By Samantha Ruddy
Before Jukebox the Ghost rocks the Schine Underground, the band sits down with 20 Watts to discuss its latest album Safe Travels, what it’s like working with their favorite producer, and Brooklyn life.
20 Watts: Can you talk about the band’s evolution from the raw, piano-driven Let Live and Let Ghost, to the more polished, instrumentally diverse Safe Travels?
JtG: Sometimes it really feels like we’ve been the same band from the get-go. Stylistically, we’ve explored different things on different albums. And some of the raw, piano-driven quality on our first record was really just a result of our resources. We were putting our life savings into the record which wasn’t much so we had very limited time, so it had a lot more of a live sound; not a lot of bells and whistles. And this new one, to contrast, we worked with a great friend who’s a producer and we just got to work on each song until it was perfect. The first record we recorded, we tracked it in nine days. And this new one we probably spent three months on it. So we put a lot more love into the new one as compared to the first one.
20W: So, I’m actually a big fan of Dan Romer’s work (producer of Safe Travels) and I’ve read that you attribute him with finally capturing your dynamic.
JtG: It felt like the most complete depiction of our band to date. And for that reason I hope he’ll produce our next album, too.
20W: I was wondering what it was like to work with him. What the process was like–if it was different?
JtG: Well, we’ve gone into studios where we didn’t really know the producers that well. We just knew something they had done or knew their name, had maybe met with them once or twice beforehand. But, Dan is an old friend of ours. We’ve toured with him when he used to play with Jenny Owen Youngs‘ band so it was really just like having a fourth band member in the studio. Very different dynamic. He was very eager to do anything we wanted to try. So it was just a really positive, music-affirming experience.
20W: You guys tour really frequently. When you’re touring who are your favorite artists to play with?
JtG: You know, it’s hard to say because there’s an element of tour that’s like summer camp kind of in that any band you’re with, you’re going to end up being really good friends with and love their music. There’s been bands we’ve toured with where I didn’t think I was going to like them at all, and then by the end of the tour I was singing along to every song and hanging out with them every night. Tour has a way of bringing people together. We tour with great people: Adam Green, Barenaked Ladies, Guster, just to name a few of the bigger ones, but we have some great friends that we’ve met on the road.
20W: So you guys have been stationed in DC and, most recently, you’re in Brooklyn. Can you talk about why you chose to move the band to Brooklyn?
JtG: We started in DC when we were in college and after college we wanted to tour a lot, but DC is not very affordable. So we moved to Philly because it’s really cheap, but other than it being cheap we didn’t really have any connections in Philly. It was a very random choice. We did it on the basis that we’d be touring all the time. Philly is a great city, but I think we all just felt a pull to New York. So many of the musicians we met on tour lived in New York. I played in another band and all those guys lived up in New York so I was constantly taking buses up there when we weren’t on tour and eventually it just made sense for us all to live there. We all love it.
20W: Is there anything else you’d like Syracuse students to know before they go to your show?
JtG: We’re looking forward to it. We always have a good time in Syracuse. We’ve played their many times. We played at Funk ‘n Waffles a long time ago.