We interviewed Dumfries, VA based post-hardcore band Pulses.! Pulses. fuse together emo, pop, and post-hardcore into a jovial, smooth sound perfect for rocking out with your friends on your way to Emo Nite. We discussed our obsessions with My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, being influenced by parents’ favorite musicians like Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, and the B-52s, and frequent sampling of television and other non-musical elements in their songs. Interview with Matt Burridge (Guitar/Vocals), Caleb Taylor (guitar/vocals), Kevin Taylor (drums), and David Crane (bass).
What were your first impressions of your bandmates?
Kevin: When you were born, I was happy because we’re related.
Caleb: I thought you were gonna be a lot meaner about it.
Kevin: I love Caleb because he’s my brother. That’s cool. David’s cool. David I met through Caleb because Caleb went to school was him. My first impression was just my kid brother’s friend. Matt was a little different because we met him when he invited us to play a fest he was working on. So, it was a business thing in a way, meeting first, before we actually just became friends. But that was positive, because he was trying to do cool things in music, and I was too. That was cool.
Matt: Same for me. I was just really impressed with them as a band. They were already a band for awhile before I joined. My first impression was that they were really cool and really nice. That’s about it.
Caleb: With David, my first impression was that I met him in my IT class in high school. We just kind of met through mutual friends, so we hung out. I had a good impression, I thought he was a nice guy. A bit introverted at times, but I’m also very much so, even more than he can be.
So you describe yourselves as “emo” on your Facebook page and covered “Love Like Woe” by The Ready Set last summer. What are some of your favorite 2000s emo bands? How have they influenced you?
Matt: The three of us, everyone but David, went to Emo Nite every month pre-pandemic. We listen to a ton of stuff from that realm.
Caleb: I grew up very much on… Fall Out Boy was one of the first bands I got into. Growing up I was really into, I listen to a lot of R&B and hip hop stuff, and then Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy in regards to other bands specifically. They were one of the first bands I really got into.
Kevin: I can agree with that. Fall Out Boy is a big one for me. Of course Paramore is a great one too, pretty solid discography all the way through. Silverstein’s a big one for all of us, I think. Underoath is an important one too. There’s a lot. Literally, I could go on and on.
Matt: For me it was the opposite. I went from metal and stuff into the scene, so the first emo stuff I got into was like Attack Attack, A Day to Remember, Devil Wears Prada, that kind of stuff. It’s funny because at Emo Nite they’ll play something that’s like, classic pop-punk MySpace whatever, and I’m like, “I’ve never heard this before!”. And they’re all like, “What?”.
Kevin: I mean, a lot of that stuff I lived through. Especially all the MySpace stuff. But I wasn’t paying attention to it at the time. Then after it died, I was like, “Wait I actually like this a lot!”. But I still know everything that went on.
Caleb: There was plenty on my end too, of going back and listening to it. Especially when it comes to the fringe bands at the time. Like I think about Boys Night Out, one I’ve been getting into a lot the last two years, but they had their own niche back in the early, early 2000s. Revisiting all that stuff has been really nice in recent years.
What was your emo phase like? Do you have any style regrets?
Matt: Absolutely. I didn’t go into it as hard as some other people I know did, but I had long hair. I owned a pair of neon blue skinny jeans that were probably not a good purchase. I had all the neon Monster shirts, I had like sixty plastic wristbands on my wrists. It was bad. I never wore makeup or painted my nails, which is funny because if we’re playing shows, I’ll do that kind of stuff. Kevin does that a lot.
Kevin: My emo phase is right now.
Kevin: I’m 30, and I don’t care. I’m never gonna outgrow being emo. I never had a chance to do it when I was younger because of stricter parents. Not that I’m mad at them or anything, but it’s easier to express yourself when you’re old.
Caleb: It also kind of skipped our area, too. I think about middle school, I’ll even hear other people talk about middle school, and they said they were always talking about Paramore and My Chemical Romance. It wasn’t until recent years that I realized people actually gave a fuck about My Chemical Romance. Nobody listened to My Chemical Romance at my middle school. I was at that type of middle school where it was just like, being an emo kid wasn’t a common thing. I looked back at my yearbook, in my entire grade there were two people who actually had the scene look and were wearing an Escape the Fate shirt or whatever. Nobody else in the yearbook had that kind of style. I feel like sometimes I’m a poser, because I didn’t have that emo phase, but it also kind of skipped my entire time when I was growing up. But I still listened to the music a lot, I just didn’t get into the aesthetic, fashionable part until when I got older.
Matt: We had all the deathcore emo kids. It was wild.
Caleb: The most emo we got was that we covered them. Or the emo shit that was just pop. It’s a wild thing even in high school, I was in orchestra and you’d think band kids would know about music. But I’d be like, “I love Silverstein, I love Dance Gavin Dance!” and they’d be like, “Who the fuck is that?”. And then I graduate high school, and those same kids are like, “I love A Day to Remember! I love Dance Gavin Dance!” Like now you’re all hip with it?
Matt: Caleb was the emo kid at his high school. The one.
Pulses. has been described as “what you get when you take four dudes with wildly different musical backgrounds and stick them together.” Besides emo, what do each of your upbringings in music look like?
Kevin: My parents love music. I keep getting told my dad was a DJ, and I don’t know if I necessarily believe that, because of how he is. So we grew up on a lot of pop music, R&B, funk music, mainstays of oldies radio or whatever. It’s stuff I love, like Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind, and Fire, all that kind of stuff. Near and dear to my heart. Then I kind of grew up and started finding hip-hop more, and hip-hop’s always been a core genre for me too. Jay Z is one of my favorite rappers, Kanye is one of my favorite rappers, now like Kendrick, Danny Brown and stuff. Those were my core genres, but we started branching out, and that’s when Linkin Park came in, Fall Out Boy came in, then started getting heavier. As It Remains was one of the first bands I listened to with screams in it. So yeah. All over the board, that’s where both me and Caleb started.
Caleb: Pretty much similar upbringings with that.
Matt: Um, my dad has always been really into blues, so that was the first thing I got into. Him just playing live concerts of like, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughn. And then my dad was also into 90s alternative, like Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam. That kind of stuff. That was my start, I guess. Then I got Guitar Hero and found Slipknot and Metallica and Disturbed. Most of which I don’t listen to anymore, except for Slipknot. But I found all the metal stuff on there, and was like, “Yo, this is pretty cool.” That was my original trajectory, then like I said I got into heavier scene bands. Blink-182 was the first pop punk I liked, and then that got me into more scene stuff. And then I like other stuff. I’ve always tried to listen to a little bit of everything. Hanging out with Kevin and Caleb and David all so much, they listen to good stuff. Little bit of everything.
David: My parents were big into classic rock, so that’s kind of the 70s, 80s, new wave, stuff like that. And classics like Aerosmith. Could go on forever on that stuff. Then like, Duran Duran and the B-52s for the new wave. I think those influenced me a lot. Rush is my dad’s favorite band, and became one of my favorite bands. My uncle introduced me to the wonders of Disturbed. I remember buying my first Mudvein CD really shaped me as a musician, to be honest. Moving into high school was Lamb of God, and now I’m into deathcore. So that’s cool.
So, your song “As A Treat” off your most recent album “Speak Less” details “a good day which can feel like an oasis to the monotonous and depressing days that surround it.” In your opinion, what makes a day good?
Caleb: Kevin wrote the lyrics.
Kevin: A good day, especially in terms of that song, really is just something I think…People have a lot of good days, but I don’t think they realize they have them, because they’re comparing them to a great day or something. A good day is just not having to worry about anything. You didn’t have a whole lot of stress, like actual stress. Everyone has the day-to-day things, like “Oh this person at my job is annoying me,” or “This didn’t go exactly as planned.” Or whatever. But like, you didn’t die. So, I guess “As A Treat” is just focusing on the little things, like waking up in the morning with sun in the window. Everyone likes a nice sunny day. Or if you didn’t have to rush out of bed, or you’re not late for work or school or whatever. Just the little things that you want to pay attention to among all the BS that surrounds it. Just remembering that there are little treats in every day. Calling attention to that is something you don’t really think about. Everyone wants to chase a peak all the time, but you can’t have that all the time. Remember the treats of the day.
Your song “Miss Me,” also off that record, deals with themes surrounding missing a relationship you knew was toxic. How does songwriting help you work through your emotions?
Caleb: I know for me, it’s kind of like, I don’t write the lyrics all the time. I’m bad with lyrics. Kevin, and Matt by extension, do a lot of that. In a way, I like expressing it in musical ways. Like through instrumentals. I’m not the best with expressing with words, and that’s just another side of it. Another way to express rage or sadness or something. Like the end of “Miss Me” is very melancholy and just low energy, too.
Matt: For me, it can just help process things a lot. Not that song specifically, because Kevin wrote the lyrics, but like with “Plastiglomerate,” the one I wrote all the lyrics on, I know that I came to a lot of conclusions about what I was writing about while I was writing it. Which is why the end of the song takes a positive turn. I know for me, it’s just in general writing about things too. It can be helpful when going through upsetting things.
Kevin: I know for that specific song, that one was written, I try to do this a lot. If it’s something specific to me, I try to make it non-specific to everyone else, so everyone can understand their own issue with it. Unless it’s like a story, and you want it to be about yourself. I feel like a lot of people will write things for the grander purpose, so it’s like, okay, you think you know someone until you don’t. Everyone has kind of felt that way, whether it’s about themselves or someone else. It’s just writing things in a way that matters to a lot of people helps me feel better about what I go through, because it means that it can be applied to someone else who went through something like that.
Caleb, you’ve said that you wanted “Speak Less” to loop with “Speak It Into Existence,” and even wrote the opener by taking the end of “Graduation Day” and expanding on it. Can you tell us more about how you see these two projects as connected, or tangental to each other?
Caleb: The reason behind that was that I wanted the project to end up being… Twofold. Because one, some of these songs were written during those sessions, and were like, “This doesn’t fit the vibe of the record, it’s moodier, heavier, we don’t want this on our record proper, but we don’t wanna get rid of them, so we’re gonna make a whole project of it so it kind of fits there. Generally, how we’ve been, going back to our first releases, we always wanted to have a positive, jovial kind of vibe with a lot of our music. Because yeah, we might be kind of sad sometimes, but part of the reason why I like this band and making music with this band is that whenever I’m playing a show or whatever, I’m having a good time. So that’s why I wanna write songs that I can also have a good time with. But Speak Less is the the yin and yang kind of deal. Speak It Into Existence is generally pretty positive type of songs, but Speak Less is where the moodier stuff goes. Yin and yang kind of deal is that’s life, and that completes each other. You can’t have the positives without the negatives and the negatives without the positives. So that’s why I wanted it to cycle with each other, so it represents that.
“Evidence of Absence” talks about the struggle to form your own identity and the identity you hold as a band. Have you gained any clarity about this after making this record?
Kevin: Yes, definitely. I guess with the way that it was received, like the whole “Speak Less” project, a lot of people seemed to get it without us having to explain much about it, and a lot of new people seemed to jump on board and understand where we were coming from without even having to know who we are, really. So, I think with that we kind of showed people we aren’t one dimensional, and people are responsive to that now. Based off Twitter and stuff, we seem to have accomplished what we set out to do with that.
Caleb: As a goal, any band, or I would even go so far as to say any person, just like your goal is trying to form your own identity. That’s an unspoken-about struggle, I feel, with bands in particular. When you’re first starting out, you’re constantly struggling to find your own identity because when you’re starting out, of course with any kind of art you’re going to be inspired by other things. And then folks will listen to your music or your art and be like, “This is a clone of that!”. And you’re just like, well yeah, I was inspired by that, but I don’t want to literally be them, I want to be me. So, that was our struggle and fight coming up, and we still have struggles with it. But it’s definitely getting better and better as we put out more music, and then we find ourselves while writing the music too.
And it’s partially about longevity, too. One example that just popped up in my mind is the All Time Low’s “Weightless” video, when Mark Hoppus and Pete Wentz were in there. And Mark Hoppus was saying Fall Out Boy just wants to be Blink-182, and Pete Wentz was saying All Time Low wants to be Fall Out Boy. That was a thing they had to grow up with, and now that they’ve had this career, do you think anybody’s out here still saying that All Time Low is just a Fall Out Boy clone band? No. Because they’ve had their longevity and they’ve outlived that stigma. Even big bands like that had to deal with it in their early years. That’s just a general thing in music for some reason, until you’ve established your own fanbase and that fanbase grows old enough to not know where you got your stuff from, then you can’t form your own identity until that happens.
We always love hearing little easter eggs and voice recordings included in different projects, and “Speak Less” opens a few tracks with these recordings. What’s the context of these recording bits and how do they fit into your record?
Matt: Some of the shorter songs that have them, we were literally just trying to make them over 30 seconds so they would count on streaming services. I know with, “If Life’s a Gift, I Hope You Kept the Receipt,” that’s why the phone’s on there. It came out cool, but that’s why we did it originally.
Caleb: It was also inspired by the first track of Fall Out Boy’s first record, because it opens with the phone.
Kevin: It’s a double meaning, because it actually is important for the streaming thing. It wasn’t gonna make it otherwise. The Steve Harvey one, “We’re Gonna Play, Steve,” because it’s referring to Family Feud, I don’t think that had any meaning.
Caleb: It literally was just like, we called the song “We’re Gonna Play, Steve,” and were like, “Let’s put Family Feud in there.” What’s another one? Oh, “Meet Me in Temecula.”
Kevin: That was Law and Order: SVU. Me and Caleb watched the entirety of Law and Order: SVU. Like all 22 seasons, since quarantine started. We caught that line in one episode and were like, “We gotta put that somewhere!”. And it just worked out there.
Caleb: That one has the fight riff, so you gotta put something hard before it.
Matt: “General Grievance” has one too, I think, and we just wanted to use that sample, so we were like, “Eh, put it here.”
Caleb: You wrote the lyrics, and it somewhat relates to that, so do you wanna explain that?
Matt: That song is a more angry version of what we were just talking about, like people assuming things about your music that just aren’t true, or putting labels on what you’re doing and everything. It was just an aggressive sample.
Kevin: Matches the tone.
Matt: Plus, we just like when bands used to put movie samples and stuff in their songs, back in the day, so we just wanted to throwback to that and threw some samples in there.
Caleb: For that reason, and because with them doing that it makes it feel like a little bit of an experience in a way. Making things that are non-music in music, creates a feeling of an over-arcing arc. If that even makes sense.
Kevin: An over-arcing arc?
Caleb: An over-arcing theme of some sort, I guess. And it also lets you know you’re resetting, or this is a new picture that’s about to be painted.
For “I Meant It,” was that a play on “Never Meant” by American Football?
Matt: Oh, absolutely. The story behind that song is that we were…Caleb was sitting at the electric drum kit, and we had this one acoustic guitar. I think it started in that tuning that night. We had it in “Never Meant” tuning, just so that Caleb or I could pick it up and play “Never Meant” whenever we wanted to. Caleb and I were just sitting there playing it and trying to think of “Speak Less” ideas, and were like, “Let’s write something that sounds like ‘Never Meant.’ And I just sat there at the computer, and Taylor, Kevin’s girlfriend, manager, merch girl, everything, she just kept yelling at me telling me it sounded too much like “Never Meant” until we got it where it was, and I put that little bit of “Never Meant” at the end, and wrote some of the lyrics into it, just to piss people off, I guess. I don’t know.
Caleb: It was also purposefully as a joke song because, like I was saying before, lots of our music has that jovial feel to it and this was definitely not. But then, here’s this one little joke for you.
Kevin: Then it goes into “As A Treat,” too. So it was a joke into a positive song. A treat before a treat.
Now that the pandemic is winding down, what are some of your upcoming plans?
Caleb: Things are in motion.
Matt: I don’t think we can talk about any of them.
Kevin: More music, that’s something we can talk about. We’re still writing a lot of things, we’re re-recording the last two songs from our first EP and throwing in a B-side with that, so that should be out soon. We’re working on some covers, because we like covers and that should be fun. And we’re writing for the third record, and that’s been going really well. Always active, always working.
Matt: We have one show booked. We’re playing that music festival in September. Which is gonna be really funny, if that’s our first show in a year and a half. It might be, it’s like two weeks into September, and I don’t see us playing anything before that.
Caleb: It’s Blue Ridge Rock Festival.
Kevin: In Danville, Virginia.
Matt: We’re doing that. And planning and scheming for more shows.
Kevin: And streaming on Twitch.
Caleb: Before the pandemic, we were all pretty busy. I was still in school at the time, because I graduated in 2020. That kind of kept us from going too far out for shows. We’ve done one tour. So post-pandemic we’re gonna try and get out there.
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