The first thing I noticed about this group at their show at Velvet Lounge was how much musical clout they have while only playing three instruments. Jukebox the Ghost is a trio comprised of drummer Jesse Kristin, guitarist and vocalist Tommy Siegel and keyboardist and vocalist Ben Thornewill — all seniors in their first semester back from studying abroad.
Thornewill, who is a classically trained music major, exhibits his prowess on the ivories with fluttering solos and pounding chord progressions. Part of his technique assumes the role a bass player would play. Siegel, borrowing influence from Radiohead and Phish, augments Thornewill’s song structures with rousing guitar parts that range from complementary to dissident.
The anthem-like “Spiraling” throws the listener into a whirlwind of fanatical guitar solos and pounding rhythms. Kristin’s drumming roots stem from that of the punk and indie rock scene, which gives him an interesting juxtaposition of styles. His playing perfectly complements the mood of a song, depending on whether it is in need of a building crescendo of toms, snare, and bass or gentle splash of cymbals. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of their performance is the joint vocal styles displayed by Siegel and Thornewill. They harmonize with each other very well and have two distinct styles that melt together to create an amalgamation of vigor spiked with angst.
Some readers may have some confusion over the name Jukebox the Ghost. Kristin and Thornewill met and established the band in the Soundtrack Living and Learning Community of Mitchell Hall in the fall of 2003 as freshmen. They reached a sudden decision on the name The Sunday Mail, a reference to a Marcy Playground song, shortly before a show. After Siegel joined the group the following year, they settled with this band name and continued playing shows in the area.
It wasn’t until recently, after returning from their respective countries overseas, that the group decided that a reinvention of some sort was necessary. Thornewill discussed with me the recent decision to change the name.
“We wanted something that wasn’t a bad joke,” he said. “We came up with the old band name half-heartedly and without putting thought into it, and it became something we were stuck with but not proud of.” The new name was a mutual decision within the band, and it serves to invoke the playful yet dark nature they strive to convey in their music.
My final impression of Jukebox the Ghost was endearing. This is a band that I recommend to anyone who is prone to a good holler and twirl of the hips. Most of their songs institute recurring choruses and musical phrases that get your toe tapping instantly. That being said, if you’re a corpse, their music is probably not for you. If you do, however, have a pulse, check out their music online at www.myspace.com/jukeboxtheghost.