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PGJ Alt Press Shot #1

Wikipedia says (so it must be true):  Philadelphia Grand Jury (The Philly Jays) are an Australian trio from Sydney, New South Wales. The band’s current line-up consists of Joel “MC Bad Genius” Beeson on bass, keyboard and guitar, Simon “Berkfinger” Berckelman on vocals and guitar and Dan “Dan W. Sweat” Williams on drums.

The band’s PR machine says: Philadelphia Grand Jury have never done things the conventional way, from launching their first album ‘Hope Is For Hopers’ by playing shows around Sydney on the back of a truck, to recording in a dangerously unfinished building site, to holding a listening party for their latest album ‘Summer Of Doom’ on a free bus around the city.  So it somehow makes sense that they’re embarking on a concept tour, taking their already infamous crowd interaction to the next level.

We says: The Philly Jays are currently on their So You Think You Can Philly Jays? karaoke-style national tour. For half of the show, they are  allowing fans to get up on stage and join the band to sing their favourite Philadelphia Grand Jury songs.  Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips asked some questions of band member Simon Berkfinger about this malarkey and the chap kindly responded.

SB: Hello I am Simon Berkfinger
Hello also

AM: When you decided to do the Karaoke tour, what kind of suggestions were you hoping to get from your fans? Were there songs that you always had earmarked and will play irrespective of whether they were suggested by fans or not but you’ll pretend that they were suggested by fans anyway?
SB: The first lesson of being in a band is that you can’t please everyone. We’ve had some terrible suggestions and some brilliant ones. I think at the end of the day you have to do what you will enjoy, because people can smell inauthenticity from a mile away. Plus every song on the list was chosen at the Brisbane show on Friday, leading to a set that we had to shut down at 1.45am in the interests of public safety.

Would you play Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer?
I would do that for a hot dinner or a lift to the bus station.

With Summer of Doom, (correct me if I’m wrong) I believe you all worked independently in your own studios and then at some point, got together and shared those files with each other to create the album. As opposed to working on it together all the way through. What are the Pros and cons of making an album that way?
I think it made us do something different. We actually started with 10 intense days together in Berlin and then months of people chipping away in their own worlds. It was equal parts liberating and frustrating. I’m glad we did it and I wouldn’t do it again. For the next album, we are focused on being minimal and working together in the room only. I’m sure that will be equally challenging, but you have to keep pushing yourself.

Has anyone developed any new talents since the last tour?
I’ve been building a studio in Sydney, so cutting, drilling, nailing, glueing, gyprocking, acoustics.

What’s everyone bringing on tour gear wise? Give us a rundown. Guitars, amps, pedals, keys etcetera. Any sweet new acquisitions?
We are super fussy so we actually take the van and our own gear everywhere possible. Dan has the same Ludwig classic that he used for all our records and all the Art vs Science records. It even has the original skins from about 8 years ago. There’s something special about that one that I haven’t heard from many of the exact same model that I have heard. I have an older Laney VC30 that I bought from Vijay Khurana of jjj fame for 400 bucks. I have had all sorts of amps but I keep coming back to it. I run a Japanese Fender Mustang through it that I borrowed from my kid sister. Only one guitar as that’s all we can fit in the car. Pedal wise I have my custom fuzz, EH Freeze, Boss DD3 I got for 50 bucks in 1997, and a Fulltone OCD. MC Bad Genius rocks a Japanese Fender Mustang bass I gave him in 2001 because I owed him 500 bucks. It has a 20 cent piece jammed in the machine head for tuning and is covered in a layer of grease. He also has one of my fuzzes and a MusicMaster HD 130 guitar head that he uses for bass.

Berkfinger built his own fuzz pedal, named the Fuzz Genius. What’s great about this pedal and what’s wrong with everyone else’s?
Oh yes that’s me. I made that. I spent a few weeks testing and listening to different Russian and British germanium Transistors and circuits. My pedal is a tweak of a classic circuit, with an unusual combo of caps and resistors that no one has ever used and to my ear sounds insanely good. The idea comes from observing the components in my mixing desks and tape machines and what seems to sound best. Pulling apart other boutique pedals revealed an alarming amount of expensive pedals with cheap components. For an extra few dollars, you can slay these units in terms of tone.

The first time I saw you play, you had announcements coming from the stage but nobody was actually talking, they were pre-recorded or something. Myself and some others in the audience were visibly confused. Is confusion an audience reaction you strive for?
Dude you were tripping, that never happened.

Would you play an ABBA song?
I can. I would.

If you were betting men, when do you reckon another PGJ album would be out?
I would put a lobster down in early 2017. Some weird EPs first I think.

Obviously you enjoy karaoke. Have you embraced any other Japanese fads?
I Iike their beer, whisky, clothes and work ethic. I’m kinky, too.

Berlin is very popular with Australian musicians. What is it about the town that has produced such classic and historical albums in the past?
Cheap drugs and beer. Same thing that produces an equal amount of rubbish records!

Would you play a  Barnesy or Farnsey song?
No. Jimmy Barnes owes our old drummer Calvin 500 dollars.

Seen any other fab bands play lately? What you been listening to?
I like Girlpool. The Oh Sees.

In your song ‘Cake & Eat It Too’, you sing that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I have a cake. What can I do with it then?
Put it in Sydney, wait 2 years and flip it for a profit. Buy more cake on the South coast and repeat.

Would you play that song by that guy, you know the one?
Totally, it’s coming up!

What’s on for the rest of the year once this Australian tour is done?
We are going to kick out own butts to make something weird, catchy and beautiful.

Philadelphia Grand Jury has a new track out too. ‘Spend More Time’ is the first single off an album which will be released later in 2016. ‘Spend More Time’ backing vocals were recorded in a car, in a carpark in Clovelly at midnight and is inspired by the pop vibes of The Triggs!

Remaining tour dates:

Fri 3 June
Transit Bar, Canberra ACT
With special guests
Tickets from
Doors open 8pm

Sat 4 June
Jimmy’s Den, Perth  WA
With special guests
Tickets from
Doors open 8pm

Fri 10 June
Brighton Up Bar, Sydney NSW
With special guests
Tickets from venue
Doors open 8pm

Sat 11 June
Yah Yah’s, MelbourneVIC
With special guests
Tickets from from venue
Doors open 8pm


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