Philadelphia Grand Jury

Interview with Simon (lead vocals and guitar) of Philadelphia Grand Jury

Calvin, Berkfinger (aka Simon) and MC Bad Genius (aka Joel), Image: Philadelphia Grand Jury Press Shot

Calvin, Berkfinger (aka Simon) and MC Bad Genius (aka Joel), Image: Philadelphia Grand Jury Press Shot

Interview with Simon (lead vocals and guitar)

How would you describe your music?

Well when we started taking the band seriously about two years ago, we were obsessed with garage-punk stuff and old school rock ‘n’ roll, bands like the Sonics, the Kinks, MC5 and the Stooges, so I think that shaped a lot of the initial sound of the record. Then over time we started expanding our sound, and at the moment we’ve got an Elvis Costello Vibe going on, so right now I’d say we’re kinda garagey-pop – in a sixties garage sense.

What’s with the nicknames?

Well MC Bad Genius, he’s a good guy. He’s very moral, very honest and reliable. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever met in my life, and we thought it would be funny to make him out to be some sort of little evil character. It kind of suits his onstage personality as he’s very kind and calm in person, but when you give him an instrument, for some reason all this other evil stuff comes out and he goes nuts, and usually kicks everything over and breaks everything, and pisses off the venue and the sound guy.

Sort of like a musical Jekyll and Hyde?

Yeah totally, he’s terrible.

Have you met any of your musical heroes through being involved in production and starting the band?

Yeah I’ve met lots of people that used to be my heroes when I was a teenager, for sure. I used to listen to an Australian band named Silverchair, and I’ve since worked in the studio with them. It’s funny being on the same level as those people because you remember seven years ago when you had no opportunity to speak to them, you just had their CD and you wondered what they were like – and now you’re sitting next to them at a mixing desk. That stuff’s always bizarre. One of our heroes we’ve met is a guy named Seymour Stein who runs Sire Records, and he’s put out a lot of really awesome New York new wave bands like Blondie, the Ramones and Talking Heads, and really fostered a lot of great music. Recently he’s come on board as part of our team, and we’ve been hanging out with him a lot. That is extremely exciting.

How are you finding the UK, is it your first time here?

First time here as a band, first time here as a person. I spent so long working that I never really travelled the world much when I was a little younger, but in the last ten months in the band I’ve managed to go across America and to here. It’s pretty bizarre to be suddenly living in another country for the first time. But I think London’s really great, it’s making me realise that the place that I’m from is a small country town in comparison. There are so many people and so many things going on, and it’s got such an energy about it.

How did you end up living in Shoreditch?

When we were talking to people about where to live in London, the vibe was that Shoreditch used to be cool, and it’s pretty nice. We didn’t really look at it much but in the end it was so hard to find a house and we were really desperate, and the only house that we could get just happened to be here so we ended up in Trendy Town. You still have the feeling that somebody’s going to stab you at any point in time. Being Australians in London, it’s pretty much how we feel walking the streets – all the Londoners I’ve spoken to are like “I’ve never been mugged”, but I’ve spoken to three Australians that have been mugged here in the last month. So I just gotta act like a Londoner and toughen up!

How did you find Live at Leeds?

Live at Leeds was great, the people there were amazing! We didn’t know what to expect, but we got down to a venue that was full of total strangers who were really open to us. They started off politely clapping, and by the end were hugging us and cheering like crazy, asking for autographs and telling us we could come and stay at their house next time we were there. That was our first night in England, and it was in Leeds with some really cool people so we loved that.

We’re running a festivals feature this edition – are you playing any festivals this summer?

I don’t have a clue! At the moment we’re playing a whole bunch of gigs all around England in tiny little rooms, I don’t think we’re at the festival stage yet. We’d love to play festivals next year, but right now the small club setting where you can reach out and touch the crowd is kinda where we’re feeling good.

And are there any festivals that you’d recommend?

Well… no actually, I hate festivals! I freak out in big groups of people, and I love being clean… being muddy and crowded and not in control freaks me out like nothing else. But I guess musically there’s one in Australia called the Laneway Festival. It’s like a small festival with really awesome bands from all over the world, and is really peaceful, so that’s probably my favourite festival.

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