After the success of their venerated 2009 album Hope Is For Hopers, Philadelphia Grand Jury took a long hiatus followed by an indefinite parting of ways in 2011. Philly-Jays fans were left sucker-punched, hopelessly awaiting a follow-up album that seemed to have a very foggy future…
But the sun broke through the clouds in late 2013, when Simon Berkfinger, Dan W Sweat, and MC Bad Genius finally decided to kiss, make up, and take their signature hot, sweaty and raucously chaotic show back on the road again to help raise funds for their sophomore album.
The Philly-Jays head to The Cambridge Hotel on Thursday 13 November, and Newcastle Live got the chance to take five with MC Bad Genius…
Together again and ready to hit the road, has the dynamic in the band changed? Did you feel like you had to find your feet again, or did you all fall quite easily back into the swing of things?
The dynamic has always been the same. Berkfinger suggests something and then I suggest something different, not realising that it is diametrically opposed to what Berkfinger has suggested and completely undermines all the unsaid thoughts that Berkfinger had when he suggested it. Then we both argue about it for a little while and feel a bit weird until Dan W Sweat finally decides to chime in and says something incredibly naïve or simple, and we both turn on him and make fun of him. Then we all laugh. Then we play some music and smile at each other and forget all those petty little arguments that are ultimately meaningless.
Had you thought about re-grouping prior to Berkfinger inviting you to join him on the Feelings tour in 2013, or was it on that tour when the Philly-Jays flame was really reignited?
I never thought that we would ever get back together as Philadelphia Grand Jury to be honest. When we broke up, it was like a marriage dissolving and it totally sucked. It was full of heartbreak and emotional scars that I don’t think any of us really wanted to revisit. Over the years, Berkfinger and I only had sporadic contact and it was a bit of a shock to see an email from him pop up seeing if I’d join in on the Feelings tour. It was scary and exciting, and in the end, it was the best way to put the past in the past. It was so fun, that we decided to do a “one-off” Philly Jays show. That was so fun that we decided to do a whole tour. THAT was so fun that we realised we wanted to get together and record a new album.
Your current tour is focused around raising funds to record a follow-up album to Hope Is For Hopers. With your debut offering being so well-received, do you feel the pressure of delivering a stellar sophomore album is increased by the fact that you’re now involving fans in somewhat ‘crowd-funding’ its production?
Nah, there’s no pressure from our fans. The only pressure is knowing that it has to stand up against all the albums that have ever been made. Our first album might’ve been well-received, but it’s certainly not our benchmark. This is a totally selfish venture and we’re going to write an album that excites us all personally and one that we are proud of. And if no-one else likes it, too bad. That being said, I think that if the three of us love it and are proud of it, so will everyone else.
Will there be any surprises or changes in musical direction on your new album?
Bands are always talking about how different their next album is going to be and how excited they are at the new direction they’ve taken their sound, but inevitably it still sounds like the same band because they have such a unique fingerprint with the mix of the different people in the band. It’s the same with us. I think this album is going to be much more sophisticated, with a wider palette of sounds, exploring synths and electronics, feature more intricate songwriting and lyricism and not be bound down to a three-piece guitar rock stereotype. But when we release it, I’m sure everyone will just hear a Philadelphia Grand Jury album. Such is life.
The last time I saw you guys play at The Cambridge in Newcastle Susie Patten was in the line-up, and during your cover of Jay Z’s “99 Problems”, she leapt down into the audience and wailed out the rest of the song engulfed in the crowd. Can fans still expect the same wild, rambunctious, jump-into-the-crowd-and-scream experience from a Philly-Jay’s show?
We’ve been blessed with a lot of amazing drummers over the years and Susie Dreamboat was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But Dan W Sweat is the original and still the best. Playing music with him feels like home. But I’m almost 100% certain the show won’t be constricted to the stage and the walls of the Cambridge will be dripping with sweat by the end. Dan’s only flaw is that he can’t rap out the whole of 99 Problems, so we might need to come up with some other ideas. Or maybe we can get a Susie Dreamboat hologram.
Catch all the Philadelphia Grand Jury chaos next Thurs 13th November at The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle.
Tickets available through Bigtix: http://www.bigtix.com.au/products/964-philadelphia-grand-jury.aspx#.VFrR41ypUVs