Torn out and unchained, conveying a great sense of freedom, Julia Hummer opened the magic window of inspiration on a November day in 2011 and watched herself recording her first demo song which became the start of a solo journey as Juleah, barefoot in the scorching desert of psychedelic rock.
In her early teenage years, listening to bands like Kula Shaker, The Verve, The Stone Roses, Radiohead, and in particular Oasis — as the key influence of her song writing — helped Julia to expand her horizons through such life-changing musical experience. Later on in 2003, discovering bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and subsequently The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Angels, and Spacemen 3 whet her appetite for going along the path towards the flourishing neo-psychedelic rock scene. By borrowing from the Lenny Kravitz’ do-it-on-your-own school, she formed Juleah as a one-woman band from Austria integrating elements of blues, surf-rock and dream-pop. This blend is genuinely demonstrated in her layered sonic texture with warm hypnotic reverbs, jangly guitar lines, and trippy music flow.
With 3 albums and 2 EPs in her bag, her latest 2019 LP Desert Skies is a mesmerizing dance of a feather in the air; blowing away smoothly and urging you to leave your entwined mind, hit the road, and cruise away from the muds of the city life to take a dip and quench your thirst in the oasis of Juleah.
Julia! It’s been quite a long time since we last talked and I’m so happy that we’re finally sitting around this table today! You released your 3rd album a few months back. I can truly say it’s one of your best works. What are your thoughts about “Desert Skies” as your latest release and what have Juleah been doing since then?
Thanks, Armin. There has been a long time in which I didn’t listen to it anymore, due to all the insecurities and self-criticism I felt for some things that I thought should be better. But after that pause now, sometimes I listen to it again and I find that I’m actually quite satisfied with it.
We played some shows since the release and it’s fun to play the new songs live, since most of them are quite energetic.
You play multiple instruments. What do you play and what was the first instrument you ever picked to learn? I’m also curious to know what brought the idea of becoming a musician?
Well I’m like a child in a room full of instruments, trying everything. The thing that drives me the most is bringing all of them into harmony. When all the elements just click, that does it for me. The song is in the center and everything serves the song.
I play the guitar and the bass and I sing. Everything else I acquire on the fly while I work on a song. That’s why I wouldn’t really say that I “play” these other instruments. For the drums I haven’t been able to find a better solution until now as to program them. And okay, I’m a little prone to the “never change a running system” view and I programmed them since the beginning and I really like to do it. Not ideal but especially in the beginning I had the choice between doing it like this or making no songs at all and there was no question about that.
The first instrument I picked up was the violin when I was 5 years old, but I didn’t stick with it. When I was around 8, I developed a strong fascination for the electric guitar. The idea to become a musician was born out of being a devoted music fan, who one day discovered that it’s not that difficult to make a song. I just had to turn off thinking and judging.
That’s impressive! What are your influences, whether in the music world or other areas?
You already described it pretty well in the introduction. My cup of tea is modern psych (not stoner) rock, bluesy, slightly distorted and with a happy mood. Of course I also listen to lots of darker and sad stuff and I also would describe myself as rather quiet and melancholic, but out of some reason the light-hearted tunes resonate more with me.
Apart from music I’m inspired by any kind of extra-terrestrial scenery (the desert or atmospheres of other planets), the ocean, and the sky.
To me, Juleah sounds so compelling that makes me forget about my surroundings in the always busy and noisy city life-style. It carries chock-a-block of nostalgia and an absolute sense of freedom. What inspires you to create such a music?
I’m trying to create something that comforts you, makes you feel chilled and at peace. If you will, it should have an effect like a healthy drug. It should ease pain. I suppose the main motivation comes from my own desire to feel this way. Making music is my own personal refuge.
You’ve been playing gigs in Europe lately. How do you describe your experience performing in different countries? Do you have any plans for touring, whether in Europe or other places far from home?
Playing abroad is great for many reasons. Firstly, it gives you the chance to reach and meet new people. And then you’re always a little more welcome when you travelled far. People give you more honest attention. In the local scene you’re not that special anymore when everyone has already seen you 3 times. My last reason: I have trouble speaking on stage normally and it’s easier for me in English. 😉
Yes, I want to play more gigs in the whole of Europe and maybe I can announce some great news very soon. If everything goes as planned, we can play in France soon.
As a one-woman band who handles the creative part —the song writing— do you always work with the same session musicians, whether in the studio recording or on the stage performing? We’d also like you to credit the names helping Juleah.
In the studio recordings there weren’t any other people involved until now, apart from my friend Constantin from Paris who played drums on one song of the last album.
For the stage, I have three great guys who play with me. It has taken quite some time to find the right people. The current line-up has a good chemistry and we’re really well attuned by now. Our drummer Alexander Walser lives in Liechtenstein. We always rehearse at his place. His style of drumming fits my songs really well. Guitarist Henry Galehr had the most difficult task with learning my very detailed guitar parts but by now he can play them in his sleep. The newest and youngest member is David Stecher on the bass, who joined us due to some complicated circumstances. By accident you could say. In retrospect, some accidents can bring great people into your life. 🙂
How do you manage other players so Juleah sounds just like it does in your head?
The guitar tone is one of the most important things and thankfully Henry was ok with my proposals of pedals he should use – which includes reverb “always on”. For the band in general, it really isn’t always easy for me, especially because I do it the other way around like most bands do. First I finish the song and only then we start to rehearse it live. So I really have a strong idea of how it should sound. Some songs are working right from the start while others take longer or just don’t work at all. So live we mostly play songs out of the first category.
I try to find the sweet spot between: “It has to sound like this” and “let it breath, they are not computers”. The audience has to decide how well we succeeded. I remember that once someone told me: “It sounds just like on the record” so I guess it’s ok! 🙂
I was surprised when I first saw that you’d made several music videos. Do you enjoy making them?
Yes, very much, but I like it better to let other people, professionals, do the videos, if it’s possible financially. It’s amazing what these people can do, and so much better than I could. Unfortunately, most of the times bands like us can’t pay the video makers (and also photographers) as much as they would really deserve.
Which one of your gigs you like the most?
I liked our gig at Zaragoza Psych Fest very much. Also the one in Vienna we played last month was great. We had an awesome rock n roll weekend there. We recorded a live session and played as the support of The Kundalini Genie in front of a great audience. Plenty of Jägermeister was involved, too 😉
Where would you like the most to perform? Any dream festivals?
Yes of course, Levitation, Desert Daze and all the other psych-themed festivals. Besides playing there, I love meeting and seeing other bands!
Are there any musicians that you would recommend we check out?
Send Medicine from California
You Said Strange from France
Ryvers from Austria
What are your plans for immediate future?
We plan to play some gigs in the beginning of 2020. Apart from that, I’m working on new songs.
Thank you for this interview Julia! It was great sitting with you here. Any last words?
Thanks to all of you who sent me messages throughout the years. It was really encouraging and kept me going.