Gimpleg had the pleasure of speaking with Pulses. Together they discussed their songwriting process, album artwork, ghouls, what is coming next, and so much more!
1 Hello and thanks for joining us at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
Matt: Pretty good! 3 of us are going to see our friends in The Callous Daoboys tonight so I’m stoked for that.
Caleb: Doing pretty well! Steadily working through editing/mixing songs for our next record and then going to the show to see friends perform is always a pleasure.
2. You describe yourself as post-hardcore, math rock, punk, and emo, but that doesn’t really mean you have songs in each genre- you really blend all of these genres into almost every song. What is your song writing process like?
Matt: Most of the time, somebody either comes up with an idea and sends it around to everybody so they can add their parts, or we’ll sit down together with a goal of putting two genres together or making something that has the vibe of another song or songs that we’ve been listening to recently.
Caleb: Yeah, honestly just whatever we’re listening to at the time has a huge impact on what we put into the songs. We all like so many different styles and we want that represented in our songwriting. And when we do go into these little genre excursions, we do our best to represent those styles as authentically as possible.
3. Does each member of the band have their own musical tastes, or do most of you listen to a broad range of influences?
Caleb: We definitely listen to a broad range of things. R&B and hip hop were my first loves when I was younger, and I started getting into more rock based genres with Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy back in the early 00s. I feel like as a musician you owe it to yourself to try and appreciate a wide range of things, you never know what little things can inspire you in your own work.
Matt: We all listen to a lot of different stuff! I know personally two of my all time favorites are Enter Shikari and Say Anything, I’ve been on a hardcore & EDM kick recently though so I’ve been listening to a lot of Trapped Under Ice and Skrillex. I jump around genre wise in my listening a lot.
David: Deathcore, Metalcore, and EDM. There’s a lot of cool metalcore coming out right now I’m super excited about like Make Them Suffer and ERRA, and hopefully the same comes true with some of the Deathcore and progressive stuff this year with hopefully an ATB and Acacia Strain album, (fingers crossed on ATB, it seems they’ve been super active!)
Kevin: Caleb and I are brothers so we share a lot of similar tastes. I probably love pop divas the most out of everyone, I think: folks like Carly Rae Jepsen, Rina Sawayama, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson. Post-hardcore and hip hop are my core loves but I dabble in a whole lot of things.
4. Who are some of the bands that influence your music the most?
Caleb: From the post-hardcore side of things, I don’t think we’d be a band without The Fall of Troy or Silverstein, plus some of Dance Gavin Dance’s early works. Fall Out Boy and Linkin Park were super influential to me when I was a kid with picking up an instrument. Nowadays, it can be hard to pin it down to a couple bands or artists since we can be influenced by a range of people from T-Pain or Craig David to Glassjaw or Issues.
Kevin: Linkin Park is probably the reason I’m even into making music; back in the 00s, I used to make mashups and those were my first experiences with a digital audio workstation. Their blending of genres was so dialed in for me and continues to be to this day. Plus, their love for great visuals/art, use of breaking technology, and love for their listeners is something we try to emulate as much as we can.
Matt: There’s so many honestly, it varies song to song, but I know three of the biggest influences on our overall sound and ethos are Silverstein, Thursday, and The Fall Of Troy.
5. You added a viola and a bassoon to the studio version of “Yo! Champ in the Making”. Who’s decision was that and what led you to such an unusual musical arrangement?
Matt: I wanna say it was Caleb’s idea? He plays viola so he played the part on that track.
David: The Viola was def all Caleb.
Caleb: We wrote that track a long time ago at this point funny enough, but yeah I wanna say it was my idea. I played in the orchestra since 5th grade all the way until I graduated high school. Adding in viola was something I always wanted to do, so I just threw it in there as an idea and it stuck. Glad I was still okay enough to record it, I hadn’t played viola in at least 5 years!
6. Most of your album art and many of your shirts you’ve used for band merch feature birds. What is the reason for birds being central to the band’s identity?
David: Because we recognize the fact that birds are just government drones and wish to raise awareness of such.
Kevin: Honestly, that’s probably a better answer than any fake deep stuff I would’ve come up with to explain it. I think it just kinda happened that way. But I am very proud and happy about it.
7. Your most recent single, Run the Ghouls, came out in December, and the album art is very different from your previous artwork. Who designed this album cover and whose idea was behind it?
Matt: We’re having an artist named Ny (@choppedduck) that we found on fiverr do all the art for this cycle, she’s been killing it so far!
Kevin: I gave Ny the prompt of the skeleton bunny from the upcoming album art rallying up the troops but in a cute way and she just ran a marathon with it.
8. Are you running from Ghouls because they are undead and don’t have a pulse? Where did the name Pulses come from?
David: No, they’re just scary.
Kevin: It’s actually more we’re running the ghouls for their money than we are running the ghouls away haha. pulses. came from a desire to have a band name with one word that sounded progressive in nature. Unfortunately not a very wild story.
9. Your first EP came out 7 years ago now, and you’ve put out a pretty significant amount of work since then. You can still hear some of the same influences but you are clearly in a different place musically now than you were then. How did the band come together and how has the band changed over the last 7 years?
Caleb: In my senior year of high school they were holding a battle of the bands and I had wanted to put together something for it, with it being my last year and all. I had these two other guys that were going to perform with me, but things came up for them and they had to bail two weeks prior to the performance. I ended up asking Kevin, my brother, and David, a classmate of mine, to fill in for them at the last minute. We ended up losing, but we really enjoyed doing it so we decided that night to keep going and see where things go. Adding in Matt a couple years into things and after our first full length is really where we felt like we were getting a solid footing on the direction we wanted to go in. The band has changed sound in increments over the last 7 years for sure, and in a way I think makes sense, but I’d like to think our mindset and mentality is still about the same as it was back then. And I think that’s for the better.
Matt: I can’t speak on the beginnings as much since I joined later, but I think we’ve really just found ourselves a lot over the past 7 years, especially in the past like 3 or so years since Speak It Into Existence came out. I feel like the music we’re making now and the decisions we’re making as a band reflect the four of us, both individually and as a collective, very well.
Kevin: I think we haven’t even begun to show what we’re capable of, even after all this time. It’s all still exciting and still fun, and that’s how I know we’re doing alright.
10. You are out of Dumfries, Virginia. Is there much of a music scene in Dumfries, or do you have to travel to DC or Baltimore to play your shows and see other bands? Who are some of your favorite local(ish) acts to see or play with?
David: I think after Empire (in Springfield, VA) closed, anything between Richmond and DC faded out. Whether that’s just a lack of interest or people in the area being willing to commute it’s hard to say.
Matt: Most of our shows either end up in the DC/Northern Virginia area or in Richmond. We wanna get up to Baltimore more though! Some of my favorites for Virginia artists are Mikau, Zach Benson, Calling Down Fire.
Caleb: With us also being in Northern Virginia, Baltimore and Richmond are pretty much about the same distance from us so it’s mostly between those two areas. Adding onto Matt some of my favorite locals are Followship, Black Matter Device, Granite State, and Sunshine Hysteria.
Kevin: More locals! Cinema Hearts, Pinkshift, Fake Bodies, Science Penguin, The Missing Peace, Gradual Slip. There’s tons of talent in the DMV area.
11. In addition to many incredible t shirt designs, you also have a hot sauce collaboration. What led to your collaboration with a hot sauce and how hot is it? Why do you think bands are branding hot sauce and not mustard?
Matt: Our friends in With Sails Ahead did a hot sauce with Complete Goner and it came out great so we kinda stole their idea, with their blessing of course lol. It’s pretty hot, but also really sweet so it balances out, it’s honestly probably my favorite hot sauce I own.
12. You have a concert coming up next month. Where is it, who are you playing with, and how can people get tickets?
Kevin: We’re supporting Dollar Signs and Pollyanna on their tour, Holdover will be with us as well. Tickets can be found at https://bit.ly/Pollyanna4-6
13. Your last album, Speak Less came out just over 2 years ago. You had 2 singles come out in 2022. What’s next for Pulses? Are you working on a new album or planning any tours for this year?
Matt: We’ve got a couple more singles leading up to an album that should be starting to roll out soon! We’re finishing up the recording now so we hope to have it out sometime in the summer with singles coming before that but we’ll see. Also planning some tour dates as well but they’re still in the early stages of getting booked.
Caleb: We’ve got a lot of music in the pipeline that we’re really excited about. Starting with the Yo! Champ in the Making EP, all of the production/mixing we’ve been doing ourselves. We used that EP as a test run basically to see if we were capable of handling it all ourselves, and that gave us the confidence to do this next full length the same way. Having complete control over how everything sounds has given us a lot of time and freedom to really make things exactly how we want. We’ve learned a lot through the process and I think it’ll show in the kind of sounds we went for on the record. Truly excited to see how these songs also translate in a live setting with these new shows we’ve got planned.
13. Where can people follow the band, where can they listen to your music, and how can they support the band?
Kevin: We are @pulsesva on twitter, instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and twitch. The best place to support us would be our bandcamp, grabbing merch and buying the music goes a long way!