Jukebox the Ghost’s third album Safe Travels marks a period in the band’s career that’s steeped in change, both personally and professionally. Relationships dissolved and crumbled. Loved ones passed on. The band themselves relocated from Philadelphia to New York City and played over 200 shows since the release of their last album in 2010. In the midst of so much change, the band spent months in the studio creating what would become Safe Travels, a record that represents a shift in the band’s creative trajectory. “It felt like the music was finally growing with us — Songs that relate to who we are as people right now, not who we were when we were 19 or 20,” Siegel said. “This record is more heartfelt; part of that came from not worrying about exactly what kind of music we were supposed to be making and instead just working on songs that felt genuine and natural at the time.”
Safe Travels, at its core, represents three people going through universal life changes — A way of coping with how quickly things can turn around, for good and bad. And though it’s clear their sound and outlook have matured to addressing some darker subject material, their brand of upbeat pop still remains intact. “We’ve always been the kind of band that juxtaposes darker lyrics with upbeat music, but this record feels a little more personal,” Thornewill said. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly not a downer record but you need pain to get joy, and joy to get pain; they’re inseparable.” Bolstered by an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, an appearance at Lollapalooza, and extended opening tours with Ben Folds, Guster, Adam Green and Jack’s Mannequin, the band has acquired an incredibly loyal (and sometimes rabid) fanbase since the release of 2008’s Let Live and Let Ghosts. Over the years, Jukebox the Ghost has maintained a tour schedule that most bands would balk at, playing over 150 shows a year and becoming a well-oiled, high energy live band.
Safe Travels also marks the first time that the band had been afforded unlimited studio time. The sessions took place in Brooklyn, with their friend Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, Jenny Owens Young) producing and engineering. The result is a collection of 13 songs that finds the band maturing both musically and lyrically. The band was also able to work with a string section for the first time, which gave Thornewill the chance to flex his compositional skills and formal classical training. They’d be the first to admit that their previous two records had a charming, “hyperactive” quality about them, but you don’t get that sense here. Ask Brooklyn’s Jukebox the Ghost why their third album is called Safe Travels, on a surface level, it’s likely they’ll tell you about a song by Austin’s Red Hunter, who performs as Peter and the Wolf. The song, from his 2006 album Lightness became something of a mantra for the band. ”Since we’re always in new cities and away from the people we love, that song really hit home for us,” said Ben. “It was a song that represented saying goodbye.” On Safe Travels, Jukebox the Ghost manages to contrast these darker themes with the same optimistic sound and a familiar sense of youthfulness that stays true to their core.