writing – okay, I can totally do this. The first song I wrote was Everybody Calls Me Lonely, which was a hidden track on Jet Age. On our fan base it was voted the fans’ favourite song of all time, which was interesting because the guys didn’t want it on the record. That’s why I snuck it on the end as a hidden track when they weren’t looking!”
“We made the trip back to Australia after the American run,” adds Rudd, “and we’d lost our guitarist, Chris, and Sarah, myself and Paul relocated to Melbourne because there was a guitarist there we were after and that’s where we wrote the rest of the album.” The new guitarist was Tim Henwood. “He’d written this riff,” Sarah remembers, “and I thought that doesn’t sound like us at all. He lived nearby and I went to Tim’s house and he gave me this instrumental on a cassette and asked if I could write some lyrics for it. So I went home and I sat up all night long and wrote Gravity, and then I ran to his house at, like, six a.m. and woke him up through his window and I was, like, ‘Wake up, I’ve done it and I love it,’ and I passed him the cassette, and he said, ‘I love it too.’ We played it to the rest of the band and they loved it, so that was the first song that we wrote for Jet Age.”
Gravity was the hit single off the album, and even made it to #17 on that year’s Triple J Hottest 100. Jet Age soon joined Sumo in gaining platinum status. By the time the third album, 2003’s Rock Music, came around, Stuart Rudd was a fully-fledged cowriter in the band. The Superjesus celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Sumo with a national tour in 2018, and it was on that tour the band realised something that has changed everything.
“Prior to that,” Sarah explains, “it was a bit like ‘Let’s get together and play a couple of shows and see how it goes.’ The shows went well, we had a few line up changes, we managed to solidify the line up and once we got our drummer Travis Tragani we realised we’re actually a pretty good band and it would be a shame to only drag it out to play the old hits at festivals here and there, let’s actually focus on this legitimate act with legs – we’re more than just a relic band. We’ve got a lot of good songs in us, people seem to like us – we could be doing this for the rest of our lives. So we started writing again, and it’s really fun.”
Tickets from https://www.thesuperjesus.com/