Australian iconic rock band The Screaming Jets refused to let COVID impact their plans to put out new music this year, with the band deciding instead to rework and re-record five of their classic tunes and assemble them on one E.P. Favourites “Helping Hand”, “Shivers” “Sad Song”, “Friend of Mine” and “October Grey” have all received special treatment and are out now neatly packaged under the moniker Bitter Pill.
HEAVY sat down with enigmatic frontman Dave Gleeson for the lowdown on all things Screaming Jets and couldn’t resist asking straight up where and how the title Bitter Pill comes into play.
“I came up with it,” he laughed, setting the tone for the chat, “but it came from when I was in Year 12 and we did a review, like a school concert at the end of the year, and I’m just so glad people don’t have pictures of me dressing like the Pointed Sisters and everything that entailed (laughs), because you know I’d be getting hunted on social media for sure… but I also played the Pope – I played a Pointed Sister and the Pope because I went to a Catholic school – so the question from the interviewer was ‘and Your Holiness, what do you think of contraception?’ and I said (in his best Transylvanian accent) ‘well, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, you know’. That’s always stayed with me so when we were doing this the Bitter Pill…it’s been a bitter pill to swallow the 2020 season…”
With all five songs taken from three consecutive records – Tear of Thought, World Gone Crazy and the self-titled (Gorilla) album – I pose the question of favouritism but Gleeson quickly shrugs that off.
“It’s just coincidence, really,” he offered. “We thought we’d give “Better” a rest because we’ve probably recorded about 400 different versions over the years (laughs) and picked songs that we love playing live. Songs like “October Grey” take on a whole new life when they’re played live. They’re much heavier than on the record so that was good fun to do and “Friend of Mine” is the highlight for me because we got to put Pauly’s vocals out the front. He’s got an amazing powerhouse voice and probably the last 4 or 5 years he’s been singing “Friend of Mine” in the encore on his own – we like to give him his moment in the sun – plus, we like to have a smoke before we have to go back on (laughs). Pauly’s voice is unreal and I’m glad we’ve got it out there up the front for everyone to hear.”
It is also interesting to note that all five songs are amongst the slower songs put out by The Screaming Jets, with Gleeson admitting that was more a matter of being the right fit for the situation the band found themselves in.
“It was a matter of… we were gonna do a new album and we were supposed to be booked in to get into a studio and when you’re all in the studio together that’s where you nut songs out and hammer them into shape. Because we couldn’t get in there together we decided we would see about this new technology that children have been using, because obviously people record like this and have been for the last ten years or so with pro tools, and we’ve always been purists and go into the studio to record but we thought we’d give it a try and see how it worked out for us and see if we could get a good sound out of isolated recordings and low and behold we did. I think the more mellow songs weren’t gonna be that difficult for us to get in on our own. That’s the hard part, not hanging out with your mates while you’re singing and going ‘hey, listen to this, I’m amazing’ (laughs). I think some songs kind of fell into place but it is strange they all come from that period”.
In the full interview, Dave discusses the changes made to the original versions and why they made them, if he prefers the originals or new versions better, the video for “Helping Hand” and differences between making a video in isolation, the possible release of all five of the songs, next years tour that was postponed from this year, the upcoming 30th anniversary of debut album All For One and what The Screaming Jets have planned to celebrate it, new music and more.
Watch “Helping Hand” below:
Watch the visual representation of the EP below: