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Interview: MC Bad Genius of ‘Philadelphia Grand Jury’

Philadelphia Grand Jury

Philadelphia Grand Jury have been grabbing our attention from the very start. We’ve seen them gig out of the back of a truck, swap out members, and break up for over three years. But they’ve reunited and the group have started creating again with a vengeance. We called the Philly Jays’ guitar, keyboard, and bass player MC Bad Genius (also known as Joel) to talk about their upcoming tour.

This time yesterday you guys were heading into Studio 301 to master your new single. How’s that shaping up?

Really well! Steve Smart, the mastering engineer, is doing a really great job. We were liking it before we even took it to him. Yeah, it sounds awesome. We’re really, really stoked about it!

True to form, your upcoming tour is a bit out of the ordinary. What can we expect from a night of karaoke with the Philly J’s?

(Laughs) Well, we’re not 100 per cent sure yet. We knew that it was a really great idea. Or at least we thought it was at 2am when we were Skyping with Simon in Berlin about it…

That’s when the best ideas happen!

Yeah, right! So we got really hooked on it and we went ahead and planned it. Once we announced it we’re like, “Ok, how do we make this work?” And that’s going to be a much harder task I think!

You’ve performed out of the back of a truck, you’ve held an album listening party in a bus. Where do these ideas come from?

I dunno. I think we’re very conscious of not doing things just for the sake of doing things. We’d rather do something that’s really interesting and fun. Other bands that we’ve met, they’re really creative people, but they’ll have an album listening party and they’ll just go to a bar. Just put the album on and people will listen to it, and they’ll drink some champagne, or something stupid. That’s never been our style.

Our style has always been about doing things that we would be really excited about if our favourite band was doing that, y’know? Like if for some reason The Talking Heads had some reunion tour and they just played in random spot around Sydney, I would love that. That would be incredible! And I think part of it is also that we’ve been a bit of an outsider in the music industry, in a way. Obviously, we had a lot of support from different people, but we’ve had to really be inventive to get ourselves heard. So I think it also comes from necessity.

As I understand it, your last album ‘Summer of Doom’ was recorded under pretty unusual circumstances. What were some of the struggles of putting together an album from different corners of the world?

It was something that we hadn’t really done before. All the stuff on the first album had been us in a room together writing it, and then as soon as we had it written, trying to record it immediately. Building it all up when we’re all together and being able bounce ideas off each other really quickly.

But when you try to do things over the internet, someone will send through a new guitar line, a new vocal part, and then you’ll sit there and you’ll wait for 24hours because of the time difference. Someone’s asleep, and by the time they respond you’re asleep. Then you wake up and you’ve lost all that creative momentum. And thing’s get lost in translation via email so easily. Someone could write, “Yeah, that’s cool.” And you think, does that mean, “Yeah, that’s cool. I love it and it’s really inspiring!”? Or does it mean, “Yeah, that’s cool. That’ll do.”? That was really difficult for us. It was a lesson.

We did the bulk of it in Berlin with Simon at his studio there called Golden Retriever, which was really cool. It’s a really awesome space. So the bulk of the tracks were done there. It’s just the finishing touches, the little bits here and there, that ended up becoming a really frustrating experience. One lesson we’ve learnt about being together was while we were doing some recording when Simon’s been out. We’re going to be re-releasing a new single that’s going to be one of the tracks from ‘Summer of Doom’ reworked where it’s all of us in the one room together. And we’ll actually be lighting it and recording it live. And it sounds so much better. It sounds like a hit, I reckon.

But were you generally happy with the way ‘Summer of Doom’ turned out? How would you describe the album?

I think it’s really cool. I think it’s got an interesting sound going on. I don’t think it’s nearly as immediate as some of our other stuff, which is probably why it didn’t get as much play on radio. And the last time we put out an album we were touring pretty much every second day, and I think that meant more momentum for the band. But I think there are some really cool tracks on there. And there’s some stuff that I really prefer over the first album. But the problem is that we’ve put a lot of extra layers on there, so it’s impossible to play live with just three people.

This album happened after a three year break for you guys. Do think this has affected the dynamic of the group and the sort of work you’ve produced?

Yeah, well we like each other now. (Laughs) It was a good decision. If this album had come out five years ago, it wouldn’t have been a great album. But having that break has meant that we’re really excited to be playing in a band with each other again. And I think with Dan back in the band as drummer, he’s a really great mediator at times. But also he has some really cool ideas of his own that he brings to the table, which have been really inspiring. And it’s definitely made a difference in how we write the songs too. I think everybody feels like it’s a team effort now, which is great.

So what’s next to come now? When do we get to hear your new single?

Well, the original plan was to release the single before we announced the tour. But because of the logistical difficulties of getting three people, who live in different parts of the world, all in the in the same place. It meant that it only got mastered yesterday. So fingers crossed it gets released very, very soon. We just have to get all the other stuff sorted. Hopefully before the tour, a couple of weeks maybe. I just don’t know if that’s 100%. Like most of the time, we have these great ideas conceptually, and pulling them off is a lot harder!

Check out Philadelphia Grand Jury’s “Karaoke” tour dates below!

Philadelphia Grand Jury Tour Dates

The Brightside, Brisbane
Transit Bar, Canberra
Jimmy’s Den, Perth
Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
Yah Yah’s, Melbourne

Get Tickets HERE