The Juliana Theory
Love is Far From Dead.
Daniel L. Mitchell
There was a time when the words “The Juliana Theory” would strike a chord only with Christian punks with backpacks and black-rimmed glasses. The band made a name for itself releasing stellar melodic post punk albums for the Christian indie label Tooth & Nail, and built a rabid fan base of emo-types and hipsters in general. In 2003, The Juliana Theory became much more than just another “emo” band, through the release of their fabulous and epic Love album.
Love combines elements of early 1980s post punk, late 1990s melodic post punk, and a penchant for grandiose song structures to make one of the single best albums of the year. It hasn’t been a huge commercial success, as the folks at Sony would have liked; it was, however, the first album from an “emo” type band to crossover into something fairly mainstream, without sacrificing integrity or honesty. The album features a band that has gotten much better in all facets of both song writing and performing, and managed to create a unique sound that is all their own. I was lucky enough to converse with lead vocalist Brett Detar, and get the low down on The Juliana Theory’s most recent exploits.
How do you describe The Juliana Theory’s music to the novice music fan? Do you describe the band differently to scenesters?
I really try not to describe us too much. I think we are a bit schizophrenic actually. But if I had to generalize, I would say that we are melodic hard rock.
What’s new with The Juliana Theory? I know you guys have been touring, but what else is new? Any new songs being put together?
We have been writing and demoing a lot of new songs lately. We are excited about the new stuff. It is a lot more raw and energetic. It’s fast. It is like The Juliana Theory on speed.
What was the most exciting single event on your touring this past spring and summer?
To be totally honest with you, and I hate to say this, but it was all a blur. It kind of all gels together into one big conglomerate memory. I will say that we really enjoyed touring Australia and Canada for the first time this year. It is always nice to get to some new places.
What do you do with your time when you’re home from touring?
I like to read, watch hockey, hang out with the people who are most important to me, and write songs. We rehearse and write a lot when we are home. Normally, we practice five days a week.
Do the guys in the band have day jobs outside of the band, or are you all able to live through the band?
The band is all we do.
Let’s talk about Love: the album is so dynamic and big sounding; would you say it’s the “perfect” Juliana Theory album?
I would not say that. It IS big, but far from perfect. We’ll never make a perfect album. As soon as we are done with one, we are ready to move on to the next. There are things that I really like about the record, but there are other things I would change if I could.
Many intricacies on the album point to a penchant for U2, including the gratuitous “Ohhhs” in the back-up vocals, and the very Edge-esque guitar lines; accidental or deliberate?
I think it is a bit of both. We are definitely U2 fans.
“DTM” is an incredible song, yet it crushes most of the rest of the album in aggression and ferocity; do you see The Juliana Theory continually moving away from the aggressive melodic postpunk of your past albums in the future, in favor of the anthemic feel of “Do You Believe Me” and “The Hardest Things.” In other words, are you going to keep rockin’ out in the future, or are you going to be elaborating on your current, more mature sound?
Thank you. Well, like I said a bit earlier, a lot of our newer stuff is much faster and more aggressive. I don’t really know how it compares to any of our older stuff. Sometimes it is difficult for me to separate myself from myself and actually look at our music totally with no bias. Most of the new stuff is a bit lighter in mood than the songs on Love. And as far as the fast thing, a few of these newer ones are our fastest songs to date. They are more aggressive in a “5 guys in one big room playing loud” way than any of our older stuff.
I really applaud you guys for proving that melodic postpunk can be combined tastefully with rock to produce fantastic results: case in point, the spectacular “Jewel to Sparkle.” Do you remember putting that song together, and did you know how wonderful a song it was immediately?
I never really thought it was amazing or anything. But, when we heard it played over the speakers for us the first time (finished), we were very pleased. It was the first song that was mixed for the album, so in a way, it was the standard by which all the others were judged. We were in Sausalito, California, and Tom Lord-Alge (who mixed the record) played it for us over a DSL line. He was in Florida. It was actually the first song that I finished vocals for on the record. However, in the writing stage, it was instrumental for quite a while before I wrote vocals for it. It was the first thing written for the album musically as far as I can remember.
I’m not going to call Juliana Theory “emo,” as that’s totally unfair and that word means literally nothing these days, but what do you make of the whole “emo” craze, having been tagged with that label long ago, before the days of bands like Taking Back Sunday and New Found Glory bastardizing the word and genre?
Well, I am not really sure quite what to think of anything. I am happy for all of the bands who are working hard and making it. It definitely seems like this whole scene is growing a lot in the past few years. I am rooting for all of our friend’s bands and really anyone else doing what they love.
Tell me about life on a major label; what type of adjustments have you guys made, good and bad, since making the move?
It has been interesting and not without its major drawbacks. We have had to do a lot of learning, in our career, about how to make it despite our record label. That is a sad thing and I don’t really think it is supposed to be that way, but it is the only way we know at this point. Sony has done a few good things for us, but we have been let down a lot too at this point. Hopefully with this next batch of songs, they can redeem themselves to us. They are definitely a great label and have done some great things for a lot of artists. Hopefully, at some point, we can join that list.
Where does The Juliana Theory stand on file swapping programs like Kazaa and Soulseek; aren’t these programs essentially stealing the bread and butter from your table?
I would prefer if people bought our albums, but we really have no problem with people downloading our music. In most cases, file sharing has really helped us. It has enabled us to tour countries where we don’t currently have records released. It also brings us a lot of new fans who come out to shows. So, most of those are positive things.
What do you envision happening to file swapping programs in the future?
I know that the record industry is trying to get a hold of it. It is hard to say if they ever will. File sharing is certainly changing how people get their music. I am not really sure what I think is going to happen.
If the Juliana Theory could choose one record, from the history of music, to cover in its entirety, and release to the public, what would it be and why?
I think it would be nearly impossible for the five of us to come to any agreement on that. We do consider releasing a record of covers. That would really just be for our personal enjoyment.
When can fans expect a new release from The Juliana Theory, and what sound should they expect?
I hope that we have a new record out by the first half of 2004.
Juliana Theory fans will be reading this, so what bands that you enjoy would you like to turn them on to?
There is so much good music out there right now. There are always hundreds of artists to look out for. Like every other answer in this interview, I am being vague. We all just listen to such a broad array of music, that it is hard to pick one or two things. Just head on to Kaazaa and start downloading I guess!
What’s the purpose of The Juliana Theory, in a sentence or two?
The band exists primarily to fulfill the five band members’ need for a musical outlet. We love music.
The Juliana Theory: http://www.thejulianatheory.com