Jukebox the Ghost to play The Cla-ZelWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While Jukebox the Ghost has an upbeat sound, there’s a deeper meaning behind the catchy tunes that have helped the D.C.-bred indie pop rockers gain an international following, especially on their latest album in “Safe Travels.”
In particular, Jukebox the Ghost vocalist/pianist Ben Thornewill was dealing with the decline of his grandfather during the making of the band’s latest effort. Though it was difficult to write about his grandpa, who eventually passed away from lung cancer, Thornewill tackled the subject on “Adulthood.” The tune is one of a handful of songs on “Safe Travels” which deals with death and mortality.
“I couldn’t play the songs for a couple months after he passed,” Thornewill said. “It was sort of a big decision to [bring] it to the band and let us tackle it.”
Thornewill said he’s always written sadder songs, but they just haven’t been part of the musical catalog for Jukebox the Ghost. However, he added that the combination of the band feeling confident going in that direction this time around coupled with trying life circumstances surrounding the group led to “Safe Travels” involving some darker subject matter.
“I think the world works like that—the world of creativity—in that you’re always writing, you’re always thinking,” Thornewill said. “You never know where things are going to come out, and what influence—a death or whatever—is going to have on your songwriting.
“And I always find that if I try to write about it head on, I can’t do it; but if I think about something else, there it is, bubbling under the surface. And [it] ends up being represented in the song or being part of the whole process.”
Rounded out by Tommy Siegel (guitar, vocals) and Jesse Kristin (drums), Jukebox the Ghost will perform at The Cla-Zel in Bowling Green on Oct. 9 as one of the supporting acts for Motion City Soundtrack.
Since forming in college nearly a decade ago, Jukebox the Ghost has built a following the old-fashioned way through extensive touring. The trio has routinely performed over 150 gigs a year, including shows with the likes of Jack’s Mannequin, Ben Folds and Guster, as well as an appearance on “Late Show with David Letterman.”
“It’s not easy, but we are doing what we love,” Thornewill said. “We’re playing music, and play in front of people all over the country and all over the world and Europe. But the harsh reality is that you do end up with sort of two separate lives and two separate people that you exist as.”
Despite the lengthy touring, Jukebox the Ghost had a nice change of pace when it came to recording “Safe Travels.” Released in June, the album was the first time the band had an unlimited amount of time to make a record.
“It’s a curse and a blessing,” Thornewill said. “I think you are less productive on a day-to-day because you know you can afford not to be, but the luxury of being able to listen to a take at the end of the day and not feel like you don’t have time to fix something that’s wrong cannot be overstated. It’s great.”
Adding to that luxury for Jukebox the Ghost was recording “Safe Travels” with friend Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, Jenny Owens Young) in Brooklyn, allowing the band to operate out of its New York City base.
“It was wonderful,” Thornewill said of working with Romer. “He’s a dear friend, and for the first time we were working with a producer who we had a history with, who knew us really well. And he’s also enormously talented.
“He can talk classical theory just as well as I can; he’s got an incredible pop ear. And so we never felt that we were at odds with him.”
The result in “Safe Travels” was a record that made it to No. 14 on the Billboard “Heatseekers Albums Chart.” And, maybe more importantly, the album released the following Tuesday after Jukebox the Ghost performed at Bonnaroo, giving the band excitement for the future.
“It was amazing; the energy of the crowd [was amazing],” Thornewill said. “There was something electric, and it really felt encouraging for what was going to come.”
On Oct. 9, Jukebox the Ghost will be an opening act along with Now, Now in support of Motion City Soundtrack at The Cla-Zel, 127 North Main St. in Bowling Green. Tickets are $20 in advance and $23 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster. The show starts at 7 p.m. For more information, visit innovationconcerts.com.