Fresh off the back of the news that a new drummer has taken up residency at camp Philly Jays, Clarence caught up with lead singer Berkfinger to discuss this amongst other basic truths of the universe like why African tigers like the taste of Bloc Party and why this next tour is the biggest and bestest evah-evah.
You are listening to me Clarence on the Music Feeds’ podcast and joining us all the way from London is Simon ‘Berkfinger’ Berckelman of Philadelphia Grand Jury.
Read the Transcript
MF: Hey Simon!
S: Hey. How’s it going?
MF: Good How are you?
S: Ah! I’ve recovered from terrible illnesses.
MF: Terrible Illnesses! And now you’re eating chocolate for breakfast. Am I right?
S: That’s right, and milk.
MF: And milk. Well, you know, I think it goes hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.
S: Milk is built out of chocolate and vice versa.
MF: Milk is built out of chocolate, huh.
MF Wow! They really do things differently over there in the UK
S: These are the basic truths of the universe.
MF: Hey, first things first, though; there’s been a big shake up in the Philly Jay’s camp recently. Tell us what is new?
S: Well, we have a new drummer named Susie Patten, who used to play for I Heart Hiroshima?
MF: From Brisbane. And how did Susie become involved?
S: Well, we were playing with a guy named Calvin,who everyone will remember because he is crazy and great, and when we sat down and had a look at everything we were doing and kind of the realities of what our next few years looked like in terms of trying to be an independent band and release our records all across the world in an independent way, you know, we looked at our needs and wants and Calvin’s and understandably they were a little bit different for someone who is ,you know, fifty-five, has a wife and children back home in Australia and also has already been a poor musician for many years and, you know, I don’t think he was really interested in doing a ridiculous slog, and we totally understood that and so we decided to get Susie, who was really psyched and really great.
MF: Because she was living in Berlin wasn’t she?
S: Yes .she was just over in Berlin and we called her up because she had come to a few of our shows before. When we said, “Hey how do you feel about doing a couple of tours with the group?” She said that would be fucking insanely fun.
MF: So, I Heart Hiroshima is over, it’s done?
S: No, not at all, I don’t think so; she doesn’t speak of it like that. I think her plan was to move to New York next year. You will probably have to ask her what she is going to do there
MF: So she is just a member for the time being?
S: Well, what we decided to do was say we’ve got a couple of big tours coming up and so we will see how they go and see how everyone feels and at that point we can talk about it more, rather than make huge long commitments.
MF: So one of these big tours is a big Australian tour. Am I right?
S: Well two of them, but the second one can’t be announced yet, or something,
S: There’s another Australian tour coming.
MF: But we don’t know anything about it and this conversation did not happen.
S: I guess so.
MF: Well, tell us about the first one.
S: The first one is the Philadelphia Grand Jury’s biggest ever Australian tour. We are going everywhere, and we are going everywhere in a bigger and louder and brighter way than we have before.
MF: And what does that entail?
S: Well it’s going to be Susie’s first ever tour and Susie totally kicks arse, and because we have had a chance to rethink how we are doing the whole show, cause we’ve had to teach a new drummer all the songs it’s given us a chance to put in a whole bunch of new songs and also really reshape the way that we order the set. Anyone who has seen us before will know over the last few years we’ve developed a certain way of doing the show and a whole bunch of songs that you would expect to pop in at certain times and events that occur along with the songs, but we’ve changed everything about that.
S: It’s also our first ever tour with a lighting show. We’ve been indie and living and travelling in a really indie way for the last few years and there has been no crew and no lights and no show, just what we actually do on stage, but now we are in the position where we can add a whole lot of production and, for instance, with the lighting show we have decided to emphasise the old school punk thing and the lighting show is going to be basically pure light, so just white or black, the whole show
S: But really strong white and really strong black and everything in between so…
MF: You guys just kick arse as it is and have such a strong presence about you as it is.. I kind of shudder to think what that’s going to be like with so many other factors involved; shudder in a good, anticipating kind of way.
S: We are hoping it will be fit inducing. We figure it’s time to step up. If people are paying a decent amount of money to see us play in a really big venue we can’t really jump our and attack people the way we usually do and expect that to be enough. We have to have lights plus have a crew, plus have really great stage set up; so, yeah.
MF: So what sort of venues are you doing this time around?
S: I wish could remember stuff like that. I know it looks like the Metro Theatre in Sydney, I’m pretty sure.
MF: Pretty massive.
S: Corner in Melbourne, but the booking agent reckons that’s already going into two corners. We would be stoked to sell out all of those venues but the booking agent is trying to sell out all of them twice.
S: Which would be pretty mind blowing for us, especially since we haven’t been in Australia for six months.
MF: Yeah the last time we saw your pretty faces was probably at Splendour back in July. Am I right?
S: Yes, we were back for a week for Splendour
MF: And then I think, was it straight on to South Africa?
S: Yeah, we went to South Africa. Was it Bloc Party that got bitten by lions or something?
MF: Bitten by lions?
S: I think Bloc Party got bitten by lions.. I am pretty sure that Martin our manager,also got bitten by the same lion.
S: Like we went and we played and patted all these lion cubs. (Laughs). Sorry, my flat mate just pulled a really funny face.
MF: Was it a growly lion face?
S: He got nipped by this lion.
MF: Nipped is a bit different than being attacked by a lion.
S: Well I think he has grown up a little bit more and maybe just did not like the Bloc Party so much.
S: I don’t like them.
MF: You don’t like Bloc Party? Did you set the lions on them? Is that why?
MF: Hey where’ve you been since South Africa, apart from London?
S: We’ve been back at our house in London for the last three months and, ah yeah, wandering the streets, and we did a huge UK tour.
MF: Just in London wandering the streets.
S: Yep we did like about forty shows across the UK. We went to like this weird island across the side of Scotland and we went across to Germany at some point, I can’t remember if that was before or after, and basically we visited every strange town in the UK and everyone of them has a cool music venue and a cool music scene, and a cool crowd
MF: It seems to be the way in the UK.. There’s so many new bands emerging all the time
S: Well, I’d argue that most of those bands are pretty rubbish I mean we have yet to have seen a new UK band that is okay, except for maybe, you should check this one, Dog is Dead,
MF: My most recent kind of favourite discovery from the UK is a band called Veronica Falls
S: I don’t know them
MF: They have this awesome track called Found Love in a Graveyard. You should check it out.
MF: Hey, I have heard rumours that you guys were in the States at some point in time recently
S: Yeah, every time we go to the UK we go through America, so yeah ,we were in America
MF And were you playing shows there as well or is it just kind of a transit zone
S: No no, no. There’s heaps of people that want to see us. In America there are lots of dudes who want to see us and talk businessy stuff. They are pretty into talking business before you do the touring.
MF: Well that helps when it comes to getting bums on seats.
S: Yeah, I guess so, but in England we decided we are Indie so we can do it the way we did it in Australia which is just to turn up in every town and play the show and if there’s twenty people then next time that will be forty; and that has really worked . I don’t know if you can do that in America or not.
MF: I think it is difficult when it comes to doing international tours like that because so much goes into it in the first place and it could be something really great or something really horrible, financially.
S: Well, you just have to be prepared to lose 30 or 40 thousand dollars, which can be tough when you don’t get paid.
MF: You don’t say – just thirty or forty.
S: Your only chance of getting paid is go, go, go off to play some bands; but you always get a holiday.
MF: Has that always been the aim for you guys to conquer the world so to speak
S: No what our aim is to be sustainable to and to get to do what we want so, we want to be a little band all over the world. Lots of people originally said when we started to get popular in Australia “okay, you could be like Powder Finger in Australia and really crazy popular if you work really hard or you can be like a really little band all around the world, you’re probably never going to be a really big band all over the world” and we were like, because we are young guys and want to see the world, and I haven’t had the chance to do that personally, especially, being little all over the world really appealed to me and I don’t need to be huge in Australia. Playing at the Metro is more than I could ever have imagined. I don’t know what a better word than conquering is but yeah, our focus has definitely shifted to all over the world,
S: On our own terms
MF: We are chatting to Berkfinger from the Philly Jays here on Music Feeds.
MF: We’ve been hearing about Save our Town a fair bit on the airwaves over here in Australia. You’ve obviously been writing a fair bit of new material over in London Are we going to see a lot of that when you come out here next month.
S: Well the new tour at the moment, we were rehearsing last night with Susie and there are definitely three new songs in the set list. We only really drop songs if we know they’re kicking arse, especially if they are new songs. It’s hard because people don’t usually dance as much when they hear a song that they’ve known for like a year, but I think those songs are strong and will work and what we’d like to do is slowly introduce them.
MF: Awesome. Well, we look forward to seeing you when you’re back home.
MF: Thanks for joining us Simon. We hope you have an awesome chocolate breakfast in London.
S: It’s over. I just did it.
MF: Oh! It’s done. It happened during that conversation.
S: I can tackle anything ahead of me now.
MF: Awesome. Cool.
MF: Thanks for speaking to us.