Name a band other than Indie Pop threesome Jukebox the Ghost that has christened itself by mashing up Captain Beefheart and Vladimir Nabokov references. You can’t. So until someone assembles Trout Mask Bend Sinister, Jukebox the Ghost is destined to remain a cult of one.
Of course, the trio, consisting of keyboardist/vocalist Ben Thornewill, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin, didn’t jump out of the blocks with avant-garde Blues howlers and Russian novelists in mind. After meeting as students at George Washington University, the trio recorded a debut full-length, 2008’s Let Live and Let Ghosts, during the winter break of the musicians’ senior year. The band drew ecstatic reviews and equally impassioned reactions to its frenetic live shows.
Jukebox the Ghost’s debut and its compelling follow-up (and first release for the Yep Roc label), 2010’s Everything Under the Sun, were striking examples of the band’s unique hybrid of sweet-yet-edgy Pop soundtrack music and foreboding-yet-hopeful lyrics. With 2012’s Safe Travels, the trio shifted its lyrical perspective from fantasy and imagination to a more personal, experiential viewpoint and broadened its musical base by incorporating a more varied approach, with more physical instruments and a greater emphasis on arrangement. On 2014’s self-titled fourth album, the band made the leap to emotive and danceable Pop without losing the quirky melodic power that so effectively drove the first three albums.
Jukebox the Ghost signed with Interscope imprint Cherrytree Records, which reissued Jukebox the Ghost in 2015 with a second disc featuring the album’s songs reimagined by Thornewill as abstract, improvised solo piano pieces. But early this year, the band broke ties with Cherrytree and released a minimalistic six-song EP, Thump Sessions. The trio recorded shows this past spring for a live album, which could feature some of the fun cover songs the band injects into its sets. A fifth studio album is also in the works.