WE HAVE BEEN A BAND FOR ALMOST 10 YEARS. WE HAVE RELEASED FOUR ALBUMS. ONE OF THEM TWICE! WE LIKE TOURING. WE TOUR A LOT. WE HAVE PLAYED ALMOST A THOUSAND SHOWS. FOR A MORE DETAILED AND PROFESSIONAL BIOGRAPHY PLEASE CONTINUE READING.
Jukebox the Ghost’s latest record, Off To The Races is a giddy, vibrant collection of Jukebox the Ghost’s most bombastic, colorful songs to date. Though it’s the fifth studio outing from this long-running trio of piano pop wizards, it plays like an energetic debut album: Just as eager to please as it is eager to surprise you. Every generation has a band that puts a fresh twist on piano-rock, and Jukebox the Ghost’s latest studio offering serves as a memorably vivid and kaleidoscopic step forward for the genre.
From the opening vocal stack of “Jumpstarted,” it’s obvious that Jukebox the Ghost has newfound confidence in embracing bold musical risks. A mishmash of modern pop, retro vocals and classic rock indulgence, it’s a head-spinning listen for the first go-round that the band describes as “what it’s like to be inside of Ben (Thornewill, lead singer/pianist)’s brain.” A thickly-layered vocal intro builds into a showcase of Thornewill’s virtuosic classical piano chops and then abruptly vaults into a bouncy, upbeat pop chorus led by Jesse Kristin’s punchy backbeat drumming. A synth solo enters and you’re suddenly in a section vaguely resembling hip-hop. The guitar solo kicks the door down and you’re front row at an arena rock show. Thornewill recorded over 170 vocal tracks in “Jumpstarted,” and somehow you can hear them all.
One influence stands out in particular as a common thread: Queen. This isn’t a matter of happenstance — The band has recently made a tradition of “HalloQueen,” a yearly show where they perform two sets: One as themselves, followed by a set break, and one in costume (and in character) as Queen. Through being forced to do a deep dive into Queen’s catalogue, the band says they ended up discovering themselves in the process. “Something magical about Queen to me is that their songs are so catchy, but the song structures are so wonderfully wrong and they’re so unafraid to showcase their chops,” said Tommy Siegel. “Their music is a reminder to me that pop music doesn’t have to come in a neat, restrained package,” added Thornewill, “It’s ok to get weird and own it — And you can still be catchy.”
The second track from Off To The Races, “Everybody’s Lonely” provides a mix of old and new, evocative of Queen crossed with Walk the Moon. In addition to a distinctly modern pop chorus, it also features a surprising time signature shift and a bridge that has more in common with “Bohemian Rhapsody” than it does current radio morés. And though Thornewill’s lyrics thumb their nose at modern pop radio, it’s also easy to envision it becoming a modern pop hit in its own right. The third track, a snarky ode to the 9-to-5 from guitarist/singer Tommy Siegel called “People Go Home” sounds like you’ve tuned into some 1970s AM radio station that’s been humming along in a parallel universe for decades, an otherworldly early-Beatles-style track for the new millennium. The remainder of the record serves as a bright, exciting showcase of the band’s well-honed sense of pop craft, coated in thick harmony stacks that serve as a brand new instrument for the band, dramatic cinematic climaxes, and broad hooks that playfully nod to the past with a decisively modern sensibility.
Off To The Races is their fifth studio outing, mostly recorded at Studio G in Brooklyn and engineered, produced and mixed by Chris Cubeta and Gary Atturio (two exceptions: “Everybody’s Lonely” was produced by CJ Baran and Peter Thomas and “Fred Astaire” was produced by Chris Wallace). Longtime fans will hear little bits of past Jukebox the Ghost embedded in the record blanketed in a fresh, more colorful sonic palette. The flamboyance and quirkiness of Let Live and Let Ghosts (2008), the retro sensibility of Everything Under the Sun (2010), the concise modern pop smarts of their recent self-titled album (2014) and Safe Travels (2012) and the raw live energy of their live album Long Way Home (2016) are all on full display if you listen closely.
The album is the result of a three-year songwriting and recording process, culled from dozens of demos that the band brought to the table. Recording in their home base of Brooklyn enabled them to do more outside-the-computer sonic experimentation and live performance than past records have afforded. “In ‘Boring’ we sent Tommy’s backing harmonies through a distorting rotary speaker which created this totally weird underwater sound,” explained Jesse Kristin. “And for ‘See You Soon’ we ran an electronic tabla machine through an amplifier and then I played drums along with it. That’s the sort of thing I think we wouldn’t have spent the time to do on our other records.”
Jukebox the Ghost formed in college in 2006 and has been a steadily growing cult favorite and a globally touring band ever since. Composed of Ben Thornewill (piano/vocals), Tommy Siegel (guitar/bass/vocals) and Jesse Kristin (drums/vocals), they have played over 1,000 shows across the country and around the world over the course of their career. In addition to countless headlining tours, they have also toured as openers alongside Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Folds, Guster, Motion City Soundtrack, A Great Big World and Jack’s Mannequin, among others. In addition to festivals like Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, and Bottlerock, Jukebox the Ghost has also performed on The Late Show with David Letterman and Conan. Their 2018 national headlining tour will take them to their largest headlining venues to date across April and May.
“If two men just ain’t right, then I’m living in a world that’s upside down,” Matt Rogers, lead vocalist and songwriter of Montreal-based LGBTQ indie-rock band Fleece, croons on “Upside Down”, a song on their gorgeous new LP, Stunning and Atrocious. On this album, the band isn’t holding back on sharing their roadmap for how they see the world.
In fact, Fleece has never paused, even for a moment, to define themselves or add labels to their experience, instead opting to open up and be. This band is au naturel and it shows, right from their earliest days and rise to notoriety through their rice cake-munching “How to write an Alt-J song” viral video (which amassed 12 million views). Since that video, that notoriety has only amplified. Subsequent releases and antics have added fuel to this fire and grown large and dedicated followings on Spotify, Instagram and TikTok, resulting in worldwide audiences and millions of monthly streams. The band’s recent singles “Upside down”, “Do U Mind? (Leave The Light On)”, and “Love Song for the Haters” have each leapt past the 2-million stream mark. Along the way the band found themselves on tour across North America multiple times, supporting renowned bands Tokyo Police Club, Born Ruffians, Mt. Joy, and others as their demand as a headliner grew in these same markets.
While having been focused on the songwriting of lead vocalist Matt Rogers and the relentless energy of drummer and co-founder Ethan Soil, Fleece has always been about being a band. Fleece’s previous music had drawn from musicians no longer in the project, but it was the emergence of Megan Ennenberg (guitar/vocals) and Jameson Daniel (guitar) as members that completed the line up and contributed to the cohesive whole, the final resting place, the rebirth of Fleece.
And it is from this new Fleece where their newest emerging musical work, the album Stunning and Atrocious, came to fruition. Said Matt, “I think we’re finally Fleece. In the past, the process was more about bringing my own compositions to the band, but this album is a complete coming together of all of our brains. We played whatever we came up with, stream of consciousness style, and then restructured the songs until they felt right. It was a bit daunting to give up control at first, but the product and process of collaborating made Fleece more exciting for all of us. I definitely grew from it too. Song two (“Like It A Lot”) is about exactly this – letting the power go and feeling good.”
Written from the late parts of 2018 until 2020, the album was a first for Fleece in that it was created with a collective focus in mind: songwriting with a strong emphasis on contributions from all four band members. While on tour, the band would write and demo songs, creating oodles of voice-memo-type song skeletons everywhere they went, from rural Texas to the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec to a highway-side rehearsal room in Montreal. The song ideas came together naturally and the singers began weaving in lyrics about the complexities of vulnerability, sexuality, love, depression and anxiety, joy and silliness, honesty, and power. And then, of course, the lens of a pandemic magnified the stunning and atrocious parts of all of these tropes, and they wove in that new intensified insight as well.
Throughout this process the band found themselves with an abundance of ideas, a wealth of songs, ultimately collecting three albums worth of content and slowly finding which songs stuck, which would make the cut. And with so much time spent together on the creation and selection of content, it only made sense to self-produce the album. To this end, the band hired friends to help engineer, rented studios, and waltzed into the tracking process, comfortable and willing to capture the vibes and sound that they’d been nurturing. “Most of the album is self-produced so we really got to tinkering with sounds in post-production together. I’d say overall this album process made my friendship with Megan, Ethan, and Jameson even stronger. I just love them so much,” says Matt.
If nothing else, the pandemic gave us all time. In Fleece’s case, that meant time to play, record, breathe, reflect, record more, post-produce, mix, and finally master. And so it was that the album was born. From its infancy on the road to the adolescent struggles of defining its boundaries and makeup and to the shiny bright eyed young adult collection of songs proudly and outrageously presented now.
Finally: Stunning and Atrocious – the why it was called that. Matt says, “In 2018 when we were on tour with the band I’d use those words to describe literally everything. When we were in the studio and coming up with an album name, Jameson and Megan suggested Stunning and Atrocious as a joke, and then we all realized it actually really spoke to the record. Half of it is more beautiful and ethereal, half is straight up rock ‘n’ roll. Also, while writing it, the world around us was the definition of stunning and atrocious. Megan is singing lead on a couple songs on this record, so obviously she is the stunning, and I’m the atrocious (haha). Can’t wait to hear the other parallels that our dear sweet fans will draw.”
If you’ve seen the videos, followed the band on any social media platform, and listened to previous lyrics, you’ll of course be aware that the band doesn’t run a straight line. It bends, turns, flips, bops, boops, and, in general, encourages others to live whatever life they choose in any way, as the band themselves do. These songs are about feelings and emotions shared between people that aren’t to be contained by previously limiting rules. These songs exist in a world where everyone is free to be and love as they wish, a world where people are able to define themselves in any way they choose. And that is the Fleece way.