After winning our hearts as the lead singer Philadelphia Grand Jury disappeared for a little while, or so we thought. In reality, he relocated to Germany with over 300kg of music equipment opened a studio called Golden Retriever and after recording a whole heap of other bands and himself at the random times in between, he found he had 70 songs and was ready to form a band again.
So now he's back from Berlin with his new project Feelings and new single "One in a Million" which while vocally sees him take a very different vocal route than we're used to hearing from him, still brings the same sense of joy and excitement that Simon was known for with the Philly Jays.
How did your new band Feelings come about?
Well, my other band broke up and I was a little bit sad and a bit confused and scared so I decided to really embrace that and I moved over here to Germany last March. Because I always have a recording studio on the go I ended up shipping all my stuff here all 300kg of it and setting up a studio here and then I started recording music and suddenly I had 70 songs. I really didn't set out to make a new band but I realised once I had the music that I still wanted to do it again.
The vocals on One in a million are really different to what we heard from with the Philly Jays. Will there be more vocals like that from you on the upcoming album?
There is some falsetto, there's one track that actually sounds a lot like Prince, but there's also some low stuff as well. For this song, One In a Million, I recorded falsetto and low ones and when I showed my fiancé she was like "oh, the falsetto one, that's the way to go", so I went with that and she was the one that encouraged me to embrace the high parts of my voice.
Having been in Germany for so long how are you feeling about coming back to Australia?
I'm looking forward to going for a surf and I'm looking forward to seeing my Mum & Dad and my little Sister and I'm looking forward to nicer weather, because it just suddenly became winter in Berlin and one day of winter is enough for me, I'm out of here. I'm definitely looking forward to playing, I haven't played a live concert in 19 months and the last gig I ever played was actually at the Beach Road Hotel in Bondi and the first gig I'm going to play with the new band is going to be in the same venue, so that's pretty cool.
Is the entire new album being recorded in your new Berlin studio Golden Retriever?
Actually one track that I think is going to go on, I mean we have 70 tracks, so we have to cut 60 or so songs back, but one of the songs is actually from the original recording when I was writing at my Grandma's house. So some of the tracks are quite old and have been done in Australia or England, but most of the stuff and all of the mixing and finishing is happening here at my studio.
You also work as a music producer and have worked with bands that include, Architecture in Helsinki, Wolfmother, Deep Sea Arcade, Silverchair and a whole heap more. What do you take from those experiences as a musician?
I think, I've got two jobs in music, I'm a producer and I'm a musician and I think the big thing that always happens with me is that I go in cycles. I'll go on a tour and I'll be really deeply in to playing my songs, but then I'll get really frustrated and I'll want a break and I'll want to start recording someone else. Because when I work with other artists it gives you more inspiration, whether it's what I should so, or what I shouldn't do. I think then though, when I've been mixing other peoples record's for 6 months, I get sick of mixing other people's records, because it can be pretty draining and even scary at times, and you just get to the point where you're like fuck these guys, I want another shot. So that's when I'll record a new song.
When you released your debut album with the Philly Jays you played almost 10 gigs in one day on a flatbed truck through Sydney. Are there plans in the works for something like that with the new album?
That band was always like let's do something crazy, if it seemed impossible then we wanted to be the people that did it. That band was really hard because we never had any money and we were always trying to do something that was a bit beyond us. We started independently and everything was self financed, and I think that's going to be the same with Feelings. Even just getting to Australia and paying the band and paying for the flights and hotels and things like that and making it actually happen is hard. But Dan the drummer will be here on Monday and we're going to work on how to make our gigs really special and really crazy, to keep that spirit alive.
Through the internet, bands are often placed in the position now where they can get their music out there, but then to support themselves or play like crazy just to eat. How big an impact do you think all these changes are having on the industry?
That's just always the way it's going to be from now on. That whole model where you could make something and some guy from the record label would come up to you and tell you how special you were and put lots of money in to it and make it all okay, that kind of thing just doesn't happen anymore and I think for good reasons. As a producer when I'm working for a client and the client is paying for the session, it's always much cooler work, where as when someone else is paying for the work for them, they're like; "Oh we're not paying for this"; because often they think it's faster. I almost always work with independent artists now for that reason. Because when you're independent, you're more resourceful. If we didn't have that kind of world we wouldn't have band like the White Stripes, who originally just made it all happen themselves.
How much of a difference do you think having your own studio and being your own producer makes to your music?
There's two ways to looks at it, when you need to book time and wait for a studio, you get really excited and you're really professional about it because you've got your shot at recording. The problem with me is that I've always had a studio and I started recording myself originally because I didn't have any money, but I had a room where I could do it. I'm used to just being able to cut a vocal at 10 in the morning or at 3 in the morning on any day of the week and having the microphone always set up there at my Aunt's place. I worked in a studio that I had the keys to for years that I could use whenever I wanted as long as no one else was. It became very hard for me when I didn't have a studio base for about a year before I came to Germany, and personally I just can't work like that, I can't be like that, where we book it in on a Tuesday and have it all done in a specified time. That's why I have such a big set of songs though, it's because I have a studio and I've made a big old mess of that and I need to sort through them now.
Do you feel pressured to follow up the success of Philadelphia Grand Jury with Feelings?
Not from the world, I mean the world moves pretty quickly I feel, there might be a bit of a, "oh what happened that to that band", but that's about it. I always felt first of all that I had to get an album out as Feelings and I tried to do one by September, but I'm glad I didn't put it out, because it was crap. I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep the ball rolling and then I realised no one was really pressuring me. So I should just take the time to do something good and if that takes until next year, then that's fine as long as it's good then that's okay. I think if I turn up to shows and its terrible then I think people will be like, "mmm, okay, well he's really fallen off the tree", but apart from that, no I don't think so.
Feelings is touring to support the debut single "One in a Million" from September 19th.
Wednesday, September 19 – Beach Road Hotel, Bondi (free Entry)
Thursday, September 20 – Lamda Lamda Lamda @ Alhambra Lounge, Brisbane: Tickets at the door
Friday, September 21 – Goodgod, Sydney Tickets are available at http://www.moshtix.com.au/Goodgod-Small-Club
Saturday, September 22 – The Workers Club, Melbourne Tickets are available at the Corner Box Office 03 9486 1677