To celebrate the release of Philadelphia Grand Jury's eagerly awaited new album, Summer Of Doom, band members Joel "MC Bad Genius" Beeson, Simon "Berkfinger" Berckelman and Dan "Dan W. Sweat" Williams took some time out of their schedules to craft an exclusive track-by-track rundown of the entire record for The Music!
Give it a spin while having a read of the creators' thoughts, grab the album here and get across their impending tour dates in theGuide or The Music App; the Philly Jays get under way at The Brightside, Brisbane, on Friday 23 October, taking in performances in Sydney (24 October), Adelaide (29 October), Melbourne (31 October) and Hobart (6 November) before wrapping up on Saturday 7 November at Amplifier, in Perth.
JOEL: This track was recorded and re-recorded at 5 different studios over 4 years and I can't really remember what part belongs to which recording session, as we just frankenstein-ed it all together. I don't even know what instruments any of us played on it anymore. Except Dan definitely did the drums. Well done, Dan.
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SIMON: This is one of the only songs that was kept from the original abandoned second album sessions and was written with hero drummer Calvin Welch in a dingy studio space in South London. We took it to Berlin, re-recorded it, jazzed it up a little, fixed the lyrics and it ended up being pretty banging!
DAN: “I played the drums on this song.”
JOEL: You know, this might just be my favourite song on the album. It took forever to get that 7/8 guitar part exactly right because I've got fat fingers and it was quite high up on the neck of the guitar. Also, I'm not really a guitarist. And check out Dan's vocoder vocal chords in the 3rd verse - it takes the song to the NEXT LEVEL.
SIMON: MC Bad Genius turned up to the studio with this cute little riff and immediately the first verse popped into my head. This is one of my personal highlights on the record and for me it kind of sums up my last few years; Coming and going, disappointing people when you leave AND when you return…Dan came up with the loud bit - of course- and it’s a bit like that good Spiderbait album with all those songs on it. He also cooked up the vocoder choir thing at his place back in Sydney and he was so happy with it I had to let him keep it.
DAN: I feel like Berkfinger and Bad Genius were just being nice to me on this one. Bad Genius had the little guitar lick for the verse and we very quickly nutted out the structure. I think maybe in like 10 minutes? Then we recorded it and kept the first or second take I think. I remember thinking it was all over the place but now when I hear it it seems to make more sense. Maybe because it has words now.
JOEL: Berkfinger wrote this one about a month before we went to Berlin and when he sent it to us over email, it didn't really make sense. But once we had finished the recording, we listened back to it again and realised that it fit perfectly with the rest of the album. Maybe Berkfinger knows what he's talking about ...
SIMON: This song is a direct reply to the John Steel Singers song ‘Happy Before’. I saw it on Rage one night when back on tour in Australia and then a few months later I woke up in the middle of the night and recorded a little demo.I play all the instruments on this one. So there…
DAN: This was all Berkfinger on this one. I like how the cymbals go backwards. And the song. I like the song.
JOEL: This is essentially what jetlag sounds like. When we recorded this song, it was meant to be our de-lag/setup day, but we all got so excited about recording together again, we just went for it. At the end of the night when we listened back to it, any nerves we had of trying to write and record an album in 10 days were completely gone.
SIMON: This one nearly didn’t make the album, but I don’t really know why as it sounds alright to me now. Tim Whitten our mate and co-producer had terrible jetlag and the flu for the first few days of recording and his very first contribution to the record was how to play the weird guitars in this song. I wonder if he would have had such a cool idea if he was thinking straight? The best thing about this song is that I have two friends called Chris.
DAN: This was the first one we wrote and recorded in the Berlin sessions. I was messing around on Berkfinger's Oberheim DX fresh with that weird jetlag energy. Berkfinger said something about LCD Soundsystem doing it already so I played the beat on the drumset. And then I think the others might have done something too.
JOEL: There are only two things I can remember about this track. The first is that for some strange reason I let Dan hit the guitar strings with brushes (while I played the chords) instead of just strumming with a pick and the second is that Berkfinger hates (or at least) hated the bridge because when we first hummed it on the way to getting haloumi & felafel rolls, he thought it sound like Bangla dance music. Strange guy. PS - Dan's drumming on this track is INSANE!
SIMON: A late and controversial addition to the album, after Bad Genius and Dan Sweat had a curry. Dan really wanted to have an Indian rhythm on the record and somehow it turned out like this as we had just watched a Ramones documentary the night before. I had very little to do with it all and was naturally really against it, until I developed this little story about my wife’s very awesome but very stressful job.
DAN: Berkfinger I think was embarrassed by this one at first. I was just excited because I got to play a fast thing. We recorded Bad Genius's guitar with me playing the strings with brushes whilst he fingered the chords. It wasn't a great idea but it remains on the album as a sort of slightly-out-of-time version of what normal guitar would have sounded like. Berkfinger added the outro after we left for Sydney. I think it adds a nice pensive counterbalance to the blatant straight forwardness and meatheadedness which is at the heart of the song.
JOEL: A lonely man, sitting with a lonely acoustic guitar, while a lonely synth quietly sputters into disrepair in the background. I think it's quite lovely, really. Who knew Berkfinger was such a softie?
SIMON: This one came together really easy and I really like it. The synth line is me testing my Yamaha synth trying to find a sound. I recorded a bunch more takes and then ended up going back to this messed up, broken one.
DAN: Berkfinger wrote and recorded this one after we had returned to Sydney. He had emailed it to us and Bad Genius and I listened to it on my phone whilst standing in the Austinmer market carpark. It was after many weeks of emails back and forth with Berkfinger during which time it became apparent that he might have been going batshit crazy trying to write all the lyrics and mix the record during small windows of studio availability in an increasingly darkening Berlin winter. So I heard this and thought "Oh boy, maybe we should actually send someone to help?". But I also really liked it.
JOEL: As soon as I heard this song, I immediately loved it. There is something really fresh and exciting about it and I think it's all down to the somewhat erratic vocal take from Mr Berkfinger. I wanted to record some backing vocals, but it was midnight and I live in an apartment, so I drove down to the carpark at Clovelly Beach and recorded them in my car. If you strain, you can only just here them in the last chorus. Worth it.
SIMON: Haha, now begins the real album! Side Two my friends!!! I was listening to Link Wray and the Troggs and I thought it would be fun to try and play like a teenager again. Everything is me and first take, for that reason. If Dan drummed on this one it would be better, but I really wanted to get it on this album so you are just gonna have to get with my rhythms. The guys were very supportive throughout, for which I thank them.
DAN: This one was all Berkfinger. Written and recorded after Bad Genius and I had flown back to Sydney. It was a real late edition and a real keeper. I like the verb on the vocals very much. Also whenever Berkfinger plays drums it has a certain spontaneity to it that I often envy. One of my favorites.
JOEL: This is the only other song besides Crashing & Burning Pt II that existed in any form before the "Berlin sessions". We just added more and more guitars and synths and percussion and vocals over the top until it sounded horribly bloated and then we pulled almost all of them off again. Remember, less really is more.
SIMON: This one is the only other one not recorded in Berlin. It was tracked live to analogue tape (except the voice) at the now defunct Megaphon studio in Sydney. Some days I hate it, some days I love it. At least it’s divisive. Better than vanilla.
DAN: This is my favorite song and Berkfinger's least favourite! Berkfinger had recorded the distorted acoustic loop and his vox about 4 or 5 years ago and I played the drums along to that demo back then too. We really liked the sounds and I think the only thing we did in Berlin was Bad Genius's bass and a few synth flourishes. Maybe Berkfinger re-did some vox. I think he dislikes the song but maybe in that way like when you dislike a movie version of your favorite book. It might still be good but you have the inside scoop and your perspective is all messed up…
JOEL: This was quite possibly the most difficult song of the whole album. The only thing that remained from the original recording was Dan's drum take and then the rest of the song evolved over months of internet back-and-forth. It's just lucky that a couple of strokes of genius at 3am in the morning on different sides of the planet tied it all in together!
SIMON: The only song on the album that was really hard to finish. It started as a Talking Heads disco jam and we couldn’t think of all the parts or melodies in Berlin so it was set aside. Then I got an Alesis Midiverb II effects unit for Christmas and the guitar parts led the way to vocal parts, which led the way to MC Bad Genius’ synth parts, which I believe were recorded in his car. You can still get Midiverbs for 30 bucks sometimes and they are wicked. Dave Fridmann uses one all over all the Flaming Lips catalogue and also the Tame Impala albums he was involved with, which to me are definitely the best ones by the way. The reverse reverb setting is also responsible for almost all of Kevin Shield’s wall of guitar sound on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.
DAN: This song started out with a lyric: "Don't you say it doesn't matter when it does". We left Berlin thinking it was totally done! Then Berkfinger removed everything except the drums and started over. I think this song had the most back and forth emails / Skype sessions of any. Except maybe Sugar In My Diet…
JOEL: Have I already said that a song was my favourite on the album? I think I've changed my mind. Everything about this song makes me smile. Dan's slacker beats, the woozy keyboard in the choruses, Berkfinger's wailing in the outro, the overbearing synth solo in the middle of the song. There are probably about 20 alternate versions of the song that we could have used because every time someone put another idea on top of the track, it just worked perfectly. The only difficulty we had in finishing it was choosing which combination of perfection to go with.
SIMON: I am basically addicted to everything that I try, which is why I have never tried smoking in my life, or heroin.
DAN: This one was very blissful to write and record. Sort of plodding and simple. I think we thought it sounded like Surfer Blood at first but I don't hear that now. Because we were writing most of this stuff on the spot, if we couldn't think of an idea within like 10 minutes then we moved onto something else. We didn't have a bridge, but we thought we were doing well with all the other bits so we just recorded it. And during the bridge, I just didn't play anything…
JOEL: This whole song was inspired by a stupid marching beat that Dan and I were stomping out while walking back from a Benjamin Booker gig that Berkfinger's wife had bought us tickets to. When we setup the next day, we put together a bass and drum track that was cool, but went absolutely nowhere until Berkfinger pulled that tidy little guitar motif from the recesses of his mind.
SIMON: I love the drum and bass playing on this. The drums, bass and guitar are all one live take with no edits. It was originally our attempt to rip on Talking Heads Psycho Killer. Later I was mixing an album for someone else, over the internet so I was spending a lot of time on my own. On my walk to get a sandwich for lunch, I was noticing a lot of people walking the streets of Berlin, in love and having fun. I got into a real outsider mindset and spent some time trying to understand why I am doomed to never actually enjoy myself, no matter what good comes my way. This is the result.
DAN: I think this one was my favorite to record. Bad Genius played this bass thing for about 30 seconds, then Berkfinger hit record and we straight up played what you hear on the record. As in, you hear the song being written! I remember thinking Berkfinger was crazy for wanting to keep that take as there's all kinds of fluffs and a big crazy fill that has no place in this universe. But he insisted and now I thank him for his insolence. We had some fun playing synth overdubs and acoustics and Berkfinger wrote some great lyrics after we left.
JOEL: Such a pretty song. Berkfinger used a guitar where the two bottom strings were an octave higher which is what gave it such a unique tone and if Dan hadn't been so terribly hungover and unable to bear the sound of a cymbal being hit, I don't think we would've gotten such a perfect drum take. I was just happy to spend the day sitting at a grand piano. It's honestly my favourite thing to do in the whole world. Now just to fit one into my apartment somehow ...
SIMON: This song is a conversation between a tiny person and a big person. One could say the big person is in charge. The little person just wants to get by. The inspiration for the music was this tiny little Fender Musicmaster guitar, which is a children’s model from the 60s. Someone had left one laying about here at the studio and it was in a high pitched tuning called ‘Nashville Tuning’. Now we have to buy one I guess.
DAN: Berkfinger started playing these chords on his weird little miniature guitar thing. I think he was hoping for it to be a double time thing but I was kind of spacing out and played a sort of lumbering half time beat. I think we recorded the 2nd or 3rd run through of the song and just kept playing during the outro, which is something that PGJ never does. We usually wanna wrap that shit up! Keep it under 2 mins! But instead we had a song with many layers at the end that we ended up needing to do a fade. Outrageous self indulgence!