In a land of so many talented local-centric t-shirt companies (New Orleans, that is), one of my favorites is Shultzilla. They first won me over with their sense of humor and wit. And I must admit, I absolutely LOVE their 504 Reasons (to love New Orleans of course!). I recently caught up with the husband & wife team behind Shultzilla, Aimée and Jeremy Miller, to find out more about what makes them tick and how they got started.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves. How did you get started designing things?
Aimée: I grew up in Meraux, Louisiana and moved to Baton Rouge to attend design school at LSU.
Jeremy: I’m from Metairie and also moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. I initially started out as an Economics major, and played drums in several bands over the past few years.
A: We met while attending LSU. I volunteered with an organization at LSU that put on Battle of the Bands. Jeremy played drums in Tweezer (a Weezer cover band), one of the bands that competed in the battle. We became friends, though it seemed like the only thing we had in common at the time was our love for Weezer.
J: We were both (and still are) huge Weezer fans.
A: I mentioned to one of my friends at Battle of the Bands that Weezer was my favorite band. Jeremy overheard and thought I said Tweezer. I broke it to him gently that I really said Weezer. He didn’t take it too hard, so I figured he was cool.
J: Fast forward four years later to January of 2006. I moved back to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, once I realized Economics wasn’t my thing. I began taking courses in design and web development. I liked it so much that I started my own design business Oh My Graphics (OMG!)
A: Post-graduation, I worked at Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry, along with advertising and creative agencies doing graphic design and project management. Past work experience has been very important to me since it taught me many lessons on how we would need to run SHULTZILLA.
J: Shortly after Hurricane Gustav, I went up to Baton Rouge to practice with one of my bands. Aimée and I hung out that weekend, which was the start of what many would call “happily ever after.” Shortly into our relationship, the idea of then-unnamed SHULTZILLAwas born. We were sitting at brunch one day with some friends and were throwing around words about New Orleans, thinking that it would be funny to make a bright yellow tshirt that would be a parody of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.”
A: Finally, Jeremy shouted out, “It’s always humid in New Orleans” and that was that. New Orleans is a lot of things to a lot of people, but one thing is certain about this city – it’s humid. And the idea for one of our most popular sellers was born.
J: After coming up with a few concepts for tshirts, we decided we needed a name. We combined our last names Shultz and Miller, while taking the yat accent into consideration, we dropped the “er” and added an “a.” SHULTZILLA is what we came up with. Ya know, kind of like Godzilla, but a little more friendly and a lot better looking.
A: We spent the next several months working with a screen printer on designs. Since we’re both graphic designers, we were able to produce marketing materials and our website in the evenings once we got off work from our day jobs. At the time, I was still in Baton Rouge and Jeremy was down in New Orleans. We launched our site Nov 25, 2009. Four days later, Jeremy popped the question on the Brooklyn Bridge while we were in NYC.
J: And by “popped the question,” she doesn’t mean I asked her if I should keep my beard or go with a mustache! We got married this past April in my uncle’s back yard. It was a dang ol’ hoot.
A: A little over a year ago, we bought a house where we run SHULTZILLA and our other business that we started together – JAM Creative. JAM is a print and digital communications group. That’s the short version of the past eight years or so!
What inspires your work?
We find inspiration for our work in so many places. Obviously, New Orleans is a huge inspiration for us. We also appreciate both good design and typography, as well as music and art. We immerse ourselves in everything New Orleans. The history, culture, music, and what we would call the colloquial jibba jabba of this city are like none other! We love how New Orleans has its own language. Nothing beats a Sunday afternoon in the courtyard at Napoleon House, sipping on a Pimm’s Cup. We also enjoy watching streetcars come and go, seeing the different people step in and out the cars, wondering where they’re coming from and where they are headed. Festival season in New Orleans encompasses everything this city is about. You’ll also almost always find us listening to WWOZ.
A little over a year ago, we started the Twitter tag #504reasons. It’s our little ode to the 504 reasons we love New Orleans. We tweet out reasons, starting at #504 and will end with #1. Don’t be fooled, though- no reason is more important than another–it’s more of a 504 way tie for 1st place! If you’ve missed reasons, no worries- find them at 504reasons.com.
We enjoy working with local businesses and organizations as well. We were commissioned to design tshirts for The Rum House and The Breton Sound, a local rock band. We also designed this year’s Bowl-a-Thon tshirt for The Advertising Club of New Orleans, which was a little nerve-racking because our shirts were in the hands of the best of the best in New Orleans advertising and design!
What are your favorite things about New Orleans?
In no particular order: Central Grocery muffalettas, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the yat accent, diversity of culture, sidewalk dining on Magazine Street, drinking on a Sunday afternoon, festivals, the Sazerac, streetcars, City Park, Audubon Park, sometimes Lafreniere Park, Drew Brees and Saints football, Hornets, Lee Zurick’s eyebrows, The Times-Picayune, Chris Trew and The New Movement Theater, bike riding down Carrollton, The Fly, shopping local, artists, Pimm’s Cup, lazy afternoons in the French Quarter, high school football, Old Fashions at LOA, the pub quiz at Half Moon, and the spirit of New Orleans.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve made?
J: I’m a fan of our “Drill Baby Drill” tee. Last year we were at Oktoberfest at the Deutsches Haus doing German marches and a woman was on the opposite side of me. Every time we’d meet in the middle and toast she’d say “I love your shirt!!” and point at my tee. After the song ended, she came up to me and we started talking. After a minute, she said “You don’t look like a Republican!” I said, “Thanks?!” with a kind of confused face.
A few seconds later she must have realized that the shirt also said “Spill Baby Spill.” At that point, her face turned sour and she walked away.
We got her good!
Of course, I also like our “Always Humid” tee. It’s clever and even though it’s targeted to a specific audience (people familiar with the FX TV show), people who don’t know about the show still think it’s funny… because it’s true!
A: I like our P.E. tee. It’s another targeted audience tee that usually only people in their mid 20s- early 30s get the real meaning of. It’s a play on a line from DJ Jubilee’s “Get it Ready,” which was played at ALL high school dances throughout the GNO area. Other people are able to relate to the times when someone asks you what school you went to because you know they don’t mean college! I also dig the Crescent City type tee. I like the simplicity of the design and use of typography.
Where do you see your company in 2 years?
We are working toward getting a place that has both retail and commercial space. We’re also currently pursuing wholesale with several vendors throughout the metro area…spreading the love!
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in pursuing creative dreams?
We know this is already trademarked, but we’ll say it anyway– just do it. And, if you plan on doing business in New Orleans, we also recommend reading Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”