Every time I hear Jukebox The Ghost’s Everything Under The Sun, I wonder how I let it escape our Top 20 Albums of 2010. But I will take solace in the fact that I’ve seen the band kill it live, bought both their debut and sophomore albums after hearing just a couple of tracks, and placed the band’s song “Misteltoe” at No. 12 on my personal Top 60 of 2010. Why? Because this trio — Philadelphians Tommy Siegel (vocals, guitar), Jesse Willen (drums) and Ben Thornewill (piano, vocals) — designs infectious indie-pop tunes like architects design buildings. Ever since I first heard “Good Day” in the Spring of 2007, I’ve been hooked.
Jukebox the Ghost officially released EUTS in mainland Europe on September 26, will release the record in the UK on October 31, and they’ll be playing dates all over the UK and Europe this fall. Tommy Siegel was nice enough to answer some of our questions as the band was kicking things off in Germany this week. TWJ and JtG share a Jukebox, and as one of my favorite bands, they own a small piece of my heart. Questions and answers — and songs — are below.
A handful of songs that Tommy sings on both your albums tell these epic, apocalyptic tales. What draws him, or maybe all you guys to write songs around stories like that?
Ben and I both like to take inspiration from literature, and I had a period of about a year where the only creative source I was using was the Book of Revelation (for the curious, I’m not an evangelical or doomsday-believer — I was raised Jewish). I really liked some the imagery in it and started writing a couple of songs around it which slowly turned into an album’s worth of material, some of which we didn’t use. We ended up slicing pieces of it up and putting them on our first album, “Let Live and Let Ghosts,” in a somewhat disjointed format. At some point, I think it might be cool to record the whole thing as a continuous piece of music.
You guys have a real knack for crafting irresistibly catchy hooks. Do you typically start with what you think is the hook for a song? Or what’s the band’s songwriting process like?
Ben and I both write independently and then bring them to the band. For both of us, a song usually starts with melody or rhythmic idea that we can’t shake and then grows from there. Sometimes we bring songs to the band 100% written, and other times they’re much more skeletal. Totally depends. Jesse usually acts as the ‘producer’, making sure all the songs are as tight and reined in as they can be.
Having seen you in concert, I’d say you guys seem to be having an awful lot of fun doing what you’re doing. If that’s a fair statement, what is it about making music and performing that you guys enjoy most?
I think we all enjoy being on stage, which helps a lot. Also, a lot of bands form for the sole purpose of touring, and our band runs a lot deeper than that — We were all great friends in college and we still are, so we usually have a pretty good time hanging out on the road (which I imagine is not the case for most bands). Also, we all love crappy food and sleeping on the floor of a Motel 6.
You guys will be all over Europe touring in support of James Blunt very soon [Editor’s note: the tour is underway now]. What’re you looking forward to about that?
The cheese, the wine, and our first-ever arena tour. It’s gonna be insane.
I first heard you guys in 2007 when I listened to “Good Day,” ahead of the release of Let Live And Let Ghosts. What’s changed
the most for you guys as a band since those days?
We recorded that album while we were will still in college, so we’re very different people. As far as the songs go, we’re all still very proud of “Let Live” though — I’m glad that hasn’t changed.
You guys have covered both Ace of Base as well as Donna Lewis. Is there a song you guys have dreamed of covering but haven’t gotten to it yet?
Yes, a few. But we can’t spill the beans. We’ll get to ’em.
What’s one awesome thing about each of you that most people probably don’t know?
Jesse (drums) is also a singer-songwriter/guitarist in his own right, Ben has a third nipple, and I used to work as a historical re-enactor.
What do your families think of your music careers?
All of our parents have been very cool about the whole thing. Luckily, the band has been (mildly) profitable since we all graduated college in 2007, so that’s certainly helped. We haven’t been beggars, which I think is usually the parental fear of the music path…..
Where did the idea for the band name Jukebox The Ghost come from?
Would it be fair to say that Jukebox The Ghost is perhaps a more highly-evolved version of The Wounded Jukebox? It’s ok, you can be honest.
You have every legal right to sue us. The answer is yes!