By Poppy Tohill
On the odd occasion I'll go in search for some new music using the 'browse' feature on Spotify. Now, I don't always come across new artists or music when doing this, but on this one particular day I did, and I was more than pleased with my new discovery.
Washington based indie, pop, rock band Jukebox The Ghost were the culprits and after listening to their fourth and most recent self titled album, I was remarkably impressed. Becoming at instant fan, I immediately set out to interview the indie, pop-rock trio.
Two days later I found myself emailing questions to the band, those of which vocalist and guitarist Tommy Siegel was kind enough to answer.
Beginning things with an introduction, I informed the band I was from New Zealand, continuing on to ask if any members of the band have ever been to this part of the world, and if they have any plans to tour here in the near future. "We don't have any plans, but we would LOVE TO," Seigel enthusiastically responded. "Jesse Kristin (drums) spent a semester in Australia, but that's about the closest any of us have gotten to New Zealand, sadly."
"Oof. You knocked out any American's top-three cultural references..."Seigel replied when I dutifully asked what the first thing that pops into his head when someone says 'New Zealand' is, cruelly followed by saying, "other than Lorde, 'Lord Of The Rings,' or 'The Hobbit." "I'm gonna go with The Dead C. Because I like them, and I'm fairly certain they're from New Zealand," Seigel added. Which they in-fact are, just incase you were wondering.
Moving on to talk about the early beginnings of the band, Siegel went on to fill me in on how Jukebox The Ghost initially formed and the storybehind their name. "We met in college in 2004 and the band has been the same trio ever since!" he replied. "We went under a different name in college, but once things started to get 'serious' we changed our band name to "Jukebox the Ghost" in a very democratic process where we all submitted a word...I wanted "jukebox",Ben Thornewill (piano) wanted "ghost" and Jesse wanted us to be a "the" band like "the Strokes" (so he didn't really get his wish, but at least there's a "the" in the middle!)," Siegel exclaimed.
"I feel like band years are like dog years -- You multiply by seven. So in that sense, we're 70 years old in band years," Seigel stated when asked what it's like having been in the same band for a remarkable ten years. "We've almost definitely spent more time as a trio in close quarters (vans, hotels, venues) than we have with our own families -- And the fact that we've made it this long and still enjoy each other says a lot, I think," he continued. "It's also really wonderful that our deeper understanding of one another makes it EASIER to make music together rather than harder. Ten years and four records in, it becomes apparent that we can do this for as long as we want to, and nothing is stopping us," he proudly exclaimed.
As one would assume, when a band continues to make music together for as long as Jukebox The Ghosthave, their sound evolves and can sometimes change entirely.
Brining this up in conversation, Siegel went on to tell me how he believes the band have grown since they formed back in 2004. "I think all three of us have become more serious about songcraft," Siegel declared. "In some of our older music, it was sometimes about trying to jam as many ideas as possible into one song. Which is exciting...But exhausting. On our last couple of records, there was a very conscious movement towards trying to write great pop songs that can stand on their own, outside of the context of a record."
"It's certainly our 'biggest-sounding' record," Seigel went on to explain. "A lot of that is due to our willingness to try new instrumentation," he continued. "Bass and synthesizers have never had such a huge role in our music before now -- And I think it has resulted in a record that feels like a 'reset' button for the band, in a good way," he concluded.
"It felt like a new start to us, in a lot of ways," Seigel admit, commenting on why the band decided to self title their fourth studio album. "Our process has never been so open and collaborative. Though most songs on the record were primarily written by one person, all three of us had our fingerprints on every song on the record in a more active way than we have ever written in the past."
With this comment, Seigel went on to explain a bit more of the bands recording process for this album. "We spent a lot more time on this record than any record prior. All in all, there was a solid 9 months of demo-ing before we went into the studio, so by the time we did there were around 50 songs to choose from," he exclaimed. "From there, we whittled down to the 11 you hear on the record, which took a few months to finish in Los Angeles. We did 'Postcard' with Andrew Dawson (fun., Kanye West) but the vast majority was done with Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, A Great Big World) at his home studio in L.A. It was an exhaustingly long process, but at the end it resulted in a record that were all very confident about."
"From Andrew, we took away a sense of letting go of the creative reins and seeing what someone else could do with one of our songs,"Seigel acknowledged. "We kind of let him (Andrew) do his thing to "Postcard" and loved the result -- Which then made us trust Dan Romer on a creative and arrangement level even more than we had in the past. Dan totally floored us with some of his inventive arrangement ideas in the recording process."
Admitting my love for the single 'Sound of A Broken Heart,' which along with the album has a slightly more pop-pier sound than some of the bands' previous works, Siegel promptly informed me that the reason they veered towards this marginally different direction is that,
"It just felt right! That sound was primarily Dan Romer's idea, and we ended up loving it," he gleefully added.
"Who knows!" Siegel replied when asked if this pop-pier sound is something we should get used to hearing from Jukebox The Ghost. "It's hard to say what we'll feel like doing on our next record, but I'll let you know when we get there!" he happily chimed.
With a slightly new direction, sound and recording process under their belt for their latest record, I went on to ask Siegel how the band's songwriting process also changed or developed throughout the early creative stages of the 'Jukebox The Ghost' record. "In the past, either Ben or I generally brought something to the table and acted as the creative leader for arranging it in the practice room, Siegel began. "But nowadays it's a lot more collaborative and it seems to be working well, so we'll probably stick with our newly-discovered enjoyment of co-writing!" he proclaimed.
As well as producing excellent music, I was also very impressed with the visual side to the band, being blown away by their most recent music video for single, 'The Great Unknown.' Including numerous stunning locations, Siegel informed me that it was filmed in Big Sur on a VERY small budget with a remote-controlled drone with a go-pro camera attached to it. "We had a blast filming it...Not a bad location to be forced to spend time in either..." Siegel delightfully admit.
Now that the record is out and the new year has begun, Siegel informed me that the band will be doing a lot of touring throughout 2015. "I imagine we'll be starting work on our fifth record sometime in the near future too," he added. "We've already got an enormous pile of demos to work with, even just from the last six months!" he chimed, leaving us in great anticipation and excitement of what this year will bring for the talented indie, pop, rock trio.