Piano-pop trio Jukebox the Ghost is set to take the stage twice Thursday night at Schubas Tavern in Chicago. Pianist-vocalist Ben Thornewill, guitarist-vocalist Tommy Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin are co-headlining the show with Wakey!Wakey! after Pretty & Nice kicks off the show. First-time listeners will appreciate the band’s upbeat tunes and quirky covers (cheesy 90s music, anyone?).
“We all sort of believe that every band name is terrible until you get used to it,” Thornewill says, laughing.
Thornewill talked to North by Northwestern by a phone from his tour bus to talk about the current tour, Ben Folds and sitcoms.
Why do you guys seem to play a lot of shows in Chicago? Do any of you have a tie to the city or a particular fondness for it?
We all have a fondness for it. There’s no tie. I think we keep coming back because we keep having good shows. The city has a great music scene. There are other towns that we don’t go to because the city isn’t quite as good. My mom actually went to Northwestern back in the day. The one connection we have is that our agent is from Chicago. He’s a Northwestern alum.
You played at Lollapalooza this past summer. How was that experience for you guys?
That was a huge first for us. We had never done a festival of that size. It was game-changing. It was sort of life-changing, too. We were early on in the first day and the weather was beautiful. It was packed as far as you could see. It was amazing. It’s such a unique experience, especially in contrast to playing at dive bars.
What was it like touring with Ben Folds, another piano-pop artist, in 2009? Did you learn anything from a more established artist?
I listened to Ben Folds when I was a lot younger — in middle school and high school. He’s a hell of a piano player. I try not to emulate his style to sort of become Ben Folds clichés. He’s a hell of a storyteller and really knows how to put on a show.
What do you have in store for the future?
We’re going to continue to tour. We’re going to continue to put out records. After this Wakey! tour ends in [a few weeks] we’re going to take some time to write new material and prep for the next record, which we’re hoping to record late in the summer. We’re going to try to work on a couple new songs for the Wakey! tour.
If you had to describe your band by using a sitcom, which one would it be and why?
My impulses would say Two and a Half Men, but I’ve only seen one episode and I don’t know the plot that well. If there was a TV show with three married dudes — that’s what it feels like to be in a band together. It’s amazing that any band survives. For a relevant pop culture reference and because there are three guys, I’m going to say Two and a Half Men.
Tommy says Full House, because it’s three men that live together and are surrounded by an entourage of little girls.
Jukebox the Ghost is playing at Schubas at 6:30 and 9:30 (21+) Thursday night. Tickets are $14.