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- Posted on Mar 12th 2010 2:50PM by Samantha Shrader
Combining whimsical, well-written lyrics with an exhilarating piano sound, Jukebox the Ghost is a 3-piece band out of Washington D.C. Their music is best described as a mix of upbeat piano rock and indie pop. The band has just completed recording their 2nd album (yet to be titled) which is set to be released this year. They've just come off of a tour in Europe and are currently on tour in the US with Tally Hall through the end of March. Spinner was able to catch up with Ben Thornewill, vocalist and pianist for the band, as they prepared for the trip to SXSW.
Describe the sound of your band in your own words:
Piano Rock with upbeat entertaining indie pop rock.
How did the band form?
We formed and started playing in 2004 while we were all in college at George Washington University in DC. I lived next to the drummer in freshman year. We responded to a flyer that Tommy, our guitarist had put up in the music department. It was musical love at first sight, and we've been playing every since. We graduated in 2007, and we've been doing it for real, since then.
What are the bands biggest musical influences?
It's sort of widespread. I'm a classically trained pianist, so that lends pretty heavily to my writing and playing. Jesse, our drummer, was a punk drummer, and Tommy was like a jam band kid, though not at all anymore. Tommy liked Deerhoof, and more anguler newer music. Jesse was The Smiths and The Cure, and I listened to classical and stuff, so all over the place.
How did you come up with your band name?
It was a very democratic process. It was a combination of a quote from Frank Zappa, a quote from a Nabokov book called 'Pnin,' and Jessie (we always like to joke), wanted us to be a "The" band...like THE Strokes. We arranged it, it looked good in writing, was impossible to say, and was google searchable. The Germans can't pronounce it. It works well here, but abroad it gets a little tricky.
How did you get started with music initially?
The summer I turned 7 I started taking piano lessons. My Mom made me sign a contract. She said you're going to take piano lessons for the summer and if you like it, you're going to sign a contract that says you're going to take it through the end of high school...more of a pyschological trick than anything else, because she knows most kids stop taking lessons when they got to 13, when they found something else better to do. So I signed the contract, 7 year old me and I kept taking it all through high school and started writing when i was 12 or 13, kept going and here I am.
What inspires you to write song of your songs, and where do the quirky lyrics come from?
All over the place. I like word play alot, that's where alot of the quirky lyrics come from and double meanings of words. For our first record, Tommy was really into the apocolypse, and wrote a few of the songs about the end of the world. Some songs just come from where-ever the hell songs come from.
I see that you're been working on a 2nd album and that it's pretty much done, Does it have a title yet or release date?
It does not have a title yet. We finished the record in early December and we're figuring out now how were going to put it out. We're excited about it, sounds really good. Hopefully we'll know the release date within a couple of weeks.
What are the differences with the new record versus the first album that you can describe?
Definite differences, the first record was recorded in just 9 days, very quick...recorded and mixed. With this record, we've been on the road a couple of years, done like 250 shows. We've grown as musicians and as writers and we got to spend a solid 2 months in the studio, so we really got to spend time on these songs, that we didn't on the first record. Quality wise, it sounds better, the songs are more mature and have�more weight to them.
Are there any songs that stand out to you more than the others?
It's funny, you think one song is your favorite when you start, but then another song ends up coming out really well. The new songs, there's some really dancy tunes that turned out really well. Also, There's 2 songs, 'Schizophrenia' and another called 'Half Crazy' that Tommy and I wrote independently of one another, but obviously similarities in titles, both of those turned out really well.
What is your biggest musical guilty pleasure?
Probably John Mayer, I get alot of crap for that. But, I really like his music. He knows how to write one hell of a pop song. I barely listen to music, but I got into the record continuum and listened way too much...Inexcusable for a 24 yr old guy in a indie rock band. In the circles I run in, I get some slack for it.
As far as your music, you are often compared to Ben Folds...Does that bother you?
The comparison is fine and warranted because there aren't that many piano rock bands, so it's an obvious "go to". I'm sure when Ben Folds started, he got the Elton John comparison nonstop. Yea, it's fine. I don't actually think we sound that much like him for the most part. Obviously a little bit, but in the grand scheme of things, If there were lots of piano bands out there, I don't think we'd sound that much like Ben Folds. People need something to say, so they grab hold of that.
Who was your first celeb crush?
I don't know the answer to that. Maybe the girl in the Goofy movie, dont' know if that counts though because she's a cartoon. That might be my earliest memory.
What's the craziest thing you've experienced on tour?
We just did this tour of Europe for the past month I was the only one that could drive, I drove a stick shift and I was the only one insured. I drove from Amsterdam all the way to Stockhold, Sweden, 18 hours. 13 hours of it was in just one day, through a couple of snow storms and a really bad blizzard, and the last 3 hours on a ferry through ice covered water. It was exhausting....just brutal.
Do you have anything in your festival survival kit?
I've never been on a tour that I didn't get sick. I travel with Cold-eeze and Emergen-C. I take Emergen-C everyday. Oh and earplugs. For shows and you never know where you'll be sleeping. I'm such a pathetically light sleeper that I need earplugs in.
Have you played SXSW before?
We did 2 years ago, but we weren't accepted officially. We sort of did the fringe thing and played big parties, or any show we could. But we did it a few years ago and loved it!
Besides performing at SXSW, what are you looking forward to?
Really just being there, around that many bands and industry people. Just the experience of being in the city with that many talented people and having music be so all around you. The experience itself is incredible!
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
Just really relentlessly touring...more and more more touring. Our record is to come out in England, The UK, and Europe so hopefully we'll get over there again. Just as much touring as possible when we get this record out!
Samantha Shrader is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.