Not many bands get back together for the right reasons. Brett Detar and Joshua Fiedler, the founding members of The Juliana Theory, recently rekindled their excitement from the early days of their careers and set out on an acoustic tour. This fueled them to write new songs and sign on as opening support for the Andrew McMahon and Dashboard Confessional tour just to play together again, out of an organic love for the music. We sat down with founding member Joshua Fiedler and talked about what set the reunion in motion, the state of the live music industry today, and the process of writing and recording new music. “I didn’t think that this day would come, until maybe a few years ago. Brett and I did an acoustic tour and we got along so well. It was just like being in the van back in the late ’90s driving to shows across New Jersey, Maryland, and the other side of Pennsylvania, and we just had a blast,” Joshua told us. “We were talking about it, and I always thought about what it would be like to get back and record new music and everything and it’s just been a positive experience the whole way around.”
Back on April 1st, when The Juliana Theory announced their return—new music and their first proper tour behind new material—would happen in 2022, they revealed the project would be released as a three-part EP called Still The Same Kids. Part 1 was released on May 6th via Equal Vision Records. Parts 2 and 3 currently do not have a release date. The band has also begun slowly rolling out their tour schedule for the rest of 2022. They will play The Crofoot Music Festival in Michigan on July 29th, followed by an appearance at Psycho Las Vegas in August. After that, they join the co-headlined Dashboard Confessional and Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness tour, as support for the last seven shows on the west coast followed by a stop at Chicago’s Riot Festival. Joshua says, “There will definitely be more to come for sure. Especially because we are on the west coast leg of that tour so we obviously hope to hit a lot of cities that we didn’t get to hit last year too.” Keep an eye on their website and socials as more shows will be announced in the coming months.
“Playback ’99 (Burn the Cassette Deck)”, the lead single off Still The Same Kids Pt. 1, is laced with feelings of nostalgia for a time that seems to have passed by so quickly. For The Juliana Theory, that time dates back to 1999 and the release of their debut LP Understand This Is A Dream. The band was coming of age at the turn of the millennium but not necessarily taking the time to truly appreciate the moments as they came. “In the past,” Joshua shares, “we didn’t quite enjoy it as it was happening and then you look back and you’re like ‘oh I wish I would have taken a little more time…’”
My conversation with Joshua circles back to the theme from “Playback ’99” looking back on those times with an anxious nostalgia, knowing that time only moves faster as we get older.
“Now I feel so anxious – I’m just living on borrowed time
How can I feel ageless when I’m just living on borrowed time?
How else can I say this? we’re all living on borrowed time
I wish I could just press rewind to play back ’99.”
–”Playback ’99 (Burn The Cassette Deck)” – The Juliana Theory
The accompanying music video depicts a post-apocalyptic future with a haphazard person, dressed in a hazmat suit, wandering the desert looking for artifacts. Among the boom boxes and pay phones, the subject finds a VHS tape labeled ‘New Years ’99-2000.’ The tape depicts a New Year’s Y2K party with The Juliana Theory playing as the house band. At midnight, chaos ensues and the end of the world seems to have begun.
The Y2K era completely gripped society in the months leading up to the year 2000. Joshua admits, “We were obsessed with Y2K; we would be on tour and we had what we called a Y2K Briefcase that had a pair of drumsticks, a notebook, and a pack of cigarettes that some of our band members would carry around. We were obsessed and we talked about it all the time.”
We did not know it at the time but on New Year’s Eve in 1999, we were all on the brink of major worldwide events that would forever change our daily lives. September 11th, the Great Recession, a pandemic, and a two-decade war all awaited us over the next twenty years. The chaos that we all feared leading up to January 1st, 2000 took some time to settle in. I wanted to know if this notion played into the theme of the music video, or if it was just a fun take on their own Y2K experience. “That was our throwback to that and what would have happened if everything did go awry that night and kind of ceased to exist. So it was more of a fun play on that. But to your point, I completely agree, it’s been insane for the last 10 years. But there have been some good things too along with some bad.”
For all of us, something changes in how we perceive our own lives during the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s different for everyone, but as we get older we all sit back and think about our youth, sometimes feeling like it was all a dream so long ago. Time seemingly accelerates as we age, forcing a bit of nostalgia for moments that passed by too quickly. Joshua touched on this when asked about the long-term plans for The Juliana Theory: “We are a little older now and we don’t want to miss it; time moves too quickly. That kind of ties back to the whole theme of Still The Same Kids; try to reminisce about the old times and how good it was. But we are in good times now. I have a family and three kids and I love being around them at all times and I see how fast time moves with them growing up and I want to hold onto it for a little bit.”
A Newfound Focus On The Details
Without straying from the anthemic emo rock style they crafted back in 1999, The Juliana Theory sounds as sharp as ever on these new songs. Benefiting from modern production techniques and a much more fundamental approach to the writing and recording process, the band takes the listener on a high-fidelity trip straight back to the aughts. The production sounds a lot cleaner with all the individual tracks getting the attention they deserve.
This is especially the case with the basslines. The bass has a lot more punch compared to the back catalog and is rooted in Motown and disco-era styles. Joshua talks about how the bass playing was a key focus in the studio this time around, “Brett and I are very proud of our bass lines on this record. Brett and I split bass duties on this record for the first time. So it was like, we got to express ourselves that way and experiment because neither of us had ever really played bass on any albums before. We wrote some basslines here and there but never enough to record them, so that was a lot of fun. That was probably one of my favorite parts about making the record was getting to come up with some basslines.”
Bands that have been writing music as long as The Juliana Theory typically accumulate quite a collection of unfinished songs and demos. It’s certainly not unusual for these bits and pieces of songs to become inspirations or the backbone for new projects. Still The Same Kids was a blend of fresh ideas and revamped ones taken from the closet. “It was a little bit of a mixture. We used to, back in the day, all kind of get together as a band and write in our basements and garages. This time around it was more like Brett had a set of demos that he brought. Some of those got revamped, some didn’t; I was able to add my little ingredients to the songs while we were recording. It was a mixture. A handful of songs were a little older, some were brand new. It happens. I have another band called Pack that we started a couple of years ago and I had some songs that were, you know, 10 or 15 years old that we started out with and became part of our first EP. If something fits the moment, you take it off the shelf and maybe reform it a little bit.”
Reuniting In The Post-COVID Music Industry
The Juliana Theory is getting back together at a very unique point in the history of the industry. Not only did the industry have to rethink how it approaches touring and the production of albums but, as individuals, we all had to find new ways of self-engagement in isolation. Many people picked up new hobbies or used the time to change careers. Musicians were a mixed bag; some of them worked hard on new musical projects while others stayed away from music and did other things. Brett and Joshua were very productive musically and used the time to complete Still The Same Kids. “Brett and I actually went into the studio pretty early on in the pandemic to record all of these songs,” Joshua confesses. “We actually recorded the songs for the Still The Same Kids EPs as well as our re-imagined record, A Dream Away, that we put out last year. We did it all over the span of a few months. I was going to Los Angeles on empty planes, it was so surreal, you know, and everything was closed. Brett and I just hunkered down with our producer Courtney in our studio and recorded.”
The pandemic caused a complete year and a half hiatus for all live music and touring. While there was some new music officially released during that span, most artists put their releases on hold until they were able to tour behind and promote the music. The logistical exercise of getting all of these tours rebooked has proven to be challenging at best. “We would find a date that might work then come to find out there are fifteen other bands trying to play that same club that same night. That’s still happening, it’s still a disaster because how many times did bands have to cancel their tours and reschedule. Now you know everyone is on tour at the moment and on tour this summer. All of the festivals are back…I think it’s starting to clear out a little bit. One thing I know everybody still has issues with are vinyl releases. Everybody’s vinyl is delayed and there is a waitlist for a year plus.” With the summer festival season in full gear the industry has regained its footing; packing concert calendars all over the country.
When asked about the future of The Juliana Theory, Joshua admitted he wanted to keep the music coming. However he quickly had a reflex to repeat the record’s central theme; the future is not what is important, but rather taking the time to fully embrace and enjoy the present this time around. “We are kind of just living in the moment instead of planning a year or two down the road. Just kind of enjoy what is happening…That kind of ties back to the whole theme of Still The Same Kids; try to reminisce about the old times and how good it was. But we are in good times now.” The energy that develops out of this sentiment is what makes for a great reunion tour. Simply putting on a show, for a band that has been doing it for 20-plus years, is not the hard part. Being able to weave pure love and joy into new music and live shows is what separates the truly memorable reunions from the filler. The Juliana Theory are living in the moment and giving their fans a taste of that on this latest release.