The Juliet Collective
is co-owned by two life long close friends, Robbie Spears and Chase Neal. A company founded in 2009 from the birthplace of the blues, rock and roll and Morgan Freeman; Mississippi.
The funny thing about the term, "inventor" is that's what I would always say I wanted to be when I was a kid. My inventing was usually just taking something apart to try and figure out how it did what it did. Rarely did it get put back together. My granddad bought me my first guitars when I was about 13. He was helping a friend clean out an old trailer that he owned and the previous tenants left two water damaged guitars. A 1982 alvarez regent and a no year semi hollow body Polaris. The alvarez has been with me ever since. It's the ONLY thing that's floated with me through my countless moves and couch-surfing escapades. The Polaris was absolutely terrible but I would love to know what happened to it and get another one. If someone has a sunburst double cutaway Polaris, I would probably trade them more than decent for it.
Music's always been important and I played guitar constantly until the night after graduating in 2000. I wound up breaking my neck in a car crash. The nerves around my break were responsible for a lot of my upper body and while my legs weren't in the least bit affected, my arms started drawing up and my grip strength went down to 1 and a half pounds. After playing guitar (terribly) for 5 years, it was harsh to be at the point where you couldn't even hold one. It was so bad that the first rounds of therapy were pulling pennies out of silly putty. I stayed at my grandparent's house for the recovery and while it was way out in the woods with nothing to do, it did have internet. I happened upon the precursor for "diystompboxes.com" that Aron Nelson runs and was fascinated that there were people who actually could build their own effects without a huge workshop. I took my graduation money and spent it all at radio shack and an old radio/tv repair shop (God, I wish that was still around). My therapy called for learning dexterity again and while I couldn't play the guitar, the soldering iron was an ok substitute. I ate up everything I could find on tone shaping. I printed notebooks full of stuff. I went to the library and checked out books.
I started to get better as my neck healed but kept on with my new hobby. It took months for my grip to come back enough to start working on guitar and I found that I pretty much had to retrain from the start. I had it in my head but my fingers really weren't responsive. The one good thing that came out of those many months was, I can play with my pinky! Before, I had always played with three fingers and when I was relearning, I knew the importance of actually trying to use all of your fingers. I tried many times before the wreck to recondition my mind for correct playing but it never clicked. My pinky went right back to being dumb. With a fresh slate, I was able to break out of that box. I went to my first days of community college with a halo on and met some really cool people and joined a band. We played for about 6 years before moving on. During that time, I would fix anything that came up and would still build boxes for friends. My sound guy's family set me up in their guest bedroom for years while we tried to make it professionally, because they're awesome. They never made me feel like a parasite and I'm still really grateful to them.
I went back to school in electronics tech and then, electrical engineering at Mississippi State. I worked for a company in my hometown that made absolutely terrible gear. A lot of what I do at The Juliet Collective is a direct reaction to that time in my life.
I started building pedals under the name in my kitchen. I shared a place with two of my best friends from eighth grade, Kenny Watson and Chase Neal. It went on like that for a while and never really sold anything. Built pedals and, usually, gave them away. A little while later, we had all moved on but Chase and I were still in the same town. I decided that I really wanted to try to do what I do for a "living." I feel like I was continuously getting better at my craft and as I was starting to design electronics rather than just copying other peoples work, I didn't feel bad about actually selling them. Now, I readily admit that when I say, "design things myself," I'm standing on the shoulders of giants. I wouldn't even know how to solder correctly had it not been for some of the awesome people I've met, conversed with, and just basically, forum stalked.
I can honestly say that I learned more about electronics from digging in deep at diystompboxes, geofex and AMZ than I have from anywhere. Well, back to the story. I asked my friend, Chase, to help me run the business and try to actually get it off the ground. After about two weeks of meeting in my guestroom and talking, we decided that it would be best to actually *do* something. We rented a spot at an artist collective downtown and set us up a little workspace in the corner. It was awesome to be around interesting people doing interesting things and it really inspired a lot of our work. Through the monthly art shows they put on, we got hooked up with one of the people who worked for our school in the intellectual property department and he, in turn, got us hooked up with the entrepreneurship center on campus.
There's really good advice on diystompboxes that pretty much comes down to, "don't start a pedal company." I absolutely love building pedals. It's my passion. The best advice I can give anyone is, "if it's your passion, do it anyway." You'll need to figure out a WHOLE LOT of stuff that's not even related to building pedals, but if you really love it, it'd be worth it. It'll become apparent pretty quick if it's really something you want to do. I make no promises about finances but I really think the world needs more people focused on doing something to the best of their ability.
The entrepreneurship center is really helping us shore up all of the weak areas that we have and if you look around, I'm sure you can find something like it where you are. They've found us warehouse space since the artist collective closed. They've loaned me an interim COO from their MBA program because I still suck at some stuff. And, they've helped us steer clear of many pitfalls that would have stalled us out for months at a time. What diystompboxes and the like did for my electronics side, the "e-center" has done for my business side.
Right now, I'm in production of an arpeggiator like pedal called the, "circadia." It's like a trem that plays with frequencies instead of volume. The way it works allows for odd time signatures and polyrhythms. I'm in the process of building a GUI for it at the moment that will allow you to custom program it with any rhythm you can dream up. I wanted to build something new, but not just a noisemaker. I want it to be unique but useful. Starting out with the circadia has been a lesson. I wanted something out of the gate to show that we're interested in putting out new designs and not just rehashing the same areas over and over that some boutique companies seem to constantly enjoy.
I feel that I do everything in my power to encourage other people into this, so I feel it's alright to be frank and honest, the world only needs so many tubescreamer clones! I learned by doing them. Most of the people I know who build gear, learned by doing them. Quite frankly, I'm pretty sure near about everyone who's trying to make it in the business right now has built a few. But I don't think taking a learning exercise and making a career out of it is a good business proposition. All that to say, our next pedal will be out probably by the time this is read. It's called, "this kingdom by the sea" and it's a pretty gnarly fuzz.
I refuse to take a circuit someone else designed, slap it in a box with a cool name on it and sell it as something new and unique. There are definitely techniques embedded in it that I've quelled from building countless distortion pedals and reading countless threads on mods and tonestacks and clipping but you will not find someone else's circuit in there. You may find a frankenstein of a hundred things I learned from other people but I will do my best to make it worth buying my pedal through the work I put into actually making something new from those pieces. I'm really trying to go along with the companies that are actually working hard to propel our industry. I may not be there yet, but I'm working on it.
In about a month, we'll release our take on a looper. The circuit design went so quick that we're trying to play catch up with our model to get the right artwork for the front. Tentatively, I think I'm going to name it after, "set adrift on memory bliss" by PM Dawn. If they say they'll sue me, it'll probably just wind up being called, "looper." So, be on the lookout for either name because I have no idea how laid back PM Dawn actually is. :)
We have really awesome guys playing on our gear and giving us feedback (it's neat what a free pedal can do) but it'll be up to them when the time comes if they want to back us. It'd be crappy of me to even hint to get name recognition because that would betray what we have going now but I hope, in the near future, we'll have some good news to tell everyone. ***If we need to cut all mention of that out so it doesn't sound dumb, I'm up for it. One guy's actually doing a demo clip for us but I told him I wouldn't use his name until then. *** We've had a lot of good feedback from everyone. The few negatives, we were able to fix up before our first full production run. Our first ten pre-production circadias actually have the inputs on the left. I thought it'd be neat to, "go against the grain" but I was wrong. It was nice but not so much on a tight pedal board so we redesigned and now everyone seems happy. I suppose there's just some things you don't mess with. :)
Visit The Juliet Collective at: