Image for Philadelphia Grand Jury – Touring it big time

Philadelphia Grand Jury – Touring it big time

Written by Jason Strange on December 16, 2010

You know ’em, you love ’em and you seemingly can’t get enough of ’em. Philadelphia Grand Jury have had a massive year of touring the globe and releasing the brilliant record Hope Is For Hopers. Having returned to Australia to hit the road yet again you’d think the band would take a break over Xmas and New Year?

Wrong! They’re going to keep driving around the country but this time with Bluejuice and Purple Sneakers DJ’s for The Sizzling Tour. The band answered a few quick questions with Jason Strange about the year that was, what the new year will bring and updates us on how the new record is shaping up.

MF: You’re about to join Bluejuice on the Sizzling Tour, what are you most looking forward to on this tour?

PGJ: This is going to be the first tour in quite a while where there aren’t any drives of more than 5 hours in between shows, so its going to be nice to have time to sleep in AND go to the beach. Then we get to play shows to people who are going nuts and singing all the songs back to us. Its pretty much the dream summer and there isn’t anything about it that I’m not looking forward to. Except for being around our manager too much. He’s touring with us as part of the Purple Sneakers DJs, so we’re going to see him EVERY SINGLE DAY. AAAARGGGHHHH!!!!

MF: You’ve had a pretty hectic tour schedule the last few months and heading into the new year, is it getting hard to stay pumped to play every night?

PGJ: We worked out the other day that we’ve done almost 300 gigs in the last 2 years, which seems pretty crazy. But the only time its been hard to pull myself together for a show was when we played 7 gigs in a day and the last one was on the rooftop of the Abercrombie Hotel and we had to lift all the gear up to the roof on some really dodgy scaffolding. Apart from that, why would it be hard to get pumped to play? We’re musicians. Playing music is what we do and we love doing it. Are there really bands out there that struggle with that?

MF: This year you spent 6 months in London, how was that experience?

PGJ: It was a really awesome experience. We started by playing heaps of shows in London, then embarked on a tour to pretty much every town we could find all over England and Scotland. After we’d play, almost everyone would come up and say hello and thank us for bothering to come to their town. It seemed that the further we had to drive to a gig, the better it was. We even caught a ferry for 2 hours to an island off Scotland and played to a bunch of people in Stornoway Island people are a funny people, but they were very welcoming.

London is a pretty funny place though. There is so much going on there, but its a huge spread-out city and you really need someone to take you around and show you what’s going on. Even though there was so much inspiration there, we weren’t really able to find many bands that we fell in love with and that bummed us out a little.

But we managed to find ourselves a studio space to rent. It was in a ghetto area just around the corner from Milwall FC, who apparently have the craziest fans in the whole country. We’d normally keep the roller door open to let some air in, but not when they had a home game. That’s when things got rough.

MF: How was the tour of the States?

PGJ: America is such a huge country and we realised that it was probably too big to tackle properly just yet. So even though we went there a few times this year, we only played in New York, Boston and LA.

On our last time there, we played heaps of showcase shows for the CMJ Music Marathon, which is kind of like SXSW but run by college music stations. Those kind of shows are often really hard because the audience is a bunch of music industry schmoes who are looking for the next thing they can hype like crazy and make a quick buck off. But we played a really awesome warehouse party in Patti Smith’s rehearsal room under a cool art gallery in Chelsea and then at a lunch-time show at the associated music conference, Berkfinger took over on the drums and stripped totally naked. It was … weird.

MF: You’ve just re-released Hope Is For Hopers with bonus tracks and a DVD, why didn’t the bonus tracks make it to the first cut of the album and why are they included now?

PGJ: When we first started playing, we only played 20 minute sets because we didn’t want anyone to have a chance of being bored. That slowly stretched out to about 30 minutes by the time we originally released the album, but we had the same thought about the album itself so we intentionally kept it short. So a lot of songs had to be cut, even though we thought they were good songs.

Then someone suggested that we re-release the album to coincide with this tour and just tack on our new single. Obviously, we thought that was pretty lame and decided that if we were going to actually re-release the album, we were going to make it special. So we added all the songs that hadn’t made it originally, plus we filmed a live DVD at a kid’s house party in suburban Brisbane. It was a really sketchy operation, but I think it captured our spirit perfectly.

MF: Have you started thinking about the next album?

PGJ: We’ve got about 40 or 50 songs already in some form of existence. The only problem now is that it can be a bit overwhelming when we go down to the studio to work on them. If we were more structured people, we could probably come up with a plan of attack. But that’s not really our style. We just work on inspiration, so by the time we’re actually ready to release the album, I’m sure there will be even more half-songs floating around that we haven’t had a chance to work on properly.

But even the songs that are half-done are twice as good as the songs on our first album. So by my calculations, once finished, the album will be 4 times as good as the last one. Maybe 5 times.

MF: You guys seem pretty hard on drummers having just replaced another one, are you that difficult to work with!!

PGJ: Everyone thinks we’re cursed with drummers, but I think its all back-to-front. Although we’ve had a few drummers now (including a drum machine for one desperate night), they’ve all been inspiring for us and have taken the band to a new, different place. And Susie seems to be the best fit for us so far, so its nice to keep taking steps forwards every time we get broken up with.

MF: If you could cover a Bluejuice song on the tour which one would you play? And if they could cover one of your tracks, which one would you like them to play?

PGJ: We aren’t going to play a Bluejuice song on this tour. And we aren’t going to find another song that Bluejuice and us are going to create a “superband” to play. Bands do that all the time and it always sucks. Although to be fair, whenever it has happened when we’ve been on tour, Berkfinger has always been drunk enough that he can’t stand not being involved and runs on stage madly hitting a tambourine. At least it provides me with some personal enjoyment.

MF: What would be the first song you’d put onto a mix tape?

PGL: I actually made a mix tape for 6 of our fans that bought a ridiculous deluxe package deal for one of our tours earlier in the year. It was on a cassette and I hand drew the cover. My art skills are stuck at the level of a 4 year old, so it had rainbows and flowers on it and was full of lots of bright colours. It ended up looking a lot more deranged than I had intended.

Anyways, the song that I based the entire mixtape around was “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric. Its just perfect. Berkfinger and I even played it at a friend’s wedding last year.

MF: Whats in store for the Philly Jays in 2011?

PGJ: It looks like its going to be busier than the last two years, which is kind of scary. There’s a UK tour planned where we want to play in every town that we visited earlier this year and maybe some other places that we didn’t get to last time.

Apparently Ireland is amazing, so it would be cool to get across there too. And if we have enough money, we want to do a proper tour of America, but that might still be a little bit out of reach for us right now.

And we’ve gotta finish this next album, but we can’t find a place anywhere in Sydney that’ll work (and that we can afford). So we’re starting to look everywhere else in the world for options. New York is amazing, but expensive. Berlin is cheap, but freaking cold in the winter. Buenos Aires is exciting, but its actually insane. Barcelona might work too. Its pretty crazy really to think that we even have these as options.

Philadelphia Grand Jury are on their Save Our Town tour.

Thursday 16th December – Caringbah Bizzo’s, Caringbah
Tickets from here

Friday 17th December – Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale
Tickets from here

Saturday 18th December – Waves Nightclub, Wollongong

Tickets from here

Friday 31st December – The Pyramid Rock Festival, Phillip Island

Tickets from here

Friday 31st December – The Espy, The Esplanade, Melbourne
Tickets from here

The Sizzling 2011 Tour with Bluejuice and The Purple Sneakers DJ’s
December 28th to January 23rd
Tickets from here

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