Julian Fulton is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from NJ who is slowly but surely gaining esteem and recognition outside of his so-called “oceanside vacuum” amongst credible music institutions like Sofar Sounds and Converse Rubber Tracks. He is known best for his amalgamation of vintage rock ‘n’ roll with today’s current experimental indie-rock landscape, as well as his painfully genuine songwriting. Judging from his last three EPs, it seems that Fulton is not one who is afraid to experiment or pigeonhole himself to any specific decade or genre.
Recently, I had a chance to chat with him about his upcoming EP release (slated for this fall) and revival of his backing band, The Zombie Gospel. Read more below and catch him and his band on Aug. 31 at Asbury Park Live Summer Concert Series, playing alongside Dentist and Asphalt Grey.
So, tell us a little about yourself.
I was born, raised, and currently reside in New Jersey, come from a big family of incredibly supportive people, and have been writing songs in one way or another since I was 11 or 12.
What are you currently working on?
I’m wrapping up a new EP slated for release this fall, and rehearsing with the newest manifestation of The Zombie Gospel. I also spent time this past spring tracking songs at Converse Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn, so I’m hoping to get those out into the world at some point.
Who are some of your current influences?
I’m real into producer Adrian Younge right now. He produced the soundtrack to Black Dynamite and has since produced a slew of really unique soul and hip hop records (all analog). His collaboration with The Delfonics was how I got introduced to him. I’ve been digging on a bunch of dual-artist/producer types as well—Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear), Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), Blake Mills, etc. I’m also enjoying rediscovering Foxygen’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, still listening to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, and haven’t stopped listening to Paul McCartney’s Ram for like three years straight. There’s a whole mess of great music that I always have in rotation (Otis Redding, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, etc.), influencing me in one way or another.
Life, current events, and books provide a lot of inspiration, too. I’m currently reading The Alchemist and rereading 1984, and I’ve noticed similar themes in some of the songs that I’m writing now. It all depends, really. Even the weather can impact a song if you let it.
You regularly play with your backing band, The Zombie Gospel, but your last EP, Noise, was a solo effort. Do you plan to move forward as a solo artist?
The previous edition of The Zombie Gospel fizzled out at the end of summer 2014 when members went off to school, got job opportunities, etc. So that’s when I put out some home-recordings and started playing solo shows. It didn’t make sense to gig and record as Julian Fulton and the Zombie Gospel at that point. My forthcoming EP was recorded while auditioning new members for The Zombie Gospel, so I’m playing all the instruments on that release as well. However, I’ll be gigging with The Zombie Gospel starting August 31, so I’m looking forward to having a band around again.
Being from NJ, do you think you have a big fish advantage over the multitudes of NYC artists trying to distinguish themselves?
It’s possible that it’s been easier distinguishing myself in New Jersey than it would’ve been in NYC, but even a little fish will stand out more in a little pond than a big one. I think I still need to prove whether or not I’m a big fish, and then this fish is still going to want to distinguish himself in NYC and a million other ponds. So we’re all fighting the same uphill battles. But more to your point, New Jersey has probably been a less soul-crushing place for me to get my feet wet. NYC’s just so huge and full of talent, and (as it appears to me) there’s no cohesive scene or community. I could be wrong though.
What has been a highlight for you throughout your music career?
Being able to involve the people close to me in my music has always been a highlight. My brother Aidan has been drumming on and off for me since we were in high school, and my girlfriend Kristine has been lending me her voice for almost as long. A lot of friends have backed me up and helped with recordings over the years as well, and I even got my dad and brothers to do backup vocals on a track off my upcoming EP. It’s very humbling to have all these people involved and genuinely enthusiastic about my music, whether they’re playing with me or not. It makes all the highs and even the lows a little better.
What’s your favorite venue to play?
Up until it closed (for renovations?), Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ was my favorite spot to play. Even when absolutely nobody knew who I was, the folks there gave me a place to play and always made me feel welcome. Venues like Asbury Lanes play an integral role in local music scenes, and no matter the future of the venue, I can say that I’m proud to have played there.
In anticipation of your upcoming Asbury Park Live Summer Concert Series show on Aug. 31, what can concertgoers expect from your live performance?
It’ll be my first full-band performance in two years, so I almost don’t know what to expect myself. It’ll be really nice to hear my songs with a full band again, and a lot of them for the first time. Even my tried and true fans are in for a new experience in that regard. The band’s getting excited, and I’ve got a lot of pent up energy from doing two straight years of solo shows too, so we’re ready to put on a high-energy performance.
I’m in love with your last demo, “Another Tattoo.” Do you have plans to release this as part of an EP/LP?
I started recording “Another Tattoo” during my session with Rubber Tracks, so hopefully it will be wrapped up and released somewhat soon—either as a single or perhaps as part of another EP.
I read in one of your interviews that you record your music in your garage. Do you find that the current musical landscape is richer due to its easy access to technology, or is it harder to break through as a serious musician?
In many ways, both are true. There’s so much amazing music out there that we’d never get exposed to if not for easy access to technology and recording equipment. By the same token, having an obscene amount of music, good and bad, readily available to the public can definitely make distinguishing yourself all the more difficult. It also establishes a level of entitlement in consumers. But technology has transformed the music industry in so many different ways that this interview could just be about that. It’s ultimately up to the artist to decide if they’re going to use the current musical landscape to their advantage, let themselves be a victim of its ever-changing ways, or somehow succeed in spite of it.
Just for fun: I noticed a lot of Michael Scott memes on your Instagram. Which character do you identify with the most?
As much as I’d like to relate to a more colorful character, like a Dwight or a Michael, I’m probably more like a Jim or an Oscar—sarcastic and a touch cynical. On a bad day, though, there’s nobody more relatable than Toby. His whole life is a bad day.
Anything else you want to leave us with?
Keep your eyes and ears peeled for new music and shows this fall, and make sure to get out and support other local artists and performers the best you can.
Catch Julian Fulton and his band on Aug. 31 at Asbury Park Live Summer Concert Series, playing alongside Dentist and Asphalt Grey. For more information, go to julianfulton.com.