It’s a cold Monday afternoon in Geelong, but it must be a beautiful afternoon in Sydney as Philadelphia Grand Jury’s bassist, Joel “MC Bad Genius” Beeson, is skipping work to spend some time in the sunshine.
I was fortune enough to get the chance to chat to him about the band’s upcoming tour, So You Think You Can Philly Jays. The concept for the tour is that they’ll be playing at tiny venues across the country, but handing the mic over to the audience to sing some karaoke with Philly Jays as their backing band.
Beeson explains karaoke has been come a bit of a tradition for the band when they’re on tour lately.
“On most of the tours, we’ve been out after one of the shows and done a bit of karaoke. It tends to be a bit of a tradition now on tour for us. Normally it’s after we’ve all packed up and we’re still a bit wired and we’re like; ‘Let’s try and see if there’s an all night karaoke bar somewhere round here’. It usually ends pretty poorly,” he says with a laugh.
Recently, the band took to their Facebook page to ask their fans for suggestions of songs they’d like to cover. Although he tells me the suggestions were odd, and not quite as classic as they’d anticipated. Beeson confirms that they’ve got “ideas of their own” which will hopefully keep the party going all night.
“There were some really good suggestions as well, one that I think we’re going to try and learn that will be really cool to do will be Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush,” he says.
“I think it’ll be a stretch for us to learn a lot of the other ones that people suggested but we’re going to give it a crack and see how many we can have ready for people to do. We’ve got a few ideas of our own that will be fun as well.”
Philly Jays are full of both brilliant and insane ideas, including playing a show on the back of a moving truck, hosting a listening party for one of their albums on a bus riding around the city and now this, their most outrageous yet, the karaoke tour.
The idea for the tour dates back to last year, when the band had hoped to pull it off, but realised they couldn’t at that point in time. Since then, Beeson says the band were worried that another band was going to do it and they would lose this great idea, before admitting, with a laugh, that he didn’t think any other bands would be “stupid enough to try it” anyway. Beeson reassures us on behalf of band mates (Dan “Dan W Sweat” Williams and Simon “Berkfinger” Berkelman) that “it’s going to be great fun no matter what happens”.
“There’s one [karaoke story] that I wasn’t actually a part of, but there’s footage apparently of Berkfinger singing ‘Love Is In The Air’ by John Paul Young at a karaoke bar in Berlin, completely naked. I’m not really sure how that all eventuated but yeah, apparently there’s video footage of it somewhere. I’m yet to see it and I’m not sure if I really want to, to be honest,” he laughs.
The band have decided to run the shows late, as it’s got to have more of a party feel. Beeson points out that “you can’t really do karaoke at seven at night” as people are hesitant to get involved, but by the time 12 o’clock rolls around, you’re much more forgiving about people singing out of tune. It’s slated to be a chaotic run of shows, and the bearded bass player points out that Philly Jays derive their sense of identity in the midst of chaos – which is why this karaoke tour is both exciting and nerve wracking. The boys are hoping the fact that everything could fall apart, is what will fuel the potential of a really fun time.
Philadelphia Grand Jury is scheduled to play Melbourne’s Yah Yahs on June 11, giving fans the chance to sing their favourite Philly Jays tunes and a few covers with the ‘Jays as the backing band. Don’t miss your chance to belt out ‘Horses’ by Daryl Braithwaite, the staple of Australian karaoke according to Beeson, with one of Australia’s most exciting and innovative bands.
Written by Jack Cherry
When & Where: Yah Yah’s, Melbourne – June 11