NEPA Scene Staff

Alt 92.1 hosts Furnace Frenzy with Dirty Heads, Jukebox the Ghost, and more at Scranton Iron Furnaces on July 21

Alt 92.1 hosts Furnace Frenzy with Dirty Heads, Jukebox the Ghost, and more at Scranton Iron Furnaces on July 21
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From a press release:

DamnMillennial! Promotions, a local concert production company that has booked events at The Leonard, the Ritz Theater, The Vault Tap & Kitchen, Levels Bar & Grill, and the Ice Box Sports Complex recently revealed that they will present a series of outdoor shows at the Scranton Iron Furnaces in downtown Scranton.

The first concert was announced today – the Alt 92.1 Furnace Frenzy featuring reggae rock band Dirty Heads, along with special guests Jukebox the Ghost, lovelytheband, Love in Future Times (L.I.F.T.), Brother Sundance, and Morgan Saint on Saturday, July 21 at 4 p.m.

Tickets, which are $20, are on sale now and can be purchased via Eventbrite. More show announcements at the Scranton Iron Furnaces (159 Cedar Ave., Scranton) are expected soon.

Music thrives on freedom. Without boundaries or blueprints, songs not only come to life, but last for a very long time to come.

Dirty Heads’ 2017 sixth full-length offering, “Swim Team” (Five Seven Music), finds the group at its most free. The Orange County, California quintet – Jared “Dirty J” Watson (co-lead vocals), Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell (co-lead vocals, guitar), Jon Olazabal (percussion), Matt Ochoa (drums), and David Foral (bass) – traffic between alternative, hip-hop, reggae, and rock with the same spirit and spark that’s powered them since the beginning.

As a result, the hooks naturally became bigger, the experimentation got bolder, and the smoke blazed brighter.

“We’ve put in so much hard work over the years that we have the freedom to do whatever we want now,” affirms Watson. “Making the new record, I re-fell in love with everything about being in this band: writing music, playing shows, having fun, and where we’re at. We spent every day not only working on songs, but laughing our asses off. What other people said didn’t matter. The rules of being a proper songwriter and all of that bullshit didn’t matter. If something felt good, we left it in there. It was so cool to get back to that feeling. Creating music was completely free. It was just fucking fun!”

For the better part of 15 years, Dirty Heads have quietly worked towards this point. In 2008, they emerged with the fan favorite full-length debut, “Any Port in a Storm.” Signature single “Lay Me Down” achieved an RIAA gold certification and clinched No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart for 11 weeks, a record run for that year. 2014 saw “Sound of Change” debut at No. 8 on the Billboard Top 200, garner acclaim from the likes of Esquire, and vault “My Sweet Summer” to the top of Alternative Radio. Most recently, 2016’s self-titled “Dirty Heads” went Top 15 on the Top 200 and spawned the smash “That’s All I Need,” which racked up over 10.5 million Spotify streams and counting. Noisey summed up the album best as, “Killer.” Simultaneously, they remain one of the world’s most engaging and exhilarating live acts, selling out sheds coast to coast.

During early 2017, the group started writing songs with no expectations or plans and soon found themselves working on what would become “Swim Team.” That boundless environment immediately fostered inspiration.

“We had some time off, and we were like, ‘We might as well get in the studio and see what happens,’” recalls Bushnell. “In doing that, we were able to come up with some really good ideas. We didn’t have any pressure to put out new music. It’s a lot more ambient and simple. We went heavier on the hip-hop, which I love. After the first song, we agreed to just finish a record. We were all inspired.”

In order to capture those moments, Dirty Heads handpicked a team of collaborators – Jonas Jeberg (Demi Lovato, Juicy J, Jason Derulo), “Lay Me Down” partner-in-crime Rome (Enrique Iglesias) of Sublime with Rome, Blueprint (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Timbaland, Eminem, Nas, Prodigy), Oren Yoel (Miley Cyrus, Kanye West), Heavy (Andrew McMahon), and The Score – and recorded between Los Angeles and Orange County.

“On the last album, it was like a mad speed dating rush with a bunch of producers to see who worked best,” says Watson. “We had never done that before, and it was cool. It was a different vibe, studio, and guy every day. There are only a few producers on ‘Swim Team.’ The only new guys were Heavy, and we hit it off immediately. We were molding and mutating what Dirty Heads are but with something new. We wanted to create songs we hadn’t heard before.”

That brings us to the first single “Vacation.” Produced by Jeberg, “Vacation” sways from bright sun-soaked piano and booming horns into an unshakable and hashtaggable chant, “Hey, I’m on vacation every single day ‘cuz I love my occupation. Hey, I’m on vacation, if you don’t like your life then you should go and change it.”

“We spent eight years in a van, worked hard, and now we’re here,” says Bushnell. “It’s almost like a vacation now.”

“I want ‘Vacation’ to speak to people out there who have paid their dues and love their jobs,” adds Watson. “For those who don’t enjoy what they do every day, it sends a message that, ‘It’s not too late to do something else.’ If you’re not happy, life is way too fucking short to hang around and do things you don’t love. We’re blessed to do something we’re passionate about. We hope you feel the same!”

In the end, “Swim Team” represents Dirty Heads at their most dynamic, diverse, and definitive.

“When you hear it, I just want you to walk away thinking, ‘Damn, that sounds like Dirty Heads,’” concludes Bushnell.

Watson leaves off, “I want you to feel the same way I did making it. Join this weird, odd, and wonderful secret society we’ve created over the past 15 years. You’re part of it now. Welcome to the team.”

Hailing from the Washington, D.C. metro area, Jukebox the Ghost released their latest record, “Off to the Races,” on March 30, a giddy, vibrant collection of their most bombastic, colorful songs to date. Though it’s the fifth studio outing from this long-running trio of piano pop wizards, it plays like an energetic debut album, just as eager to please as it is eager to surprise you. Every generation has a band that puts a fresh twist on piano rock, and Jukebox the Ghost’s latest studio offering serves as a memorably vivid and kaleidoscopic step forward for the genre.

From the opening vocal stack of “Jumpstarted,” it’s obvious that Jukebox the Ghost has newfound confidence in embracing bold musical risks. A mishmash of modern pop, retro vocals, and classic rock indulgence, it’s a head-spinning listen for the first go-round that the band describes as “what it’s like to be inside of Ben [Thornewill, lead singer/pianist]’s brain.” A thickly-layered vocal intro builds into a showcase of Thornewill’s virtuosic classical piano chops and then abruptly vaults into a bouncy, upbeat pop chorus led by Jesse Kristin’s punchy backbeat drumming. A synth solo enters and you’re suddenly in a section vaguely resembling hip-hop. The guitar solo kicks the door down and you’re front row at an arena rock show. Thornewill recorded over 170 vocal tracks in “Jumpstarted,” and somehow you can hear them all.

One influence stands out in particular as a common thread: Queen. This isn’t a matter of happenstance – the band has recently made a tradition of “HalloQueen,” a yearly show where they perform two sets: one as themselves, followed by a set break, and one in costume (and in character) as Queen. Through being forced to do a deep dive into Queen’s catalog, the band says they ended up discovering themselves in the process.

“Something magical about Queen to me is that their songs are so catchy, but the song structures are so wonderfully wrong and they’re so unafraid to showcase their chops,” said guitarist Tommy Siegel. “Their music is a reminder to me that pop music doesn’t have to come in a neat, restrained package,” added Thornewill. “It’s OK to get weird and own it – and you can still be catchy.”

The second track from “Off to the Races,” “Everybody’s Lonely” provides a mix of old and new, evocative of Queen crossed with Walk the Moon. In addition to a distinctly modern pop chorus, it also features a surprising time signature shift and a bridge that has more in common with “Bohemian Rhapsody” than it does current radio morés. And though Thornewill’s lyrics thumb their nose at modern pop radio, it’s also easy to envision it becoming a modern pop hit in its own right. The third track, a snarky ode to the 9-to-5 from Siegel called “People Go Home” sounds like you’ve tuned into some 1970s AM radio station that’s been humming along in a parallel universe for decades, an otherworldly early-Beatles-style track for the new millennium. The remainder of the record serves as a bright, exciting showcase of the band’s well-honed sense of pop craft, coated in thick harmony stacks that serve as a brand new instrument for the band, dramatic cinematic climaxes, and broad hooks that playfully nod to the past with a decisively modern sensibility.

“Off to the Races” is their fifth studio outing, mostly recorded at Studio G in Brooklyn and engineered, produced, and mixed by Chris Cubeta and Gary Atturio (with two exceptions: “Everybody’s Lonely” was produced by CJ Baran and Peter Thomas and “Fred Astaire” was produced by Chris Wallace). Longtime fans will hear little bits of past Jukebox the Ghost embedded in the record blanketed in a fresh, more colorful sonic palette. The flamboyance and quirkiness of “Let Live and Let Ghosts” (2008), the retro sensibility of “Everything Under the Sun” (2010), the concise modern pop smarts of their recent self-titled album (2014) and “Safe Travels” (2012), and the raw live energy of their live album “Long Way Home” (2016) are all on full display if you listen closely.

The album is the result of a three-year songwriting and recording process, culled from dozens of demos that the band brought to the table. Recording in their home base of Brooklyn, New York enabled them to do more outside-the-computer sonic experimentation and live performance than past records have afforded.

“In ‘Boring,’ we sent Tommy’s backing harmonies through a distorting rotary speaker, which created this totally weird underwater sound,” explained Kristin. “And for ‘See You Soon,’ we ran an electronic tabla machine through an amplifier, and then I played drums along with it. That’s the sort of thing I think we wouldn’t have spent the time to do on our other records.”

Jukebox the Ghost formed in college in 2006 and has been a steadily growing cult favorite and a globally touring band ever since. Composed of Ben Thornewill (piano/vocals), Tommy Siegel (guitar/bass/vocals), and Jesse Kristin (drums/vocals), they have played over 1,000 shows across the country and around the world over the course of their career. In addition to countless headlining tours, they have also toured as openers alongside Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Folds, Guster, Motion City Soundtrack, A Great Big World, and Jack’s Mannequin, among others. In addition to festivals like Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, and Bottlerock, Jukebox the Ghost has also performed on the “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Conan.” Their 2018 national headlining tour took them to their largest headlining venues to date across April and May.