After Jukebox The Ghost perfected their Whiskey Session, Reclamation Bar opened its doors a little early on Thursday of last week. In the modest courtyard branching off of the bar’s rustic interior, the members of Jukebox the Ghost sat on a wooden bench to try some Scotch.
Glasses of Laphroaig, Talisker, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, and Oban were served in order of age on a stool in front of drummer Jesse Kristin, guitarist and vocalist Tommy Siegel, and lead singer and pianist Ben Thornewill. In between sips, the band spoke about their songwriting process and its impact on their new album to be released via Yep Roc Records on October 21.
Songwriting can give way to the desire to keep the song to oneself and hide it away from fans, family members, and fellow bandmates. But when the walls come down and song ideas are shared, the writing transcends egos. It becomes what it should: just about the music. This is how Ben Thornewill explained the evolution of Jukebox the Ghost’s songwriting process. The band formed over a decade ago when Thornewill, Kristin, and Siegel were at George Washington University. Over the years, Jukebox the Ghost has grown in both music and friendship.
“We hate each other more than any band has ever hated each other,” Thornewill joked.
“Jukebox the Ghost” differs in spirit from “Safe Travels,” its darker antecedent, and even finds a middle ground between “Safe Travels” and its preceding albums.
“We thought we were being more mature, or more serious in our last album, but this one is actually more mature,” Kristin explained. The maturity of the album comes along with the liberated way in which the members have learned to write their music. Unhindered by egos, they can really focus on the music itself and carve it a meaning for them and their fans.
Thornewill, Kristin, and Siegel – “grizzled veterans” as Siegel calls them – proved their expertise on Scotch through their colorful descriptions of each. Aged 18 years, Talisker was voted the most peaty. Oban was the smoothest according to Kristin’s palate, but was boring in Thornewill’s opinion. Lagavulin was a favorite among all three members and Bruichladdich had subtle notes of a fireplace as told by Siegel. Lastly, Laphroaig, which the band usually drinks while on tour, was “less intense and delicious” for Kristin, but tasted like “you burnt some hair and left it on the freeway” to both Thornewill and Siegel.
When asked about their craziest experience with Scotch, Thornewill quickly thought of something and whispered it into Siegel’s ear. The two burst into laughter, but refused to share what it was about.
Voted the best of the five options across the board was Bruichladdich, but Kristin stuck up for the underdog Oban. As he explained, he often has to disagree with his fellow bandmates in order to preserve a balance within the group.
By the time the ice in each tasting glass had fully melted, the band had to make its way over to another interview. We parted ways at the subway stop, the band giddy from the alcohol, and me with a new vocabulary in regards to Scotch. Not to mention, I’m still left wondering about Thornewill’s crazy Scotch experience.
Article by: Alexa Tietjen
Photos by: Michael DiGiovanni