You've got to question a band that after one LP compares themselves to greats like Sly and the Family Stone, but it seems PHILADELPHIA GRAND JURY frontman Berkfinger thinks it's where they're headed. "We're feeling ready for everything that might come our way," he says from the backseat of a cab. "This album [their debut, Hope is for Hopers] is just the first step in a big plan that we've got. I think we'll hole ourselves up like Sly did with the next and see what comes from it." With such certainty and conviction, they're a band that's almost impossible to go unnoticed.
The humble beginnings of the duo are pretty legendary, really. Berkfinger was playing a solo gig when, after years of not seeing each other, one old friend (aka MC Bad Genius, the other half of PGJ) wandered on and started playing along. Since then the band have smashed airwaves with their monster hit Going to the Casino and created what's sure to be a sensation, Hope is for Hopers. "I wrote that song [Going to the Casino] about four years ago actually," Berkfinger explains. "Then I came back to it one day and it's ended up being huge for us. Some of the songs are so old and others are really new. None of the stuff on the album matches up, but it makes a fun mess."
Spending his days as an engineer at Sydney's Big Jesus Burger Studio and all night working on the record, you'd think the process would be a relatively pain-free one but Berkfinger admits it was the exact opposite. "Making it drove us crazy for a while," he says. "I thought I'd know exactly what to do with it, but I just wanted to change it all the time. Most of this album ended up being recorded at my grandparents, actually. There's a loft above the garage and over time I turned it into a little studio and have recorded so much stuff there, but I think I'm starting to drive them crazy."
Visits to grandparents are likely to be few and far between as the lads kick off a nationwide tour, with Berkfinger admitting "we're always on planes or in taxis zooming around the country. But it's good you know, we've put in a lot of work to get here and it's crazy and there's not much sleep but it's a lot of fun and it's always exciting. We've reached the point where we can look out into the audience and it's not just our friends." At this point Berkfinger laughs and concedes "MC Bad Genius gets pretty excited and has been known to hurt a few audience members in the past, so Canberra should watch out." By this time his certainty extends to knowing there's a plane to catch and a gig to play that night, aspirations of musical greatness still to chase, and no signs of slowing down anywhere in sight.
Philadelphia Grand Jury will make a stop in the capital for a free show at Transit Bar on Thursday October 29. Get there early!