Author: Nina Bertok
When Sarah McLeod named her debut album ‘Beauty Was A Tiger’ she couldn’t have found a more appropriate name – the record roars, yet maintains a serene beauty throughout. “That song was based on a dream and I didn’t even know what it meant at the time, but then I started thinking of all the different connotations that could go with that, and I was like ‘yeah, I’m going with that!’
“It was just really strange… I was lying there, and I happened to have my dictaphone by the bed for once, and the whole song just came out in one hit. I knew exactly how the drums would go, what the guitar would do, I even started singing the first line. ‘Beauty was a tiger’ was the first thing I started singing when I dreamt of the melody. The weird thing is that usually I’m so lazy that I hate getting up to go find the dictaphone whenever I get a good idea, and I just try to memorize it, which never works. I hate getting up to go find the thing, so then I start convincing myself it was a shit idea anyway and it probably wasn’t even worth it.”
Lucky that dictaphone was floating near by, because the first single off the new album, coincidentally also called Beauty Was a Tiger, is doing good things for McLeod – and the Living End’s Chris Cheney – at the moment.
McLeod recalls, “I’ve wanted to work with Chris for a few years. About a year ago I bumped into him at a wedding and brought the idea [of a duet] up, and he was like ‘yeah, that’d be cool!’ and as soon as I got around to writing the single I knew it sounded like something he would do. And it’s actually really funny because when I called him up, I kind of had a bit of trouble at first. I thought I had his phone number, but it ended up being Scott’s [Owen, bass], so he picked up and I went ‘Oh hi, is that Chris?’ and Scott said ‘No, it’s Scott’ – and I just couldn’t remember his fucking last name, so I said ‘You mean Scott from the Living End?’ and he went ‘eh-EH’ and just hung up on me! He thought I was some crazy stalker fan!”
Eventually McLeod got a hold of Cheney when her manager contacted the band after one of the Living End’s shows. Cheney’s response to McLeod’s idea was a very positive one, “He said ‘I fucking love it, I’d love to do it, it’s a great idea, let’s go!’, and I was like, ‘Woo-hoo, you ripper!'”
Accompanied by Cheney, their bass player and producer Matt Lovell, the four ran in the Hunter Valley, drank heaps of beer, jammed and recorded in the middle of nowhere and with plenty of time up their sleeves.
“When I was thinking about who I wanted to do this record with, the criteria went kind of like this: for a start, I wanted the band to really fucking swing and just sound totally professional and make all of the songs just come to life – and it’s really hard to put a band together that can actually do that, you know! On top of that, I wanted them to be all really nice guys, because I knew I’d spent so much time with them, and I wanted to basically put together a whole new bunch of mates, really,” McLeod pauses and laughs, “Well, I wanted them to be brilliant musos and I wanted them to be fucking lovely, and cute, and around my own age, and available – it was very difficult!”
However, once McLeod got her dream band together it worked better than she ever could have imagined. “We’re just having so much fun on stage! And I’ve never felt this relaxed on stage in my life. I was in Superjesus for ten very fun years, but I was always writing to please the boys, really. Every time I’d write a song I’d wonder ‘oh, are they gonna love this too?’ and ‘are they going to be able to connect with this idea?’. But now I’m just writing purely and unashamedly whatever comes to my mind – even if it’s cheeky, and even if it gets me in a bit of trouble or whatever. I just say what I want to say, and no one’s going to be affected by it but me. There is a lot more freedom for me this time around.”