Western Pennsylvania quintet the Juliana Theory transformed themselves from an emo-rock outfit into a full-fledged arena rock group in the span of their original, decade-long run. Unlike other contemporaries, their songs displayed dynamics, skill, and attention to melodious detail, experimenting with electronic atmosphere.
The band was formed in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1997 by vocalist Brett Detar, bassist Chad Alan, guitarist Josh Fiedler, and two other friends. It was primarily a side project for Detar at first, due to his commitment as guitarist and major songwriter for metalcore band Zao. Eventually, Detar's poppy side won over, and he decided to commit to the Juliana Theory full-time, amicably exiting Zao.
A split-EP with the band Dawson High on Arise Records marked the band's recorded debut. Their live shows were electric, filled with smiling tongue-in-cheek, bubblegum pop moves -- including the guitarists' penchant for tossing their picks in the air and catching them. Drummer Neil Hebrank and guitarist Josh Kosker were recruited as the Juliana Theory signed a multi-album deal with Seattle-based Tooth & Nail. Their debut full-length, Understand This Is a Dream, was released on March 23, 1999. It was full of dreamy, whimsical pop songs, but also hinted at a greater depth that would later be more fully explored.
Embarking on an extensive tour in support of their album, the Juliana Theory shared stages with many bands and performed at several national festivals. The band re-entered the studio in 2000, first unleashing a three-way split-CD with Onelinedrawing and the Gray AM through Onedaysaviour, and following with the accomplished, heavily polished, and dynamic Emotion Is Dead. The Juliana Theory's sophomore opus explored darker depths than their previous outings had touched upon, conjuring emotive power ballads and soaring rock scorchers through textured electronics and expanded moods.
Detar began playing third guitar more and more in the live setting as the band's fan base increased dramatically. Growing increasingly weary of the emo tag and fed up with their bubblegum emo image and sound, the Juliana Theory began writing substantially more focused compositions. After a major-label bidding war in 2001, the Juliana Theory signed a recording contract with Epic/Sony. A few dates on the 2001 Warped Tour followed. On October 23 of the same year, the Juliana Theory released six new songs as the Music from Another Room EP on Tooth & Nail. The songs charted new territory for the quintet, evoking the epic dynamics of late-'70s prog rockers like Rush, Yes, and Genesis. A round of performances with the similarly minded Movielife and Detar's old mates in Zao followed.
Their third LP, Love (Epic), continued their move away from genre conventions, taking a more mainstream approach without sacrificing their intensity or experimental flourishes. Peaking at number 71 on the Billboard 200, it would not only be their first and only charting effort to date, but it was also their first official major-label release. The relationship with Epic would not continue, however, and the band issued a live album through Tooth & Nail before signing with indie imprint Abacus for September 2005's Deadbeat Sweetheartbeat. A best-of collection from their years on Tooth & Nail, A Small Noise, appeared in February 2006. That same month, the group formally announced their decision to break up.
In 2010, the band regrouped for a handful of comeback shows, playing Emotion Is Dead in its entirety at select concerts. At year's end, their reunion concluded, and the band would remain silent for almost a decade. In the spring of 2017, the Juliana Theory returned for a 20th anniversary trek of the United States. ~ Ryan J. Downey & Neil Z. Yeung