Band of the Day

2012.12.08

Julien K

Dark, industrial electro-rock created by two members of Orgy
What’s this inactivity? I could show you the way. What’s up with this apathy? Is this how you play?
lyrics from We're Here With You

Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck have been musical partners for 13+ years. During their time together they have weaved in and out of mainstream music like a constantly evolving musical fashion house. In the late 90's they were responsible for massive radio and sales hits such as "Blind" (Korn), "Blue Monday"," Stitches", and "Fiction" (Orgy), and recently "Crawl Back In" and "Let Down" (Dead By Sunrise with their long time pal Chester Bennington), and of course many major movie soundtracks and video games. After enjoying years of traditional music business success, the duo have spent the last 6 years methodically moving away from the mainstream success that put them on the map, instead opting to carefully steer their fans in a new direction, towards their new independent alternative electro rock project Julien-K – which sounds more at home with the likes of modern acts such as M83 (who they recently battled with for the #1 spot on iTunes), The Presets, The Kills, LCD Soundsystem, Muse, Passion Pit, Naked and Famous, Empire of the Sun, and even the Black Keys (see Derakh's sleazy electro-blues guitar playing on the bands newest record "We're Here With You"). It is very difficult to put Julien-K in a specific category, and indeed it appears they may be creating a new movement of their own. They are building the brand without advertising to the millions of Orgy fans they acquired in the late 90's, and the recent addition of hundreds of thousands of Linkin Park derived Dead By Sunrise fans. Instead Julien-K seem to be intent on continuing to reinvent themselves in the most difficult way possible. Honest music and honest hard work. Touring for years with no label support, slowly building the band up from nothing, to being able to debut at #2 on the US iTunes electronic charts, and top 10 on corresponding international charts without spending one dollar marketing the band. On the bands newest record, "Were Here With You", It is obvious that the band is drawing from deep early "modern rock" movements and bands, such as U2 and the Clash, while mixing it with Depeche Mode, Roxy Music, and Kraftwerk, in a decidedly modern way. I've heard Julien-K described by one fan as "Soulwax meets HIM". Admittedly an odd combination, but it seems to work and is surprisingly descriptive. Shucks vocals are decidedly dark, melodic, and sexy – while the music is certainly dancy, clangy, dirty, electro. You can almost hear this music being played late night in the Sahara tent at Coachella – but do these guys even give enough of a shit to show up at Coachella? Or would you see them playing one of the "cool" parties that are often the brightest spots on Coachella weekend? Again, Julien-K is decidedly difficult to define, and where and what Shuck and Derakh's true plans are for this project remain to be seen.

It is apparent that the band has been in a "testing and building" phase (to quote Shuck), and has recently settled on a permanent live line up (keyboard, bassist, and long time co-collaborator Anthony "Fu" Valcic, and drummer Frank Zummo). Their most recent live shows have been shockingly stripped down, totally focused on the music and performance. Strip away the make-up, blade runner esthetics, and massive light show of Orgy, and you seem to have an incredible modern rock band that seems focused on sounding amazing and performing with frenetic energy. As live performers, Shuck and Derakh have actually gotten better and better over the years. One can only imagine what these guys will do in terms of an actual live "show" when they do decide it's the right time. Judging by their newest videos "Breakfast in Berlin, and "Were Here With You", they have not lost any of there esthetic focus. Instead it appears that they are using new tools (free music videos available via YouTube and Facebook) to define the look and feel of the band. The band personally pays for and produces all the videos themselves, and intends of producing at least six for this new record alone. "We believe that videos are still an effective way to tell the story and communicate the "vibe" of a record – you just have to be smart and economical about it in today’s current climate" says Derakh. He may be right, the bands first new video garnered 40K+ views on YouTube shortly after being released and promoted simply using Facebook – and it is still growing. "We are in this long term", says Shuck. "We are not trying to have a massive radio hit right out of the box like we did in our previous bands, we are trying to build an entirely new world, a new era, a new foundation, and a new definition of success – one that we own from top to bottom. We don't think it will be easy, and we know we could simply do the easy things like sign a major label deal and access shit loads of our old fans through traditional marketing, etc. but we want people – old fans and new, to discover what we are doing right now organically. I mean, who knows what our new fan base will be comprised of?? We have to do it this way. Otherwise what we are doing is simply piggybacking on the old, over and over and over, and that’s bullshit. We were never successful in the first place by holding onto old ideas and old styles. There was a time, believe it or not, that people thought we were crazy for creating a band like Orgy…… It was just as "out of place" as Julien-K is now". "Yes", adds Derakh "don't forget, when we came out with Orgy, everyone was listening to Nirvana. We brought electronic music back to the billboard top ten for the first time in 10 years – since Depeche Mode even. We became "pop" by simply doing what we do – making electronic music rock in a modern way. Nothing's changed and yet: everything's changed. Funny how that happens".