All words: Keli Anaya
All photos: Julia Benton
The boys of Jukebox the Ghost were just on Letterman! Yeah, that means the BIG TIME. We’ve been friends for a long time and I even lived with one of them, so I figured what better way to cover them than with a sweet, sweet interview. You’re welcome.
Keli: First, um, Letterman! Incredible. Does anything stand out from that performance?
Jukebox the Ghost: The strangest thing about the whole experience was the unbelievably fast turn-around. We got the call that we could be playing the show at 11 pm on the night before the show taping. Jesse and I were in NYC, so we had to drive down to Philly to pick up Ben and all the gear (which was in storage) and made it back to NYC around 4 am to get a few hours of sleep before the 8 am load-in at the Ed Sullivan Theater. We played around 3 pm (they tape the show in the early afternoon), and were out of the studio around 5 pm. So the turnaround from finding out about playing to already having played was about 18 hours. Really, really surreal. If everyone I know hadn’t seen it on TV, I would question whether it actually happened.
K: This first thing I noticed about that performance was the sound of your music. It seems a lot different from your previous records. Will you describe how you think your music has evolved over the years?
JTG: I wouldn’t say it evolved in any kind of singular, deliberate way but it definitely evolved in a few directions at once. We were really into making Beatlesesque pop for a little while which found its way onto the album in a handful of tracks. After covering a New Order song, we were inspired to follow the dance-rock thing, which resulted in songs like Schizophrenia, The Stars, and Half Crazy. I was also listening to a lot of prog-rock and tried to find a way to make that songwriting style fit into our aesthetic, which happened with The Sun/The Sun Interlude/The Stars sequence.
K: I know that Jesse and Tommy moved to Brooklyn and Ben still lives in Philly. Do you think that geographic combination has inspired you as a band in new ways?
JTG: Moving to Philly a few years ago was certainly an influence on our sound — The 60s element of Zombies/Beatles/Kinks-inspired bands weighs heavily on the Philly scene and it allowed us to be unashamed in using some hyper-retro ideas in songs like “Summer Sun” and “Nobody”, among others. As far as NYC goes, we’ve lived here for such a short amount of time that it hasn’t had any real influence. However, DC had a huge influence on us and continues to – The Dismemberment Plan, lyrically and musically, have been a huge inspiration to me.
K: What bands/music are you listening to right now?
JTG: I’ve been on a big 70s prog kick lately (particularly Yes, but a little bit of Genesis, Starcastle, and King Crimson in there too), but my favorite band in the world for awhile has been Deerhoof. I think they’re incredible. Jesse has been on a huge Harry Nilssonkick (he even got a Nilsson-themed tattoo).
K: Do any of you have any other projects with other bands or solo gigs going on?
JTG: Jesse’s been making some music with his girlfriend that’s really awesome lo-fi guy/girl duet kind of stuff. Ben is pretty much always working on solo piano-ballad material. I just finished my third album with Drunken Sufis, my political punk rock side project.
K: Ok, so now that you’ve made it on Letterman, what do you plan to do in the future?
JTG: Keep touring! I think we’re going to top 180 shows this year, and next year looks like it’s staying on the same path.