Baby Animals were on their way to conquering the world of rock music. Their 1991 debut self-titled record, with its singles Rush You, Early Warning and One Word, catapulted them to the global stage. They went eight times Platinum in Australia, appeared on David Letterman’s show, and toured overseas in support slots with Van Halen and Bryan Adams. Their 1993 sophomore record Shaved and Dangerous saw them tour with Robert Plant across America.
But then the four-piece was dealt a double whammy. In 1994 singer Suze DeMarchi suffered vocal nodules that required her to temporarily step away from the microphone. In 1995, on the brink of the Baby Animals’ first major American headline tour, their US label Imago Records folded.
During these years DeMarchi met and married Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and moved to America.
The writing was on the wall for the band and their career stopped. But DeMarchi always had a sense of unfinished business with the Baby Animals and in 2007 the group reformed to make an acoustic record for Liberation.
“We never stopped wanting to make music, it’s just that we couldn’t record for a while because of contractual stuff,” DeMarchi recalls. “I went and had kids and I was living in another country – it became hard to keep it going. The catalyst [for our reformation] was when we did the acoustic record for Liberation. Dave [Leslie, guitarist] and I did that record in a week in LA and then we thought let’s get the [original] boys back in and we’ll see how that all works on tour. And that was fun, but when it came time to actually start writing a new record it was pretty clear that that line-up just wasn’t going to work – to keep everyone happy. Dave and I continued writing and we got Mick Skelton to play drums and Dario [Bortolin] ended up playing bass on the album. Now it feels like everyone wants to be there, so it works really well.”
Although the Baby Animals left the music scene in the ’90s, DeMarchi and Leslie maintained their musical bond. The guitarist also played on DeMarchi’s 1999 solo record Telelove.
“I call Dave ‘the bright light to my right’,” DeMarchi says. “He has always been really supportive of me and I’ve always loved the way he plays. Over the years he would send me pieces of music and when I was in Australia we’d get together and work on stuff.”
The new Baby Animals line-up has already played a series of comeback gigs and the fans returned.
“I was very surprised,” DeMarchi says. “Once the word got out and we started engaging with people online, it gave us instant access. We could actually talk to them online directly. I had a moment a few months ago when we played at The Factory in Sydney and I stopped towards the end of the show and I thought ‘wow’. Our fans have incredible loyalty, they’re the reason why we can keep doing this. If they didn’t come to the shows we wouldn’t be able to keep playing. It’s a hard business to maintain on any level – even starting out again, it’s a whole different world now. We’re lucky to have that fanbase.”
DeMarchi returned to Australia following her separation from Bettencourt in 2009, who she divorced this year, paving the way for the Baby Animals’ new studio recordThis Is Not The End.
“I moved back [to Australia] so I could work more and also because I wanted my kids to be near my grandparents and have some Australian childhood as well, and not be that whole ‘Beverley Hills thing’ too much,” DeMarchi says. “It was a really tricky time from when we moved back and then until my marriage ended – and that was like ‘Wow, ok.’ I guess this record was a bit of a saviour for me because it gave me something to put my time and thoughts into. It’s good to have something to wake up to every day. It was a really tough time.”
Musically, This Is Not The End sees the band pick up where they left off. It’s a collection of hard-rocking, hook-laden numbers.
“Our first album was purely us as a unit and there wasn’t much outside influence – it sounded like we sounded, who we were,” DeMarchi explains “The second record got a little bit fancy and a little bit rushed. This [new] record sounds exactly as it was meant to – there’s nothing fancy about it. We just let the songs dictate how we should produce them and where they should go. Email was the last song we wrote for the album and we wrote it very quickly and we just left it – we didn’t play with it too much.”
The first single, Email, is unmistakably a break-up song. There’s no misconstruing the lyrics of the track’s breakdown: “You said it in an email – 18 years in an email.”
“I tend to write about things that are going on in my life and I do write exactly what I’m thinking,” DeMarchi says. “Sometimes I read them back and I think ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can say that.’ Like with Email, I thought ‘I don’t think I can put that’ – but then I thought fuck it. What are you going to do? It’s part of who you are – and it’s part of being an artist. Everyone goes through that stuff and there’s something really good about opening your chest up to people and just saying ‘This is what I felt that day’ and if someone relates to it, great. You should write what you’re feeling and let it come out.”
DeMarchi admits that in the early days she was more willing to censor her lyrics so their human subjects weren’t as obvious.
“The [early] songs were more flippant – I wasn’t going through divorce when I wrote those songs,” the singer says. “But there was heavy subject matter – there was still relationship stuff and death and people who had affected me. I’m not a political writer – I just like four-on-the-floor rock music and I like to keep things simple.”
And the singer’s barbs made it to Bettencourt’s ears.
“I did have to apologise to my ex for a couple of those songs,” DeMarchi laughs “I did say, ‘Look, sorry about a couple of those lyrics – whoopsies.’ He was very gracious – he said, ‘Oh well, it worked for Adele didn’t it?’ So it’s all good.”
The Baby Animals’ tour launched in the Hunter and was called “Feeding The Birds”. The name stems from a now infamous moment, captured on camera, in which DeMarchi spat red wine into the willing mouth of a punter in the front row.
“It’s kind of funny because it was a spur of the moment thing that happened one night at one particular show,” the singer recalls.
But following the incident, perhaps unsurprisingly, more fans came to Baby Animals shows in the hope of being “fed” wine by the gorgeous front woman.
“This one girl I did it to came back to a show nine months later and she was very pregnant,” DeMarchi says. “She said ‘Look what you did to me!’ It has turned into this running gag, so we decided to call it the Feeding The Birds Tour. It doesn’t happen every show, only in the right moment. Sometimes the front row looks a bit dodgy and you don’t want to do anything to them, you know?”