Pulses. new album Speak It Into Existence is out now.
You have never heard a post-hardcore outfit quite like Dumfries, Virginia quartet pulses.. Their music is a balancing act. Aggression, melody, funk, and fun all play an integral role. Somehow the nimble bastards manage to pull it off with aplomb. Their second album Speak It Into Existence, which was released in April 2020, is a gloriously infectious and joyous experience. In a way, they somewhat remind me of Bristol post-punks IDLES. Not in musical style, but rather in how they manage to imbue a genre that is not generally known for its sense of fun or humour with a natural and effortless playfulness.
On top of all this, they are lovely boys too. We had a lovely chat with them about exploring new ground on Speak It Into Existence, the challenges that we’ve all faced this year, and perhaps coming to play in Ireland!
Overblown: The first single from pulses. new album is titled ‘Louisiana Purchase’. It is an excellently ambitious mixture of post-hardcore and NOLA bounce music. That is an unusual mix, to say the least. What has the fan reaction been like to that track?
Matt Burridge (guitar/vocals): It’s been really good! I remember being a little nervous to release that song, especially as a first single, just because it was the longest song and it’s one of the weirder ones but it seems to be a favorite now. We played a show like less than a week after it came out and people already knew all the words, it was insane.
Caleb Taylor (guitar/vocals): Yeah, it definitely exceeded my expectations. I remember before it came out being slightly worried if people were gonna vibe with it or appreciate the mix of styles. Nonetheless, it was an idea we had that I’m still proud of. It’s one of our songs I feel that truly exemplify who we are as a band. The fact that it quickly became our most popular song to date just makes me all the more proud.
Overblown: Pulses. form of post-hardcore stands out in that there’s a really cool party vibe to many of the songs. It seems designed to get people dancing. Is that something that you’ve consciously cultivated or something that comes more naturally than that?
Matt: We just like to have fun with our music. Like it’s fun to write more moody or serious tracks too and we tried to kinda balance those with the fun ones on this album but a lot of the influences we pull from outside of post-hardcore tend to be more fun and danceable so I think that contributes to that a lot.
David Crane (bass/backing vocals): I know a big thing me and Caleb had in mind right from the get-go when writing songs in high school was that we didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously. We started off writing a song about a SpongeBob episode and we try to keep that same ridiculousness going even today.
Caleb: I always have a good time hanging out with my guys, so that good time transfers into the music seamlessly. I love the thrill of performing with them, and just joking along with everything and hope that’s transferred to the listener. A lot of the music that I grew up listening to, such as r&b, soul, funk, and hip hop, has always had an innate danceability to them. It’s ingrained into me since my beginnings and I want it to be represented in my music as well.
Kevin Taylor (drums/vocals): Everything the other guys’ said, I echo. There’s a time and place for every kind of emotion and post-hardcore isn’t known for being the most positive/dance inducing genre, so we thought why not slot into an underrepresented lane?
Overblown: This album features a lot more variety of instrumentation such as sax, trumpets, trombone amongst others. Why did you want to expand your sound to include a more diverse away of instruments?
Matt: The other guys can probably speak on this more since I wasn’t around for bouquet., but I think the goal with this record was to branch out and try new things and we didn’t limit ourselves to the “band in a room” kind of song writing approach. It was really fun adding production elements to these songs and it’s definitely something I think we’re gonna continue to do in the future where applicable!
David: Our first record, bouquet., definitely had a “traditional rock band” style of writing with only what we could play live being used, and that changed on Speak It Into Existence with a wide variety of different noises and instruments being used.
Caleb: It was just that next step in evolution that we felt like we wanted to take. Like David said, on bouquet. we always told ourselves “if we can’t replicate this live in a way that fully represents the song, we won’t do it. No backtracks or anything too extra.” But just from kinda growing up a bit, the mentality can be limiting. We still have that same mindset generally, but we won’t let that stifle us from making something sound even better by adding in these other instruments, or samples.
Kevin: I also think that back then we were so new to things that we never thought we could actually do more than what we could play live, maybe had Matt been in the band sooner with his current production abilities, we could’ve explored things earlier. Who knows! I like the growth and shift though.
Overblown: I think my favourite track on the album is ‘Exist Warp Brakes’. To me to sounds like Beastie Boys fronting a post-hardcore version of Aerosmith. How do you feel about that description?
Matt: Hahahaha funny enough that’s exactly how my dad described it. Not exactly the intent but Aerosmith was one of the first bands I ever got into when I was really young so they’re kind of a guilty pleasure for me.
Caleb: ‘Exist Warp Brakes’ is another one I’m super proud of so I’m glad you and others have been digging it! That’s definitely an interesting description that has some accuracy to it haha. The song is in the style of Go-Go, a genre pretty much unique to the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area. If you go into DC during the summer, you literally cannot go a couple blocks without hearing either a live band or someone blasting Go-Go on their speakers. Can’t have a proper function without it.
Overblown: Any plans to get pulses. albums released on vinyl? Asking for a friend…
Kevin: We did a fundraising campaign to press bouquet. to vinyl that was very recently successfully funded, so about 65/100 of those have been purchased and the rest will be available on our store once we get them. Since that campaign worked, we plan on pressing Speak It Into Existence as well down the road!
Overblown: On to more serious subject matter, how have you been dealing with the COVID-19 situation? What’s it like in Virginia?
Matt: I’m actually living in West Virginia at the moment so my experience is a little different, but it’s had its ups and downs overall. We’re a lot more open here since we didn’t get hit with it as hard as VA or MD did but pretty much everything I do is in one of those states so I’ve just been staying home for the most part. Very excited to hopefully be able to be in the same room with everyone in the band soon though!
Caleb: It’s definitely been rough staying in the house all the time of course haha. I’m lucky to say that I haven’t been too hurt by it overall and have been healthy. The biggest change for me was switching to online classes for my last semester of college, so now I’ll forever be marked as a 2020 COVID-19 Grad haha. Kevin and I live in Northern Virginia, a little ways outside of DC so we’ve kinda stayed away from populated places since it was pretty bad out here for a bit. Luckily as of today we’re on the downward trend. It’s now state mandated to wear a mask in public so let’s hope people actually do that and we can continue that downward trend.
Overblown: In Ireland, we’ve had to stay home a lot and I have tried to take the positives from the situation. For instance, I don’t have social obligations! Are there any positives that you have taken from the situation?
Matt: I’ve been hella productive, which has been really nice. I’ve released 3 tapes with my beat production project, BD LCK, with another one basically done just waiting for a few vocal parts to get recorded just because I’ve had way too much time to sit around and make beats, so that’s definitely been the biggest upside for me.
Caleb: Yeah I’m doing my best to stay productive musically. I’ve been taking the time to learn the engineering side of things, so just doing a lot of research on mixing, gear, and editing. Since we tracked Speak It Into Existence ourselves, we have a lot of confidence now to be able to put out more stuff when we want. Even though we’ve already had these plans prior to COVID, it’s given us the time to work on some new stuff to come out sooner than you’d think.
Kevin: I think it’s given me some time to re-evaluate the fragility of society, but I’m not trying to get into all that here, haha.
Overblown: The horrible murder of George Floyd has also had a huge impact recently. What was your reaction to that? What impact do you think the protests could have?
Kevin: My initial reaction was that “we’ve been here before way too many times” and the same numbness came back again. However, this time I truly do think folks are paying attention across the US and even across the world, as evident by you asking us about it, which shows how much of an impact they’ve had already. I really think that this + the coronavirus happening all at the same time is going to shift the paradigm, at least a little. Things can’t go back, we’ve gotta make steps to make things better for everyone, especially black folks, at this moment. Black Lives Matter.
Matt: It’s been an emotional week or two since it happened for sure. It’s been infuriating watching all of the videos of police brutality against peaceful protesters and against black people in general. Luckily it seems like the protests have been having a positive effect, especially on Minneapolis as they just started discussing a major overhaul. I just hope this can continue and affect the country at large. But yeah, RIP George Floyd, RIP Breonna Taylor, Black Lives Matter.
Caleb: Yeah, this whole situation hits really personal to me, as I’ve watched this kind of tragedy happen again and again since I was a kid. I’m thankful that this time around people seem to really be taking it seriously and we can make some much needed progress in reforming the police system, legislation, and the minds of people to stand up for what’s right and to truly believe that Black Lives Matter.
Overblown: Back to the music. Correct me if I am wrong, but ‘Graduation Day’ must be pulses. most restrained and ballad-like song. I think it demonstrates the variety in the band’s songwriting. It is not easy to successfully go from a party mood to a more reflective mood. Was it important to you as a band to show that you were capable of writing something like that?
Matt: Funny enough, Danny wrote most of that one instrumentally! But we’ve definitely got more songs in that realm in the works, I think that putting that song on the album definitely opened up the possibilities for future records. That song, while still not being the most popular, has had a lot of positive reactions, it’s cool just truly feeling like we can do whatever we want with our music.
Caleb: Yeah, that one is a very personal one for a couple reasons, the most obvious being related to my time in college and the emotional toll that put on me (or put on myself). It was important for us to put it on the record to show that we are all multi-faceted individuals and we don’t want to always be stuck in one lane. There’s always a balance I want to always have for us. As much as we want to have a good time and be jovial with everything, I never want us to be looked at as some sort of “joke band”. It’s these kind of songs where I want to show that we’re capable of throwing in some emotional stuff when we choose to, haha.
Overblown: How about when all this lockdown etc is over, pulses. come over to Ireland and play a gig for my birthday next year?
Matt: I would love that so much honestly, I’ve never been to Ireland but it’s been one of my top places to go for as long as I can remember! Money makes it hard but I’m sure whenever we can hit Europe, that’ll be on the list for sure!
David: Bring the beer and we’ll make it happen.
Caleb: That’s expensive dawg lmao. Playing in Europe would be the dream though.
Kevin: From Dumfries to Dumfries would be a sick title for a tour documentary!
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