The first half of the new Jukebox the Ghost album is as jaunty and upbeat as ever, but later in the journey of "Safe Travels," the band trade in some of their certifiably danceable hooks in favor of deeper, darker introspection.
"To me, all good pop music -- even good, sunny pop music -- has a real hint of sadness going on," says guitarist and singer Tommy Siegel. "If you're all bubbles and happiness all the time, it doesn't really resonate with people."
Siegel says that most of the songs on "Safe Travels," were written before the band actually assembled to record. But when pianist and vocalist Ben Thornewill lost his grandfather and drummer Jesse Kristin lost his father, both to lung cancer, it gave the latter half of the album a heightened emotional power. Tracks such as "Dead," "Adulthood" and "Ghosts in Empty Houses" deal with weighty fears of mortality previously untouched in the band's first two releases.
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"It is more vulnerable," Siegel says of the new album. "It's a lot more personal than we have been in the past."
Fresh off trying out the new material at the music festival juggernaut that is Bonnaroo, Jukebox the Ghost dive headfirst into the type of thoroughly demanding tour that now defines them. Their New York City show sold out months before.
"It sold out so far in advance, that there was never really any way for someone who wasn't already a huge fan of our band to get a ticket," says Siegel of the Bowery Ballroom gig. "So that's really exciting to me -- that we're going to get on stage, have a sold-out crowd and it's going to be filled with only people who are really on top of the band and really like the band."
The album artwork for "Safe Travels" features a painting from artist Christopher Ferrino. The cover photograph on their previous effort, "Everything Under the Sun," is also by Ferrino. Siegel says the
decidedly abstract image comes from a series of Ferrino's depiction of ladders.
"We liked the metaphor because we weren't really thinking of 'Safe Travels' as like an actual traveling thing; it was almost a mantra for saying good-bye -- a breakup, or passing onto another realm or what have you," Siegel says. "His whole series of paintings with ladders really resonated with us."