When a band has been touring globally for more than a decade, earlier works can sometimes be overshadowed by more recent releases. The ones the kids know from the radio and streaming services.
But for artists and their longtime fans, that earlier music is where the initial struggle lives, reflecting the band’s history and the joy of those first breakthroughs.
East Coast-based Jukebox the Ghost dusts off its earlier creations and dives back in time with a streaming concert series kicking off next week featuring the band’s first two albums, “Let Live & Let Ghosts” and “Everything Under the Sun.”
“I love playing the old material. It gives me that sense of nostalgia,” said Tommy Siegel, who plays guitar and shares vocals with pianist Ben Thornewill and drummer Jesse Kristin. “Listening to the actual records, it’s hard to turn off your critic-brain, and I always think of things I would have done differently, you know? But playing them is just a blast.”
On Thursday, April 22, the playful, piano-driven pop band will perform “Ghosts,” the album the trio debuted in 2008.
“I got really into the Book of Revelations as a source of imagery,” Siegel said, about his time studying abroad in Italy. “I became really fascinated by the imagery and this sort of apocalyptic history, so I started writing a rock opera about the apocalypse. When I came back to school I had all these new songs, so our first record is essentially the songs from my apocalyptic concept album interspersed with all these great pop songs Ben had written during time studying abroad in England.”
Siegel said the streaming shows will be peppered with stories as they revisit their first songs together, reliving those moments and giving a nod to longtime followers who have been with Jukebox since the trio was plastering the George Washington University campus with show flyers in the mid-2000s. But even more importantly, fans will get a full immersion into where the songs came from while hearing them as they were intended.
“‘Let Live’ is one of those records that definitely suffers from the Spotify shuffle button because it is such a front-to-back album with so many songs flowing through and into each other,” Siegel said. “It’s always fun to play live and sort of direct the audience to experience how it was to be heard. … It’s kind of a concept record, too, so it’s fun to treat it almost like a theater performance.”
Jukebox the Ghost will follow up the streaming performance with a playthrough of 2010’s “Everything Under the Sun” on May 20. Both will be set at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, another page from the band’s history as the debut stage for Jukebox’s third album, 2012’s “Safe Travels.” The listening room affords them a beautiful space for the full band, lighting and the opportunity for a full-production performance — not to mention room for a grand piano, Thornewill’s instrument of choice. It’s usually left behind when Jukebox tours.
“We can’t exactly fit a grand onto our van, and he ends up playing a little keyboard,” Siegel said, “so he always relishes the opportunity to actually stretch out on a luxurious grand piano.”
Because of the pandemic, Jukebox hasn’t been able to tour and last visited Chicago in 2019. And while the trio has been focusing on members’ individual outlets — Siegel spent much of quarantine finalizing a solo release and publishing two books of cartoons, his other creative passion — they’ve also found some time to record a new album, hesitantly planned for release later this year (“When the starting gun goes off and we feel comfortable with touring,” he said).
But for now, the streams — paired with an after-party and virtual meet-and-greet — are the key to staying connected.
“We missed playing. So it’s a great excuse to play. And to be honest, our first records are also just a great excuse to revisit a lot of songs we wouldn’t normally get to play on tour,” Siegel said. “You can do a deeper dive for people who want a different experience than they would normally get at a show.”
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Jukebox the Ghost ‘Let Live & Let Ghosts’ streaming
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 22
Tickets: General admission starts at $18, with VIP, meet-and-greet, series and merch bundles available at sessionslive.com.
Also: Jukebox the Ghost will perform “Everything Under The Sun” streaming at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 20