Adelaide’s Satan’s Cheerleaders hijack that fast-approaching AFL ‘One Weekend In September’ by one week when they unleash their latest musical offering, The Mechanical Turk upon the masses on Friday 21 September 2018 at the Jade (Monkey). Four cheerleaders of a more demonic nature present their latest five-track EP which heralds a new phase for this state’s premier art-rock outfit. Deliberately shorter in length and simpler in structure, each track of The Mechanical Turk retains the core of the beloved Satan’s Cheerleaders sound: crunchy guitar, tenor sax, signature hooks, titillating time signatures, satirical lyrics underpinned by a freight train rhythm section and a sound that revels in unexpected surprises. Simon Ridley from the band take time to talk about their upcoming EP launch.
How exciting is the build up to your EP launch?
The excitement of the build up to the EP launch has come in fits and starts. We recorded the EP in a weekend session in May this year and each new development that comes through is a real thrill, interspersed with regular life. For example, getting the first mixes of the tracks, or the drafts of artwork have been extremely exciting. The biggest thrill was probably the film clip for TV which was shot (mostly) live in the studio. We haven’t ever done a film clip before and it is a very accurate representation of what Satan’s Cheerleaders look like when we are concentrating in the studio rather than showing off on stage.
Did writing, recording and verything else that comes with getting an EP ready really challenge the band?
Writing and recording the EP were really different from the last couple of albums we have done. Last year we released a full length instrumental album performing full band versions of the chip-tune tracks for the classic 1987 Commodore 64 game The Last Ninja. That was a pretty serious undertaking, to record twelve tracks of about five minutes each in one weekend and there were no vocals. The album before that of original material The New Adventures of Satan’s Cheerleaders was a very different process too. We recorded each instrument separately over several months then mixed it all down at the end. With The Mechanical Turk we went into the studio and basically recorded it all live in a bit over a day, then I came back to do vocals one night. I think that after recording three albums together this was actually the easiest one to put together. Who would have thought that experience would help!
The bio says that this EP heralds a new phase for the band, what inspired that?
The new phase for the band is more directed to fully formed songs with big vocal hooks. In the past we have done a lot of experimental stuff ranging over many styles and a great deal of instrumental music. After working on some other projects in recent years I decided that I wanted to write the sort of EP that I could put on in the car and sing along to each track. So it is a lot poppier than previous efforts. After seeing Faith No More at soundwave and literally everybody singing along to their songs, I decided that I wanted to try to do something similar.
How would you compare The Mechanical Turk to anything you have done before?
I think that any Satan’s Cheerleaders fan is going to hear the similarities that have come to define the band’s sound. The previous albums were more balanced and had little interludes, ballads, bossa novas and generally flirted outrageously with various styles and moods. Not so with this EP! It is the closest thing to musical crack we can offer. We have also done a duet with a female singer which is basically synth / pop / rock sci-fi romance which ought to delight the listeners!
Does anything stand out as significant in terms of influences this time round?
Well since the last batch of all original tracks on The New Adventures I have played in a few other bands which have focused on song writing rather than experimental stuff which I think has been an influence. For example, I have listened to a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers and other very melodic bands while playing in Appomattox Run. I also have spent a fair bit of time in Japanese karaoke rooms which always seems to result in finding big melodic songs that you can sing along to when you are filled with whiskey. Personal favourites there are Toxic by Britney Spears, Walking on Sunshine and Reunited by Peaches and Herb, so I think that through drinking heavily while indulging in Japanese nightlife has prompted me towards writing more melodic types of songs.
What was the biggest lesson learnt from making the EP?
The biggest lesson I learnt from making the EP was that ruthless adherence to a practice schedule really pays off. I have always made sure that I am well rehearsed in the past but have generally experimented a bit with sounds in the studio which takes time. This EP needed to be recorded quickly so I was doing a lot of guitar and vocal practice before getting into the studio. As a result, the guitar solo you see in the film clip to “TV” was either the first or second take which was frankly a miracle given how finicky I usually am about guitar solos and tones. And the vocal tracks were all done in about four hours which is a personal record for me.
Is it hard letting go of songs that you have been working with for quite some time?
I would say it is actually impossible for me to let go of songs that I have been working on for a long time. A couple of the tracks of the new EP are tracks that I had been working on for other projects originally and when it became clear that they weren’t going to get used, I re-purposed them for the EP. They are actually the more pop rock tracks off the album that were originally written with very different things in mind which is why I think they sound much catchier than the sort of stuff I would normally write for this band. As far as prying things from cold dead hands goes, Charlton Heston has nothing on me. Although, he is both cold and dead now so I suppose some sort of scientific testing could be undertaken.
Do you right just enough for an EP or are there a few left over?
There are a couple of tracks left over that were originally meant for this EP. After realising that I was getting carried away though, the executive decision was made to leave them off the album and save them for the next release. I figured that five tracks is a good amount which works out to a bit under twenty minutes and anything more starts getting into full album territory.
Any plans for a vinyl release?
No plans for a vinyl release. I am a fan of vinyl but frankly, we can’t afford it. I also don’t think these particular tracks would be well suited to vinyl and getting five tracks onto two sides might be tricky.
Is the Tarago packed and ready to go on a national tour?
The Tarago is not yet packed to go on tour. We are looking at some options for next year but with everyone in the band having extremely busy schedules that involve touring with other bands we have to time anything like that extremely well. We have gone over to the eastern seaboard a couple of times before which was great so we are keen to get back over there and have even looked at the possibility of heading to the northern hemisphere. I promise to keep you posted on this. Perhaps the Rolling Stones will need an opener in Eastern Europe? I am sure we could warm the crowd up for them.
Where to next for Satan’s Cheerleaders?
It is probably pretty clear that I am a big fan of bad old horror films (the hint is in the band name). We are planning a Halloween single which is basically a Little Richard style 50’s rock track with all the lyrics focused on classic B-grade horror flicks.After that, we have discussed doing a release of jazz versions of our rock tracks. Apart from that, we are writing a bunch of new tracks which are probably going to be more in the vein of weird pop rock as I have really got into melodic choruses that you can sing along to.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Be sure to be at the Satan’s Cheerleaders EP launch…