This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Jukebox the Ghost‘s wittily titled 2008 debut full-length Let Live and Let Ghosts. Fittingly, and almost to the day, an equally cleverly titled new album, Off to the Races, will decisively mark a new chapter in their acclaimed history.
The album title, if you hadn’t figured it out, is a sly reference to the Queen classic A Day at the Races – something which was decidedly aesthetically fleshed out on the exhilarating first single “Everybody’s Lonely,” which likely would have won a rousing endorsement from Freddie Mercury himself.
And the D.C. power poppers can be found carrying on that new sense of musical theatricality and extravagance on their latest single “Fred Astaire,” which BlackBook premieres here. Over a Caribbean beat and against a backdrop of cabaret style flamboyance, singer Ben Thornewill enthuses, “Even when I’m a drunken mess / You don’t care / You still like me better than the rest.” Perhaps he’s addressing their loyal fans?
As the band prepare for the album’s release, as well as a SXSW gig and an extensive North American tour (which launches April 10 in Philadelphia, and includes a stop at Brooklyn Steel on the 21st), we caught up for a chat about it all with Thornewill.
It’s been four years since your last record – what have you been up to during that time?
We toured a bunch, released a live record, wrote a ton of new material, and the spent a good chunk of the last year recording Off To The Races.
Beyond the first two singles, what can we expect from the new record?
We are so thrilled with the way the album came out. There are elements of old Jukebox mixed with elaborate vocal arrrangements – over 100 backing vocals on one track – pop hooks, guitar solos…the works!
What’s the significance of that title?
We always treat each new album as if it’s our first. A reinvention, a restart. It’s also a nod to Queen’s A Day at The Races. The last few years we have put on a show called HalloQueen, where we do a set of our music and then get into costume (and character) and play a set of music as Queen.
In regards to the new single…are you guys actually Fred Astaire fans?
I learned all my dance moves from Fred Astaire. Unfortunately, I still look ridiculous dancing and haven’t been able to translate the “learned moves” into anything resembling actual dance.
The song seems to be a fabulous cross between new wave grooves, Caribbean/calypso vibes and Freddie Mercury grandiosity. Is this a new direction for you?
Thanks! The Freddie and Queen direction is definitely being consciously incorporated. Hopefully the fun and joy of the song is something that is felt through a lot of our new tunes.
You’re hitting the road soon after the album is released, anything new we can expect from the live shows?
I’ll be playing bass more, we are doing lots of three part harmonies, and trying to stay true to our album arrangements. Also, we might be incorporating a keytar…