The appeal of a modern, on the rise indie band like Jukebox the Ghost is simple: They write catchy songs. On top of that, they’re dynamic, skilled musicians. The band’s records are carefully structured, yet wildly diverse affairs. And the live show? Energetic, crowd-pleasing, cathartic.
Originally formed during college in Washington D.C., Jukebox the Ghost (the name’s an amalgam of Captain Beefheart and Nabakov references) won accolades for that first record, Let Live and Let Ghosts, which Spin called “a refreshing reminder that the lighthearted electricity of a fantastic pop song is still filled with live wires.” The band – Thornewill, Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin – jelled quickly, despite their disparate musical backgrounds in everything from classical piano to prog to indie to 80s Brit-pop. Collectively, the group delivered an unabashedly upbeat, playful sound with a sly dark streak (see: the aforementioned apocalyptic lyrics).
JTG’s pop sensibility is still on display on the new record, but now rounded out with more emotional heft and an expanded musical palate. For starters, there’s an emergence of synths, most notably on the Phoenix-like opener “Schizophrenia.” (Says Thornewill: “I was such a classical pianist for a long time that I was sort of against using them…and then I started fooling around and realized how much they could open up our sound.”). Elsewhere, the album veers through gorgeous AM radio throwbacks (“The Summer Sun”), Beatles-esque twists and turns (“Mistletoe”) and even a little prog-rock in “The Sun,” “The Sun (Interlude)” and “The Stars,” a three-part “philosophical/cosmological pondering” by Siegel that’s actually quite…dance-able.
Helping to round out Jukebox’s sound this time out was producer Peter Katis, best known for his work with Interpol, The National, Fanfarlo and other, decidedly less-animated rock groups. “There’s simplicity about the records he’s done that we love,” says Kristin. “And we thought, given his affinity for melancholy, dark music, he could bring a balance to our songs.” Katis kept the sessions loose, giving the record a vibe closer to their live sound. As the drummer notes: “He let the music be what it was, and didn’t substantially change the structures or melodies, which we really appreciated.”
With new songs and a new direction in hand, JTG plan to spend the next year on the road, hopefully matching the 300+ shows the band did between albums one and two. It was out there, with the likes of Ben Folds, Adam Green (Moldy Peaches) and Ra Ra Riot where the group built up a fervent, wide ranging fanbase. “Our growth as a band has been from word-of-mouth and just being on tour,” says Siegel. “We seem to attract everyone from hipsters to parents to kids to college students. It never ceases to surprise me.”