Color: Jukebox the Ghost


Talking with Jukebox the Ghost.

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

If there’s a word to sum up the band I chatted with this month, it’s this one: colorful. From their music to their art to their personalities, nothing about Jukebox the Ghost is bland. The band, a trio that just released their fifth album, Off to the Races, says that’s on purpose—their music is meant to put a pep in your step and their shows should be a highlight of your week. They want this to be fun (and it is!). “We started as a band playing parties, and I think some of that has psychologically carried over into our ‘real’ career,” says Tommy Siegel (guitar, vocals.) “We aim to please and we want people to have a good time. It might sound trite, but we think the release valve of fun-as-hell music is important. We try to squeeze in our thoughts about things like death and time and mortality and heartbreak into the lyrics…but in disguise!”

The three—Siegel is joined by Ben Thornewill (vocals, pianos) and Jesse Kristin (drums, vocals)—formed Jukebox the Ghost (though it went by a different name then) at George Washington University. They mostly played for their friends at parties, Siegel says, but as they neared graduation, they had an inkling that there might be more out there for them. “We lucked out in that we started developing a following towards the end of college, so making the jump to being a full-time touring band wasn’t as scary for us as it could’ve been,” he says. “Once we had some decent recorded music out in the world, we booked an EP release show and were floored when 500 people showed up. Before then, it was fairly casual. But that was the first moment where we thought, ‘You know, we might actually be able to…DO this.’ Over the years, we’ve gradually grown through word of mouth and opening for other artists. These days we’re excited to be getting our first-ever national radio play.”

Jukebox the Ghost—whom you can catch at Saturn on April 14—has a bright, poppy sound that is grounded by piano wizardry. Off to the Races is the product of three years of songwriting and recording and brings back some retro Jukebox into the fold. “Oddly, it’s starting to feel like our music is coming full circle. Our first couple of records were unconcerned about larger pop trends and just being a slightly zany, over-caffeinated pop band. Then we spent a couple records honing our pop skills and our arranging our brains to make more studio-centric music. Now we’re trying to apply some of our newfound producer/arranger skills towards some new tunes that capture some of our zanier spirit,” Siegel says of the album.

“We are just so pumped to have this new record coming out. We took longer than usual in between records this time, so we are itching to get on the road and delighted that people finally get to hear what we’ve been working on for so long,” he continues. “In previous years, we’ve toured so much that we became a little sick of the van life, but I think we’re all equally excited to play shows this spring—we’ve been dormant!”

Their tunes remind me of everything from Vampire Weekend to the Beatles (and actually might be best described as a mashup between those two), but there was a specific bend in some of their jams that I just couldn’t put my finger on. It turns out that they have been shaped heavily by Queen (that’s it!). The band has recently made a tradition of “HalloQueen,” a yearly show where they perform two sets: One as themselves, followed by a set break, and one in costume (and in character) as Queen.

Through being forced to do a deep dive into Queen’s catalogue, the band says they ended up discovering themselves in the process.

“Something magical about Queen to me is that their songs are so catchy, but the song structures are so wonderfully wrong and they’re so unafraid to showcase their chops,” says Siegel.

If you’re looking for something fun, look no further—Jukebox the Ghost will make you smile, make you dance, make you jam. What more could you ask for? Visit saturnbirmingham.com for ticket information.

UPCOMING EVENTS *4/19: Judah & the Lion at Sloss Furnaces. Listen: “Suit and Jacket”*4/25: Caitlyn Smith at Saturn. Listen: “Don’t Give Up On My Love”*5/14: Primus/Mastodon at the BJCC. Listen: “My Name is Mud,” Primus

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