Dave Gleeson is 43 years old, has enjoyed a long and fruitful musical career, but right now, he feels on top of the world. Speaking to Gleeson from his home in the Adelaide Hills after arriving in at midnight on a flight from Perth, he sounds remarkably chipper and upbeat. And why shouldn't he be? After spending four years singing with Aspect and covering Angels songs, Gleeson now finds himself as the lead singer of the 2011 reincarnation of Australia's legendary pub rock ensemble.
With two new, bombastic-sounding songs in tow (Wounded Healer and Waiting For The Sun) Gleeson and The Angels carry a rejuvenated tone. It's a tone that could only be the result of a fortuitous accident, one which brought Gleeson and the famed Brewster brothers together.
"It all happened by accident, really," explains Gleeson. "I live in the Adelaide Hills now, and John and Rick Brewster were doing a show at a nightclub around there. I went up to see the show and sidled up close towards the stage, as singers are prone to do. Finally they asked me up onstage to sing a few songs. I ended up doing four or five songs. After the show we got to talking. They said they'd been doing some recording, and at the time, Doc Neeson was otherwise engaged. So they asked me if I wanted to step in. And things just went from there."
Bringing in a singer who covered originals in the past may seem like a clichéd formula, but the current Angels laid to rest any doubts after two warm-up gigs. While Angels fans were incredibly receptive, word is that the industry types were also impressed. Gleeson's enthusiasm is a contagious one, and when asked if, when playing with The Angels, he's reminded of his time spent with Aspect opening for the band, Gleeson takes it one step further.
"It's definitely one of those things that I have to always stop and pinch myself," says Gleeson with a slight chuckle. "I can't believe it's really happening. Before we did those first two showcase gigs, John came over to my house and was showing me some of the new songs. I couldn't believe it: John Brewster was in my kitchen! Certainly as a young boy in Cardiff, I never thought it would come to this."
The two new songs that the band previewed both contain a certain buoyancy and sonic magnitude. If played for someone who'd never heard The Angels before, the songs could be mistaken for a young band, enthused to be recording for the first time. Indeed, there is a palpable sense of rejuvenation within the songs, one which Gleeson is obviously aware of.
"It's a real thrill to be sitting there with both Rick and John. There's so many amazing songs that they've written over the years. To be giving credence to write the lyrics to new songs is an incredible endorsement. It's been a lot of fun, doing the recording, and like I said, I've had to pinch myself all the time."
While Gleeson's excitement over his new position as lead singer in The Angels has been firmly established, enthusiasm can only charm so many. The Angels, one of Australia's most revered acts, carry a loyal fanbase. When asked how he is dealing with the inevitable pressure that comes with playing for discerning fans, Gleeson takes on more a pragmatic tone. He understands that, at the end of the day, he has a job to do.
"I think there is a certain amount of pressure, because I'm also just trying to impress the band as well. There's been a bit of an audition phase, or an apprenticeship. Obviously the fans are there to see that I'm not trashing the legacy of The Angels. That's been my biggest motivation: to get up there and deliver these amazing songs with all the energy and gusto that I can. It's definitely something in my mind, that nobody wants to see me mess with these Angels songs, that's for sure."
Gleeson and The Angels were recently afforded the opportunity to get a little perspective on their jobs as musicians, with a trip to Japan to play a few benefit gigs for tsunami and earthquake victims. Gleeson and the band walked away with a sense of both empowerment and responsibility. The Angels of 2011 cannot be mistaken for a group of musicians that lack maturity.
"It was actually really amazing. It was organized by an Australian expat who wanted to do something for Japan. He'd been there for 30 years and loved the place. It was originally meant to be a 50th birthday party, but once the tsunami hit, it was decided to turn the gig into a benefit to put 25 orphaned children through school for the next ten years. It was an incredible feeling; just to be over there, hanging out with expats the whole [time] and to see how much they loved this country and how badly they wanted to do something for the people there was a good indictment on mateship. As a band, it made us feel great."
With two new songs in tow and a renewed sense of purpose, this may be a lineup that fans of The Angels, both old and new can get behind. Gleeson insists that the two new tracks the band will be playing live are just the start; he's a shining example of how excitement over one's craft breeds fantastic results.
"Work has begun on a new album for next year. We've got ten songs recorded in their infancy. I'm looking forward to it though. It may be a new look for The Angels, but we're hoping next year there's going to be something big on the way from us."
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
The new look Angels play The Commercial Hotel in South Morang on Thursday December 1, The Ferntree Gully Hotel on Friday December 2 and The Chelsea Heights Hotel on Saturday December 3.