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Q&A with Juliette

Juliette is the brainchild of Scott Kulicke, a Seattle-based electronic producer. In studio recordings, Juliette is electronic for long drives, intricately weaving together layers of electronic soundscapes. However, in his live shows, Kulicke creates a one-man live-looping dance band with guitar, bass, keys, and drum machine.

With Juliette, Kulicke has carved out a distinct niche in the Seattle music scene, seamlessly blending electronic elements with live instrumentation to create a truly immersive experience. In our latest Q&A, we chatted with Kulicke about the project, his upcoming shows, and his creative vision.

Photo credit: @bianca__universe

How did you get started in music?

I grew up in Philly and moved to Los Angeles for college. I got a screenwriting degree, so I immediately started bartending. After a year and a half wasting away down there, I moved up to Seattle in November 2015.

I had taught myself bass in high school, and I desperately wanted to join a band when I moved here. My tastes were heading increasingly electronic: I was really deep in Roosevelt, Jungle, Tycho, HONNE. I knew I liked electronic dance music, but knew that I didn't really like EDM - there was some sort of interesting alt culture in electronic music that I was really drawn to and wanted to make myself. But I wasn't able to find anyone that was looking for a bassist, let alone a band that was trying to make the music I wanted to make.

So I borrowed a guitar from my brother, and I got a synth, and I got a drum machine, and I taught myself how to play guitar and keys and produce - all as a means to an end. That was the beginning of Juliette. 

Once I started playing live, I decided to lean into the one-man band thing. I didn't want to do a laptop set, so I got a looper and built this show where I played every instrument and layered everything and put these songs together in a really transparent, piecemeal way that was exactly how I was learning to understand music at the same time: a series of individual parts that all add up to something wild and rich, but in isolation are all relatively simple. 

Things sputtered along for about 4 years without gaining any meaningful traction: I could fill a bar with friends and get everyone dancing and walk away with $100, but it was still slow building. Then COVID hit, and after things started to open up again in fits and starts, there was a vacuum in the local scene where venues had a lot of money to make up and people were desperate for live music - and I think I was just in the right place at the right time for that. I convinced Barboza to let me put on my first headlining show, and it went really well. I did a DJ night in Ballard completely on a lark and it went well enough to get me a monthly spot. The headlining show got me to Neumos at Capitol Hill Block Party (CHBP) in 2022. That opened up the door to Day In Day Out (DIDO) that summer when a DJ had to bail last minute and the slot right between Japanese Breakfast and The National opened up, and so I got to sneak into a 6,000 person festival bill. Around this time I started bringing my bass along to the DJ sets and playing on top, which was a pretty catchy hook for people who are usually bored by DJ sets.

Day In Day Out opened all the other doors for me: I started playing monthly down at Supernova, I played at Neumos again, I started headlining consistently and choosing which artists I brought along, I started getting asked to open for touring acts while they were in town (Brothertiger, Lewis Ofman, Dan Deacon), which got me playing on the Crocodile stage. I'm booked for CHBP and DIDO again this summer, and it's just been a really wild couple years after several really slow ones. 

And I always thank the sound guy and the bartenders. Never forget to thank the staff.

Photo credit: @janaearlyphotography

How did you come up with your stage name “Juliette”?

There's no interesting answer here: it was one of the first ideas I had that made me say "that could be cool," and I committed quickly so I wouldn't give myself time to overthink it. It also felt safe because I haven't had any meaningful Juliettes in my life, so there was no uncomfortable reference thing happening (if you name your band or song after an ex, for example, you're definitely doing a thing there). I feel like most band names don't have much inherent meaning, so just pick something and run with it.

What specifically drew you to Seattle from Los Angeles?

Seattle had no specific significance to me beyond a very close friend who lived here. I had graduated college in Los Angeles in 2014 and got a screenwriting degree, so I immediately started waiting tables and bartending. But I couldn't really cut it living that lifestyle: I was a lush, I think I was a nightmare for anyone unlucky enough to date me at the time, I was selling gyros at a sandwich spot so I smelled like lamb all the time. I just didn't have the discipline to get back on track.

One of my best friends lived up here and I visited one summer. It was a beautiful Seattle summer, we scraped together some tickets to go see Glass Animals touring their first album at The Neptune, everything was green and the air was clear and it felt like it could be a new start. 6 months later I drove up here - and I got here in late November, which was a huge mistake.

Earlier you touched on something really interesting: creating music that’s a different genre than the prevailing genre of the city you’re in. I think that’s something a lot of artists can relate to (for example, anyone creating something other than country music in Nashville). You’ve managed to do that pretty successfully, so what advice would you give to another artist in the same position?

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, so this answer may be a little scattered.

It's impossible to quantify, but lately I've felt like I've benefited much more from this circumstance than I've been hindered by it. One of the pros to this situation is that I've been a much bigger fish because I’m in a much smaller pond. There are very few electronic artists in the city; there are almost none in my specific Indie Dance/Electro subgenre; and, to my knowledge, none doing a live instrumental show the way I am. So in that specific corner, I've gotten to become that guy, and it's hard not to thrive in that context.

Being in an uncommon (for the city, not generally) genre also literally made the project what it is: when I moved to the city, I wanted to be a bassist in someone's band, but I didn't know any musicians, so I had to teach myself guitar and keys and production so I could make music. If I had wanted to play garage rock I could've probably gotten plugged in with a band and never have gotten to learn all of this.

But what's been on my mind the most lately is the community. A few years ago I crossed the line between begging for opening slots at other people's shows to being the headliner and choosing those bands myself; I suddenly had a little juice, and had the ability to give platform to other artists. I had some spotlight, and everything’s better shared I think.

I was also really lucky to have some friends who saw me in that moment and were willing to remind me that with great juice comes great responsibility: if I was platforming artists that were shitty people off-stage, or I was building bills that were all white guys, or even just platforming music that I didn’t like - I had to make a choice about whether or not I valued those things or wanted to perpetuate them.

And I love that. It’s one of the things I’m proudest of with this project: I love being fortunate enough to get to look at the art in this city and if I feel like if something is missing or under-represented or under-appreciated, I get to actually move the needle the tiniest bit. It's something I care a lot about.

Photo credit: unknown—if you’re the photographer, DM us and we’ll update this!

I noticed that you talked a lot about your live shows. That’s kind of unique for an electronic artist since most do a simpler laptop set like you mentioned. Given that the live show element is so important to you, have you ever thought about creating a more highly-produced performance video?

Yes, I have thought a lot about it; no, I have not made a single concrete move to actually make it happen. And I really need to! It's this giant hole in my marketing, and if there are any videographers who have some exciting ideas and very low standards for pay, please reach out to your budget-constrained boy.

All jokes aside, it really is a thing that's missing. The live show is hard to describe both logistically and energetically: the live setup has bass and guitar and keys all on stage, running through a looper and some drum tracks; and the live performances are a lot dance-ier than the recordings. They're two very different flavors, and if you only hear it on Spotify it doesn't really make sense that a crowd full of people would be sweating and dancing to those songs. But anyone that has been to a show knows what I'm talking about, and I'm desperate to find someone out there who specializes in live concert videography who could help me figure this out.

Your instagram is filled with film photography. That almost feels like a perfect analogy for your shows: doing something more analog and time-consuming rather than the easier--and arguably less impactful--digital option. What made you want to take that approach?

Well, let's be real: analog douche clout is a factor. But there's also an answer that has more artistic merit.

When I was down in LA I would work bartender hours, and I've always been a night-owl anyway. So I would spend a lot of nights just lying on my futon listening to music, and there were a couple albums that I adored at the time (the first Jungle album, some LCD Soundsystem, the first Roosevelt album) that I would listen to over and over. I started to get so jealous - I loved those songs, and I was so mad that I hadn't made them. But I would start to break down the songs in my head, and realize that a song was just this couple guitar parts and those couple synth parts and this one bass part, etc. I figured I could teach myself guitar and keys well enough to do each of those individual little things. That was really freeing for me as a person: learning that these beautifully complete things were actually made up of lots of little normal things -  and if you're persistent with it you can find a way to Moneyball some art. And I wanted to bring that to the live show. Live electronic music is often super boring while also being super opaque, so I wanted to try to share the discovery I'd made that making music wasn’t actually that far out of reach - so I figured out how to create a show that was as transparent as possible.

You’re performing at CHBP and DIDO again this summer. What can listeners expect from those performances?

Two very different sets.

CHBP is my live set: we're going to be back in Neumos, and it's going to be Juliette songs. I'm going to bring three extraordinary singers with me (Lerin Herzer, Austen Case, and Lezlee Hardie, all dear friends and phenomenal talents) that join me for a lot of my shows and elevate every single thing they touch. Last time we played CHBP we were in Neumos too, and we got it packed to the back with people dancing - it's still one of my favorite live shows ever, and I'm so excited to try and one-up it.

DIDO is going to be a DJ set. My DJ sets are disco, and I bring the bass along and play some fun live bass over the DJ set - I'm actually a really rudimentary DJ in terms of technical chops, and whereas most talented DJs would be busy doing things with their hands, I mostly just... stand there. So the bass was a natural way to answer the question of "should I be fist-pumping or not", and also a really fun way to make the set standout and add some spontaneity. It just got confirmed that I’ll be playing right before Carly Rae Jepsen headlines, so I’ve been lying and telling people I’m opening for her - it’s definitely more incorrect than correct, but it’s also a non-zero amount correct, so I’m gonna run with it. That’s a huge crowd, they’re all going to be in peak dance readiness, and I get 45 minutes to knock their socks off (last time it was a 6,000 person crowd - that’s 12,000 individual socks).

You released two new songs in December. Can you tell us a bit more about them?

They're pretty opposite stories. "As Far From Myself" is a slower, sadder, more structurally weird song than I've been trending the last few years: it doesn't have a recurring melody, it doesn't have the usual energetic up and down that my songs do; it's just one long build to one big moment. I usually need to impose some song structure onto my ideas, but I didn't do that here: the final version is exactly how the idea came out.

I never sit on a song after I've finished it - part of why I only release songs 1 or 2 at a time is because once a song is done I get too impatient to wait before releasing it. So I got about 95% done with "AFFM" and just had a couple mix things I wanted to fix - and then my mom was diagnosed with a very rare, very deadly leukemia. I immediately became pretty unproductive musically, and I just wasn't finishing the song. But I loved that song, so I listened to it a lot on my own, and it slowly became the "my mom's dying" comfort anthem for me. It was a really good friend for me during a really bad time. Eventually I started loving it so much that it felt selfish not sharing it. And I never even finished that last 5%! Just put it out and said it was good enough.

(Note: Mom ended up beating the leukemia!)

"40 02" was the opposite. I went down to Austin City Limits and saw Kendrick Lamar headline down there. He opened the show with the instrumental to The Heart Part 5, which is that amazing Marvin Gaye sample. Empty stage, those spooky keys, and those bongos. I was floored by the whole Kendrick set, but that intro gave me chills as he walked onstage to that beat drop. I still go watch shitty youtube videos from those shows to remind myself of that specific moment (go YouTube “kendrick lamar bonnaroo 2023” and give it a minute and a half).

I wanted to go home and try writing an idea that opened with awesome bongos - it's just dumb luck that that idea ended up being a keeper.

Photo credit: @bianca__universe

What is your musical process like for creating a new song?

Almost always begins with enthusiasm about someone else's song. I hear something that really excites me, and I want to steal it and make my own version of it. Usually that's a chord progression, but sometimes it’s specific instrumental parts. But from the start of this project, this has never been some tortured artist “I need to express these ideas!” - it's always been "I love this song, I want more of it, so I'll make more of it."

There's no real formula to what happens next: once the first domino falls, I usually have a good sense of what I want the bass to do underneath it, and what synth things need to happen around it, and where the drums need to turn us up or pull us back, etc.. I learned production at the same time as I was learning a lot of these instruments, so I'm doing the producing and mixing parts at the same time as the songwriting. The best thing I can do for myself is a thing I picked up from late nights watching gear videos on YouTube: if you spend any time in recording tech nerd corners of the internet, you'll start to hear that the best pieces of studio gear are the ones that shorten the distance between having an idea and recording that idea. So for me the process is often very short: it almost never takes me more than a day to get a song to about 99%, and all the songs that have taken the most time end up coming out the most unsatisfying for me. So my process is basically just chasing whatever is shiniest and most exciting to me in that moment.

And some of that is just finding out what things you don't actually enjoy, and giving that portion of the process a corresponding amount of time. Like the question about where the Juliette name came from: I don't actually care that much about song titles, for example, so I pick the first thing that resonates with me and I decide that that's it. The whole process of making and sharing art is already anxiety-inducing enough without forcing myself to overthink the parts I don’t really care about.

You have a degree in screenwriting. Do you think those skills affect how you create music?

If they do, it's tangentially. There isn't a specific music move that I do that benefits directly from having screenwriting skills, but I do think that time spent being creative in one genre does sharpen the creative muscle in all genres.

Do you have a favorite song you’ve created?

"As Far From Myself", no question.

"Mayfield" is my favorite song to play live - it's always the last song of the set, it bears almost zero resemblance to the recording at this point, and if there's an anthemic Juliette song it's "Mayfield". But "AFFM" is the shit, I adore that song. And I have no clue how to make it work live! I tried once, and the room was crickets, it made me so sad. I want to experiment and find out how to do it live, but I’m also so precious about that song that trying an idea and failing really stings. "Lakehouse" is another one of those: one of my favorite recordings, but never quite figured out how to make it work live.

Who, or what, has most influenced your music and artistic style?

The artist Roosevelt. I am very comfortable saying I would not be here doing this without Roosevelt, and anyone who knows my music listening habits just rolled their eyes a bit. He's a soft-spoken German cat who makes fantastic indie dance music, and I fell in love with that dude before he put out his first album. Genre-wise, it lands in my sweet spot more than almost any other artist. But what was equally if not more impactful was that he's a one-man band. We're very close in age, and so I discovered his music in a time before I considered making any of my own. Usually it bums me out when I find out that an artist I love is my age, because that just means I'm hopelessly far behind. But I was at the crossroads where I could've continued just playing bass, or I could try this wildly unrealistic "what if I learned every instrument?" thing, and I only had the idea and/or confidence to try it because I had him as a reference point.

Photo credit: @bianca__universe

What are you listening to currently?

The honest answer is I’m listening to hip-hop YouTube vloggers going [I think appropriately] nuts about the Kendrick/Drake beef. But everyone in my life is really, really tired of hearing about it. Whenever I get busier with music (especially in prep for shows), I end up not listening to much music and go in on podcasts. I get really porous to other ideas: I’ll hear a song I like and think “what if rewrote every one of my songs to sound just like this?” I'm listening critically, and it’s harder for me to just enjoy music.

But more to your question: right now I'm listening to a ton of local bands. I recently decided to try another project I'd always wanted to try: remixing. I love remixes as an idea -  one artist will go through all the work and emotional vulnerability of creating a song from nothing, and then hand all those ingredients over to someone else and say "I trust you to do something completely different with this.” That’s nuts, and is an extremely trusting and generous thing to do with your art.

So many of my favorite songs are remixes of other songs I don't like that much. And it never made sense to me why there isn't a robust local remix scene! It seems like such a fun, exciting way for a community of local musicians to interact with each other, and especially at our level it's also a huge marketing win: two artists that have worked hard to scrape together a small but loyal fanbase get to endorse and expose themselves to each other's listeners.

So I finally put out the call that I want to remix some local artists, and the response was big and enthusiastic, and now I'm working my way through the catalog of some artists I'd known on social media but never actually spent the time to thoughtfully listen through their work. It was really validating having so many people respond that they trusted me with their work, and it breathed some fresh life into my already-bountiful fondness for a lot of the artists I get to share space with.

The master plan is a big Live Remix show where I get these artists to come onstage and we play the Juliette remix of their songs. It's in the distance, but it's getting closer.

Listen to Juliette's single "As Far From Myself" now.

Photo credit: @bianca__universe

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