Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Shuck and Amir Derakh of Julien-K to discuss not only the new music that they have been working on for the past year or so, but also the overall happenings of Julien-K recently. You already know their albums "Death To Analog" (2009) and "We're Here With You" (2012) and of course their work with Dead By Sunrise, Chester's side project in 2009. Conducted in summer 2014, our interview touches on everything from the "Death To Analog" album celebration show to the surprise release of their new California Noir music.
Originally starting because of their frequent collaborations with Chester years ago, LPLive started covering Julien-K and their live shows and has now expanded to archiving over nine years worth of their concerts, from tour dates with setlists to promotional posters from shows and more.
So let's get started!
Hey guys! Within the last calendar year, Julien-K has been pretty busy. Fans have been able to see updates on YouTube of the recording process for your third studio album, you've maintained an online presence by interacting with fans on social media, you had a special night with your debut album Death To Analog, you've performed some live shows (including a trip to Russia), and even without a lot of specific news about new music coming out, you've still kept fans interested.
Amir: We started out showing what we were up to so everyone would know new music was underway. After that we've been keeping our ideas a secret so we can surprise everyone :-)
Ryan: We are purposefully engaging in a new work-flow and relationship with our fans. We are finding ourselves becoming more personally involved w our fans we consider our core fans more like personal friends. We have rediscovered a grateful disposition and the power and fun of keeping things surprising and exciting for our fans now that we have taken a more hands on active role as agent, manager, and creators of Julien-K.
Before the surprise new release (which well get to shortly), we've had a few tastes of some new Julien-K material over the last year. You performed All This From The Sky at the Viper Room in April 2013 and then California Dreams (later renamed to California Noir for the release) in August 2013 at the Sunset Strip Music Festival. Does road testing new material before its completion and then hearing the reception for it sometimes help you guys? Do you ever hear the crowd cheer loudly for a new song and say damn, that needs to go on the record or oh yeah, this is a really good track?
Amir: YES, road testing does help! Unfortunately we don't always have the time or shows to test them all out. I wish we did
Ryan: Absolutely. Again, as I stated above, we have started to view our fans as THE absolute and most powerful resource we have. We can test songs out live because we are a small band, and we are rejoicing in that idea. We aren't DBS or Orgy in its original line up were small and we can do what we want with OUR core fans. They love us and we love them there is an understanding. And by releasing this new CA X collection or at least the beginning of it we are proving to our core fans that we will not let them down, we are creating new music, it is GREAT music, we are continuing to push the envelope, and we don't care about commercial success our success is whether or not our fans/friends love it.
Playing shows obviously is a lot of fun, but if youre writing new music for a few months and you're in a groove, does it suck to pack everything up to move it to a venue for a show from the studio?
Amir: It definitely shifts the focus during the time preparing for a live show. Studio work comes to a grinding halt! We love playing live though so it's a worthwhile compromise :-)
Ryan: Funny you seem to understand that that is what we do when we play. It can be hard BUT if we don't keep the live energy our music and vibe dies the only time I am happy in my life is when I am on stage.
So on July 8th, we were completely surprised when you guys released California Noir, a collection of three brand new songs online (California Noir, Shes A Pretender, and No You Cant). Whose idea was it to do it as a surprise?
Amir: That was my idea... I had wanted to drop a couple songs to just wet everyone's appetite and open the story of "California Noir"
Ryan: We've all been talking about the idea of surprising our fans with some REALLY good new songs not b-sides like.. Singles. REALLY top notch songs. We have SO much new material probably more than we've ever had in the history of the band Amir mentioned a few days previous to release that his gut said, release this music now. I agreed with him on a phone call. I got my surfboard and went to the ocean. I decided that this is music we need to release for this summer. In agreement, this became the basis for a new strategy for releasing the CA X collection of songs. I cant say more because surprise is part of the package but I can say that our fans can count on more surprises. I'm listening to our new music as I type now its very difficult not to share so much with you.
Earlier in 2014, Ryan held an interesting discussion on his Facebook page and asked if fans would rather have one full new album of Julien-K music (which would obviously take a bit longer to create), or if fans would rather have smaller releases of new music (which would come out more frequently). Did that discussion help influence the idea to release this collection of three songs?
Amir: Both of us were feeling out the idea of what kind of releases everyone is into these days.
We didn't want to just drop one song as we felt it didn't give enough of the direction we're heading in. We honestly also don't like the whole EP concept which is why we called this collection of songs a prelude.
Ryan: YES. The data we received helped shape an entire . new way to release the CA X collection. Trust me when I say it is a combination of both ideas and neither idea at the same time.
The digital booklet with the new release says, You hold in your hands the foreword to a new movement we call California Noir. Should we expect this to be a teaser for a full-length album, or are you contemplating the release format that Ryan suggested of releasing smaller collections of music more often? Or if thats all a secret, hey, that's good too!
Amir: We have an interesting and constantly evolving plan for the release of the rest of the music. I think everyone is going to like it and it will be fun :-)
Ryan: It is a secret and I can guarantee that none of you can predict what we have planned. And it IS a plan. That/s what is so FUN about doing this now. Its just US, and our close fans/friends. We have a very special and surprising way to release this music. No one has done this. At the same time, it isn't tricky or relying on new tech.. its very honest, and it involves super-serving our fans while keeping us (the band) very excited to do what we do at the same time (lots of hints and NONE of you will predict what we are up to).
The new music is exciting. Its fun. It makes you want to dance. There is a lot of stuff going on in the songs, but its not too much - its just enough. And the reception has been very positive to it. You've managed to yet again evolve your sound, but still have that signature Julien-K feel to it, and even a little 80s groove in there.
Amir: Thank you very much! That's exactly what we've been striving for... We're all very happy that everyone is really digging the new tracks! I am embracing our "80's" influences more than ever while constantly experimenting and pushing our sound & songwriting forward. I also like to look back occasionally and draw from our past too. I think that's what keeps it interesting. We can't wait for you to hear what else we have up our sleeves!
Ryan: That means. SO much to us. Thank you. Really, you have no idea. The biggest and most important principle of this new collection is: exceed expectations. Be honest. Define ourselves. And with some love and luck the band will grow. Fans will share, become active, etc. Our fans have been VERY positive about the music. We hope they will hit they're local radio and promoters as well as Alt Nation and XM/Sirius to push the music organically. LOTs of our 80s roots in there ! We have more insane stuff to share with you FML
We found out last year that Eric Stoffel from Decode Radio has been working with you guys when he joined you for All This From The Sky on stage. We see him on this release on California Noir too. How has he helped craft these songs? Does he come in and is very hands on, or does he sit back and add his parts as a sort of icing on the cake later in the songwriting process?
Amir: When Eric has had time he's helped Ryan with some of his early song ideas like "California Noir". The original version was just started with those two playing everything. It was rough, but I heard the potential right away in that track. Since that early demo the song went through a massive makeover, and then we played it live. Of course after that it went through many more makeovers haha until it became the version you hear now. It was a tricky song to get right even though the basic concept was there from the beginning!
Ryan: Eric is a really important part of Julien-K. He is our close friend, he lives with me, we partake in and love his music, and he and I (Ryan) write a lot of music together (most of which will never see the light of day). CA X is a song that Eric and I started but the JK really made real. Eric and I laid down what became the title track of a new movement we are now calling California Noir. Almost like CA GOTH. The dark ones. We all live 2 miles from the beach wear all black almost every day, wear eyeliner just because and I actually surf Eric and I surf together and then go write music.. I mean.. WTF?? Its CA NOIR. This album is about who we are Were Here With You was about connecting w the world now were defining and claiming our home and who we are. DTA was about honesty and breaking away from Orgy and continuing to create, release, and perform music while our comrades did nothing its a story, and that why we are interesting if you follow us. We are hyper-real and a fantasy combined into one.
Then there are even other collaborators on the California Noir release. Craig Williams, Ricardo Restrepo, and Elias Malin are also credited in these three songs, for example. Did you make a conscious decision early on in the songwriting process for these songs to bring in friends to work with? And of course, Frank Zummo and Eli James are both on there!
Amir: We always like to work with our talented friends! We've always been open to co-writers and co-conspirators from our very first Julien-K album. I'm sure we will continue to do that as well :-) Jared from the DirtyHeads helped write vocals on "She's The Pretender"
Ryan: No but we are the type of guys that have a large network of talented friends, and we are a social band we like to connect and collaborate, so its natural for us to collaborate with our friends.
Amir, I was going to add something about the great CA Noir artwork too, but I didn't want to overwhelm you!
Amir: YES, we wanted to start this new movement with some fresh art elements. We've wanted a new logo for some time now and we finally got it done!
Is there someone out there in music that you'd love to work with someday that you haven't worked with before?
Ryan: To be honest I want to meet someone I have not met or have not ever heard about to work with. I desperately want to meet someone new and talented.. I'm not so excited about what I know now, more excited about what I don't know. When you've worked regularly w guys like Chester Bennington well you've worked with the greatest. No one is more exciting than Chester that I know of - so I want and focus on new.
On July 28th, you held a very special show for Death To Analog at Bar Sinister. Brandon was able to join the band for the night once again, and you debuted quite a few songs live for the first time (Dystopian Girl, Stranded, Disease, and Killing Fields) and resurrected others that hadn't been played in a while. The show looked like a complete blast! Lets talk for a minute about that night. How did the idea to do the show come about? Did any of the tracks in particular give you any trouble when you started to rehearse?
Amir: The show was amazing! We all had so much fun! The show was Ryan's idea and we loved it right away. It totally made sense to go back before we pushed forward with our new music. We thought our fans would be stoked and we were right :-) Learning the new songs wasn't that hard and now we can play them anytime, anywhere!
Ryan: This was one of the most exciting nights we have ever prepared for. We decided that we wanted to go back and concretely touch our base our beginnings our ROOTS, before launching the CA X collection. And we thought that our core fans would like this but we really didn't realize HOW much they would love the idea!? We were SO surprised by the feedback, the sold out show, the fans that flew in from all over the world unbelievable. We played songs that we have NEVER played before it WAS amazing! It was a blast! Having Brandon back really made me emotional. I'm speaking to him currently about collaborating with us on CA X, and well see where it goes. He had an amazing time as well, so well see. Funny thing is: the songs we had never played were because we couldn't figure out how to perform them effectively live we are so experienced now that they were the BEST songs in the set!?
Was the collaboration with Brandon that night a one-time thing, or is the possibility still there for him to return to the band sometime in the future?
Amir: Honestly, he is very busy with his own career but we hope to do more stuff in the future with him. We all had such a good time together! Great guy...
And we guess we are obligated to ask about touring! Its no secret that Europe has treated Julien-K very well in the past few years. Do you look to return sometime this year? Or maybe a USA tour? Do you want to get out and play these new songs for fans?
Amir: We always want to tour! It's just become so hard for us these days... We're REALLY trying to make a US tour happen at some point next year. All the fans can help make this happen by always attending shows and buying merch /music from us! We also love EU and the rest of the world. We're always looking for opportunities to travel and play for you!
Ryan: YES to both. This time we are DEF going to focus on the USA and EU we are even in talks w/ South America, South Africa, Russia, and Japan.
You've performed in Russia, all over Europe, a few USA tours, and more. Do you have any favorite moments from touring the world with Julien-K over the years?
Amir: We've had so many amazing shows and more importantly got to meet so many of our rad fans around the world! We just want to thank everyone who helped make that happen! We look forward to meeting new fans and seeing more of the world!
Ryan: Most recently, playing in Vladivostok in front of 20,000 people maybe 500 knew who we were and DESTROYING that crowd was AMAZING. It proved that our music works ALL OVER THE WORLD. LOVE YOU ALL
So what has Julien-K been up to lately?
Besides continuing to interact with their fans online on a daily basis (look up the hashtag #CAnoir on social media and you'll see how active they've been with it), the band has been working on new music behind the scenes. On November 5th, 2014, Julien-K again surprised their fans by posting on Facebook, "Something's on the horizon... a little treat coming one week from today. #CAnoir" They will be releasing a rand new music video on Wednesday, November 12th, so be on the lookout for that!
The band has also posted a live session they did at the Rock Shop of three songs from We're Here With You - "Surrounded By Cowards", "Colorcast", and "Cruel Daze Of Summer".
Clearly with how things are going for Julien-K right now, they are always looking for new and fresh ways to present their art to fans. You can keep up with what the band is up to at all times via their brand new website, via Facebook, or via Twitter. We look forward to seeing what they bring to the table next!