Julien-K is the musical brainchild of Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck, a duo whose friendship goes back 13+ years and spans multiple bands, several chart topping hits, hundreds of grueling tour stops, several video game & movie scores and a burgeoning portfolio of restaurant properties. After meeting through a mutual friend, they had their first adventures together in the death-pop band Orgy, while simultaneously writing massive hits for others (like Korn’s breakthrough single “Blind”).
“I was a hairdresser at the time, and before making music together we bonded over our love of design, photography and cinema - and basically any combination of things that create a vibe,” says Shuck. “We had quite a bit of success with Orgy but we felt that the sound started getting dated. In addition, we were experiencing massive internal problems ('mo money, 'mo problems), so we wanted to continue to stay current and prove that we could recreate ourselves like any great artist or designer.”
Shuck and Derakh immediately began working on new music that leaned more heavily on their electro-rock influences and sounded more at home with the likes of modern acts such as M83, The Kills, LCD Soundsystem, Muse, and Passion Pit. Shuck stepped out on vocals, which are decidedly dark, melodic, and sexy, providing a nice contrast to the dancy, clangy, dirty sound of the music. These early tracks started showing up online under the name Julien-K. At the same time, Chester Bennington was looking to do something with tracks he had written that were too dark for Linkin Park. After falling in love with Bennington’s acoustic demos, Shuck and Derakh helped him evolve the material, adding in elements of hard rock and electro and eventually recording those tracks under the name Dead by Sunrise. The two bands became a collective of sorts, explains Shuck:
“Both bands are the same. The one where Chester sings and writes is Dead by Sunrise, but when I sing, and Amir and I are the primary writers, it becomes Julien-K and it's more electro... Julien-K and Dead by Sunrise are basically a creative collective, we're sort of a Warhol-style factory in that sense”
Julien-K released their debut album in 2009 and went out on subsequent tours, playing with a range of artists including The Sounds, Linkin Park, Placebo and LCD Soundsystem. The diversity of their audience speaks to both the wide appeal of Julien-K’s music and the myriad of influences and genres that make up their sound.
“One of the things we have enjoyed the most in Julien-K is how many different styles of music our material seems to work with and how many different amazing bands we have been able to play alongside. Most of my favorite bands can play almost any festival anywhere in the world because their music connects with people that much - its an amazing phenomenon and that’s what we strive for.”
After many tours across both the US and Europe, Julien-K returned to the studio to begin working on their follow up record, 2012’s We’re Here With You. Not content with writing the same record twice, Shuck and Derakh continued to push boundaries and explore new territory, like on the album’s title track where Derakh’s sleazy electro-blues guitar playing fights for space within a militant dance party.
“We brought guitars back in a really relevant and important way,” says Shuck “Most people wouldn’t even know how to replicate what we did with the guitars on this record.”
Recently, Julien-K settled on a permanent live line up made up of Shuck, Derakh, keyboard, bassist, and long time co-collaborator Anthony "Fu" Valcic, and drummer Frank Zummo. With their new line up in place, the band’s most recent live shows have been shockingly stripped down, totally focused on the music and performance.
“Because Julien-K is a new band, it didn't really justify all the over-the-top production of our other bands - we really wanted this to be about the music and the raw energy of our performance - at least in the beginning. I think that without all the unneeded equipment everywhere, its more about us and our music. We wanted this band to be lean and focused.”