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Jukebox The Ghost Interview November 2011

Catherine May


In what’s quite possibly our most insightful interview ever, Jesse Kristin from Jukebox the Ghost tells us everything (Yes, everything) we ever needed to know about the band…

MTTM: How did the gig at Barfly go?

Jesse Kristin: Our show at Barfly was fantastic. It was our first actual headlining gig in London and our first time playing there in about 2 years, so we didn’t really know what to expect. The crowd exceeded our expectations and we were surprised and thrilled to see so many people dancing and singing along. I think any musician, regardless of popularity, can tell you that seeing people who know your music ON THE OTHER SIDE OF AN OCEAN is quite a treat.

MTTM: Can you tell us a bit more about how the band formed?

JK: The band formed in 2004 while the three of us were studying at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Ben and I lived next door to each other and played together for a bit before finding Tommy through a flyer he had posted in the music department looking for a band. At that time we pretty much immediately started playing all sorts of events and parties around campus, always wheeling our gear to and from venues with stolen garbage carts.

MTTM: And where did the name come from?

JK: We called ourselves “The Sunday Mail” but got very tired of that one, usually when students would say “But the mail doesn’t come on Sunday?… ohhhh I gettt itttt” or when we prayed school papers would think of something better than proudly printing the much-too-predictable headline, “The Sunday Mail Delivers!” One day we just decided the band name must be changed and after various combinations of words were tested for BPE (Bad Pun Evasiveness) we decided we liked Jukebox the Ghost. Of the words chosen, “Jukebox” is a reference to a Captain Beefheart lyric and “Ghost” was inspired by a short passage from the book “Pnin” by Vladmir Nabokov.

MTTM: If you had to pick one musician as being the most influential on your musical career, who would it be and why?

JK: This is a tough one to answer on behalf of the three of us since we all come from such different musical backgrounds (CLICHE ALERT, I KNOW). I am just going to say Harry Nilsson, since we all love him to death. Yea, Harry Nilsson. He was never afraid to be shamelessly sentimental, nor was he afraid to be shamelessly silly, nor was he afraid to be shamelessly theatrical, nor was he afraid to be shamelessly commercially unsuccessful (I hope), nor was he afraid to shamelessly sound (a lot) like The Beatles at times, nor was he afraid to… (shamelessly) etc etc. Hence, neither am I afraid to shamelessly not answer the question and say that while I am unsure Jukebox the Ghost has ever had a single musician to thank for its sound, we can thank Harry Nilsson for keeping us perpetually entertained and reminding us that excellent musicianship often goes remarkably well with a sense of humor. What’s that? You don’t know Harry Nilsson? That’s ok, no one does. Look him up, he’s brilliant!

MTTM: Where did the idea for the Schizophrenia video come from?

JK: The concept and design of our video for Schizophrenia came from the mind of our dear friend Shervin Lainez, who is a talented photographer in NYC. We all liked the idea of having a video be more visual and creative than plot-focused, since our first two (Hold It In and Victoria) both revolved around some sort of interpersonal story. Shervin was inspired by both the lyrics and fast-paced, frantic feel of the main melody to create something visually frantic that also gives a feeling of reachable sunniness to match the attitude of the song. As for all those TVs – you’ll have to ask him. I do remember them each weighing more than Ben and Tommy combined.

MTTM: How do you think the absence of a bass player has influenced your sound? Do you think it’s added to your uniqueness?

JK: Without a doubt, the absence of a bass player has added to our uniqueness. Since we don’t have a bassist, our piano-centered-ness is emphasized in both live and studio settings, which I think does help on a surface level and for those actually listening to distinguish us from a good deal of other bands currently writing similarly retro-inspired, at-times dancy rock music. It also does have a big effect on our arrangement style. I think everybody has developed a certain degree of restraint that otherwise would not be there. In our early days we sort of sounded like a guitar solo on top of a piano solo on top of a drum part that changed every time you counted to 16, and we would say to those who asked about the lack of bassist, “We are busy enough as is. Adding a bass player would add to the mess.” So in a way we were determined to evolve as a band that would be satisfied playing calmer, simpler music, and a large part of our ‘disciplinary’ process was creating a steady bass part while simultaneously fulfilling our primary duties.

MTTM: What song on Everything Under The Sun are you most excited for fans to hear?

JK: I can only speak for myself, but my personal favorite might have to be The Stars. It is dancy, it is fun, it is apocalyptic, and the drumming is nothing short of staggeringly brilliant and chillingly provocative.

MTTM: Are there many differences between playing to UK audiences and US audiences?

JK: Hard to say. Audiences can be so different from city to city, but at the same time, I’ve always been genuinely impressed by how similar we all are. Whether you are from the UK or US, Luxembourg or Gothenburg, at the end of the day you are not too cool to headbang once or twice during the encore. I saw you, don’t lie.

MTTM: Are you already thinking ahead to album number 3?

JK: Indeed we are 😉

MTTM: What’s next for you?

JK: Fencing lessons at 6… Noooo, silly! The band’s going to tour all the time and make another record. Duh!