On June 1st, 2019, Jukebox the Ghost performed at Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. The trio, composed of lead singer Ben Thornewill, guitarist Tommy Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin, are touring their fifth album Off To The Races, specifically the deluxe edition which was released in February 2019. Their lead singer took some time after their performance and meet and greet to talk to Nicole Betscher and Alex Macon.
What’s the story behind the name Jukebox the Ghost?
Ben: It’s a terrible story. Honestly we had another band name called “The Sunday Mail”. It was trash. We took a little break, came back, and Tom [guitarist] was like, “Listen, we need a new band name.” I wanted something with ghost, the guitarist wanted something with jukebox, the drummer wanted us to be a “the” band. We just pushed it together. Now we have a blank the blank band. Just for the sake of… posterity? When we were thinking about a “blank the blank” band, we were like “there’s only a handful of ‘blank the blank’ bands.” Now there’s a thousand fucking ‘blank the blank’ bands. No one believes [us]. We just had a song on the radio and all these people are like “oh, another band…what an unoriginal name.” These assholes. like dude we’ve had 5 records.
In 5 words or less describe your style of music.
B: Quirky, indie, piano, pop rock
What sets you apart from other similar groups today?
B: We are quirky, indie, piano, pop rock. No honestly we play our own instruments, we don’t use a lot of tracks and we still sound good live.
Do you guys ever find yourself as artists compared to other musicians that have a similar style?
B: When you’re a piano rock band there’s only so many reference points. So it’s either Ben Folds, Queen, Billie Joel, Elton John, Regina Spector, Coldplay… there’s just not a lot of options, so those are the comparisons.
How does the East Coast compare to the Midwest?
B: I’m from Kentucky, I’m from Louisville so this feels like home, people are friendly. In the east coast, people are friendly, but it’s not quick. If you’re a local and in a neighborhood, like the neighborhood I live in is not big, but a huge population and like I’ve got my local diner and my deli and my grocery store just like you would in a small town here it’s just a tiny little piece of a massive city.
How about the west coast too?
B: I spend time out there, but I’ve never lived out there. But I love it. it’s great.
What was your favorite show you’ve ever played?
B: Aside from Bunbury? [laughs]
Alex Macon: Everyone’s done that!
B: It’s such an easy bit! Here’s the thing about bands: I’m not gonna answer your question, I’m gonna answer another question. There are interview things that you just say. That’s one of the dumb things you just say cause interviewers typically want you to say this was the best show I’ve ever played.
We don’t like that!
B: Do you want honesty? Like there are special shows, some of the best shows I’ve ever played were to like 40 people, but they were early on. They were the first time playing when people showed up. Or it’s like we played for 1,500 people in Brooklyn which was the coolest fucking thing ever cause we’ve never done that. It all depends. The best shows are the ones with surprises. Small crowds with huge energy, big crowds when you don’t expect a big crowd.
So what are some of your inspirations for your music?
B: I mean, besides from musical stuff, I’m a classical pianist, so I draw a lot from that I’m always trying to integrate classical piano and classical works, jazz works, whatever I can in a way that nobody knows it. And then I just pay attention to the world, that’s my inspiration. Books, music, people, chats, tattoos of mothers on a leg [referring to Alex’s tattoo of him and his mother], whatever it is.
So do you guys consider yourself a pop group?
B: Yes. Yeah because we’re not a hipster indie band, that’s the other option right? You’re either indie artsy; like I don’t care what the world thinks or you’re a pop band and I’d much rather not be that dude.
Considering that, how do you feel about the state of pop music, do you feel like it’s changing for the better or the worse?
B: I think there’s always a part of pop that sucks, no matter what decade it is there’s always like total trash. And the trash is always somebody echoing someone who did something really well. But there’s lots of other rock bands in that world that are doing cool things. That’s just me. Certain bands are absolute trash.
So if you had a new listener, what song should be their introduction song to your band?
B: I’d do “Jumpstarted”. It’s a song off of our earliest record, it has all of our crazy vocals, guitar solos, piano work, but somehow it’s still a pop song.
What’s the future for Jukebox the Ghost?
B: We’re gonna keep making records, hopefully release some more stuff, we have these HalloQueen shows we’re doing in uh, it’s not announced yet so I can’t say but East Coast, West Coast Halloween shows, and we do a full set as Queen, and we just recorded some songs, we’re doing Queen covers that we’re releasing on Spotify over the next two months.