Life is really about the little things. Some treasure sunny days, cool nights or a soft bed. In my case, as I waited for my interview with The Juliana Theory, it was the sight of Eat ‘N Park smiley cookies. The sugar cookies, with their white glaze and colorful smiley faces, are as Western Pennsylvania as you can get. In the chaos of the 9:30 Club, I found the cookies, in the group’s tour van. They’re the perfect pick-me-up after a stressful week of classes. For The Juliana Theory, the cookies served their comforting cause after dealing with a broken-down equipment trailer.
Good-natured rockers, The Juliana Theory formed in 1997 in Latrobe, Pa., approximately 40 miles east of Pittsburgh and home of Rolling Rock beer. While the band has spent much of the past six years on the road, they keep ties to home. They have the Penguins’ logo on all access passes.
The Juliana Theory is currently touring in support of the new album Love, which is a follow-up to 2000’s Emotion is Dead. The Juliana Theory – Brett Detar (vocals, guitars), Chad Alan (bass), Joshua Fiedler (guitars), Joshua Kosker (guitar) and Josh Walters (drums) – establishes a more textured and mature sound on Love, offering intricate melodies and layered guitar rhythms that are reminiscent of bands such as U2, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead.
After their recent performance at D.C.’s 9:30 club, bassist Chad Alan sat down with The Hatchet to talk about the new album, the perks of being signed to a major label and the creative aspects of songwriting.
Hatchet: I hear you had bus trouble today. What happened?
Chad Alan: Well, it was more yesterday. We had some problems with our trailer. This is the third time it’s happened on this tour, so we had to rent a box truck for our equipment, and that’s why we’re in this van.
H: You recorded much of love at a place called The Site.
CA: Yeah, it’s a place in San Rafael. The San Francisco area is where we made the entire record.
H: Is that one of the perks of now being signed to a major label?
CA: Yeah. I mean, it was an experience. Everything is an experience for us. We just kind of go about things, and you learn as you go. We learned a lot from making the last album, I think, the positive and negatives of what we will and will not do next time when we make a new album.
H: All of your albums have had a different feel to them and your music has changed. It’s very progressive. Will the next album be along those lines or will you fall back on some of the older stuff?
CA: It’s hard to say. We really just tackle it song by song. We don’t really try to go a certain way, wherever we go we go. A lot of the songs are still in the works.
H: On the new album, one prominent lyric is ‘love is everything.’ How did the album come about and did you have a love theme all along?
CA: No, it just sort of happened while we were making the album. I guess it’s more sort of a question for Brett, being the lyricist and all. I know there are some underlying themes to the album that revolve around the word, but it’s not a concept album by any means. It wasn’t intended to be that way.
H: The band has really moved up over the past few years. Starting in western Pennsylvania, getting signed to Tooth and Nail, touring everywhere and now you are on Epic. How do you account for this progress?
CA: A lot of touring. We were touring before we got signed to Tooth and Nail, then we got signed and from there we started making more albums. I think we still have a long way to go, but we’re progressing well. It’s certainly been far beyond our expectations.
H: I was outside the club earlier tonight taking note of the audience; it looked like a younger crowd, mostly high school age. Does that affect you, or do you ever wish you had an older audience?
CA: Yeah, sometimes. It’s always nice to have an older crowd. We don’t discriminate between age groups. But as you get older, you do notice (the age gap) more. I was 14 when I was first listening to Nirvana. I don’t think it’s a negative thing, “like, wow, I am playing for younger kids.” You start appreciating music at that age anyway, so I guess it’s OK.
H: When you were signed to Tooth and Nail, it was a predominantly Christian rock label. Has that helped or hurt you, even though you are mainstream?
CA: It was something we never really wanted to be associated with. However, there were a few bands on the label that weren’t Christian bands but were part of it because of the positive energy that was generated there. I think we definitely fall under that category. Honestly, we don’t get it that much anymore because it was so long ago…It’s not anything we focus our music on, but it is more within our personal lifestyle. Any kind of music has a degree of spirituality to it, no matter what religion it is.
H: But much of your music is more upbeat and uplifting. Are you every going to try anything a little bit more angsty or dark?
CA: Maybe a little more, but some of the songs already have that feel. I actually think a lot people think the new record is a dismal album, but it’s really not. The lyrics are definitely optimistic, the music is just a little bit more moody than usual. It’s all in how we feel.
H: How much say does the band have in things as a whole, such as touring and albums?
CA: The band has always maintained creative control over ourselves, from a touring perspective and from a songwriting perspective, especially. We have always been self-contained and coming to a big label didn’t change that at all. We would never compromise anything as far as creative control of the band. It seems like a lot of the stuff we were playing a few years ago is what is popular now. I don’t think anyone in the band has an interest in playing the same thing twice.