I got a chance to sit down with Tommy Siegel, guitarist and vocalist for Jukebox the Ghost, before he went to go play an excellent show in Charlottesville, VA. Tommy answered the following questions whilst sipping green tea. (Edited for Clarity.)
Tommy and I just ‘kickin’ it’.
AL: What projects have you been working on recently?
TS: Musically? Um, well I’ve got another band in New York that’s called Drunken Sufis, and that’s a political conspiracy punk band. And I guess I shouldn’t have even said I’m in the band, we all have alter egos that are in that band. That’s a lot of fun – we’re about to come out with our fourth record in April called “The Drone Wars”. We’re very excited about it; we just filmed a music video for it. We rented a U-Haul and bought a bunch of pig organs and it’s gonna be good.”
AL: Who is your alter ego?
TS: My alter ego is George W. Crotch. That’s just a lot of fun – it’s the total opposite of Jukebox the Ghost, musically, vibe, message, everything’s just the exact opposite so I get to use both parts of my creative brain.
AL: I saw that you’ve also been doing a few solo things recently…
TS: Me and friend have a label, my friend Ryan who is in a band called Tereu Tereu, we started a label about a year ago. So far we’ve only put out one release but we did a one year birthday bash just to kind of showcase some people that we’re putting out this year. And, uh, yeah I played one of those shows. It was fun. I put together a really temporary band of some guys from the Drunken Sufis and Jesse from Jukebox the Ghost and it was sort of just a one time random solo show. It was fun.
AL: You guys have always been really accessible to your fans and now you’ve added this whole Instagram aspect and you guys are really active on twitter. How has the social media aspect changed since you first started being a band?
TS: Well, twitter didn’t really matter when our band started so I mean, it’s funny how quickly these things change. The thing that mattered when our band was starting was Myspace. So, I remember in college every single day I would go on and add whatever you do…you would add followers?
AL: Friends? Was that it?
TS: I don’t remember if it was friends, I guess it was friends? But I would go through an add people cause it would get you more plays. And I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to stop. Cause I wasted so much time, it probably didn’t do anything in the long run. But at the time it was like ‘You got 50 plays yesterday we’ve gotta keep uppin those plays!’ So I think all this stuff is going to seem pretty stupid in hindsight but uh twitter and Instagram for me are kind of just fun. Instagram – I post drawings I do and twitter I just get to be a weirdo. And I don’t post that stuff on the band account, I post that on my personal account, it’s just fun.
AL: How have your political messages been going on twitter? Do you lose followers?
TS: I lose followers sometimes, I gain followers sometimes. It’s a total grab bag. There was actually a fan last night at one of our shows…and I was doing…you know how people do Harry Potter fan fiction? So I was doing like, Republican sex fan fiction of like famous Republican presidential candidates and a fan at last night’s show gave me a notebook – it was a Twilight notebook that she had filled with my GOP fan fiction tweets. Handwritten. I was very impressed.
AL: So speaking of all the weird stuff that you do, you have been doodling for a while?
TS: Well, until I was about 14 I thought I was going to be a cartoonist. Like, that was all I did – I drew comic strips in the school newspaper and did comic books on my own and started playing music – I would still doodle but I didn’t draw seriously that much. And then I just started doing more and more artwork for the band. All of our t-shirts I designed and our logo and all that stuff. I don’t know, I think I was really bored in the van one day and I came up with the idea of requesting drawing ideas via twitter. Then I would draw people and post the picture of it. And then that just snowballed into a lot.
AL: I know a while ago you tweeted that you were reading the Book of Mormon and you had funny things that popped up, well I’m sure they weren’t funny they were also moderately disturbing. So, first thing, why did you decide to start reading?
TS: Well, I was in Utah, so I was like “When in Rome”! So I was in Utah and I didn’t read the whole Book of Mormon…It’s really long. But I read a pretty big bulk of it. I don’t actually remember how much but yeah anyways…
AL: So now we’re on to the Jewish questions. What’s your favorite Jewish food?
TS: Food? Oh man I can’t even pick. The thing is I have a big soft spot for my Grandmother’s amazing matzoh ball soup. It’s got dill in it, it’s just so good. And um, I love latkes. Those would probably be my top two. But I’ve got a soft spot for gefilte fish. I like it. Some people hate it but I like it.
AL: I haven’t tried it ever but I have started to really like seltzer, and egg creams and lox. I feel like if I tried gefilte fish now…
TS: You’re there. People think it’s going to be really disgusting, but really it’s incredibly bland.
AL: What do you put on it?
TS: You just put it on whatever. Like toast, or you know, matzoh, whatever, lettuce.
AL: Did you guys ever have like big Jewish family gatherings or just like small events?
TS: Yeah, we do a funny thing where the Jewish side of my family actually gets together on Christmas and do Jewish Christmas. So, it’s the time that works for everybody whether it’s work scheduling and all that kind of stuff. You know, we do like sort of secular versions of Christmas traditions. We make cookies, but if it’s like Santa Claus cookie design the goal is to reinterpret it. So, it can be whoever. Saddam Hussein, it doesn’t matter. You make something out of a cookie.
AL: Maybe you’ll photo-document that this year. I’ll have to be on the lookout. So Richmond doesn’t have a big of a Jewish population. How did you fit into that role?
TS: Well, it’s very small so it was actually very strange for me to move to the Northeast and actually realize that in Richmond I didn’t quite experience the traditional East Coast Jewish experience. Cause I went to a Sunday school where everyone was from mixed marriages and just a totally different vibe. My Sunday school class was like…there were like eight of us.
AL: GW (George Washington University) must have been a shock…
TS: Yeah, no, it was. It really was. I grew up thinking I was pretty Jewish. I was bar mitzvah-ed and Hebrew schooled and all that stuff. My Dad was like the President of the Jewish Federation in Richmond and super involved so we were always super involved in that stuff. Then I went to college and I was like “I’m not as Jewish as these people I’m meeting”. Like I’m just not.
AL: Okay so this is the last question for you. How do you feel about your home district being represented by everyone’s favorite Jew, Eric Cantor?
TS: Um, the disgust that I feel can’t be put into words. I find him…he’s the worst.
AL: He comes to Hillel at UVA and I just wanna, so frustrating. He represents nothing I like about Judaism.
TS: He doesn’t represent Judaism period. I don’t think Jewish people in Richmond vote for him. So, I don’t know, not a fan.