Artists of Color: Meet pulses.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of watching many artists of color thrive, but nobody does it like pulses. Spelt in all lowercase with a very important period at the end, pulses. is a four-piece band from Northern Virginia that describes their sound as “a post-hardcore type beat.” I don’t entirely know what that means, but believe me when I say they’re great.
David Crane plays bass, Kevin Taylor plays drums, and both Caleb Taylor and Matt Burridge sing and play guitar. Just earlier this month, the quartet put out their second album, “Speak It Into Existence,” on all streaming services. With a fun and groovy energy blending every track, this album does not disappoint. For new listeners, I would recommend “Exist Warp Brakes,” “Louisiana Purchase,” and “Good Vibes Only (Zuckerberg Watchin’) [feat. Gavin Cole].”
I recently had the opportunity to talk to brothers Kevin and Caleb Taylor about the new album, musical influences, and what it means to be two black kids playing rock ‘n roll.
How did pulses. come about? Why the name?
Kevin: We originally had the name “knight to e5” and thought that was too complicated, so we knew we needed a short and simple name. It just randomly came to my head, and we went with it. The period is an homage to letlive.’s period since they mean a lot to Caleb and I.
Caleb: We wanted to go for a single word band name as well. Keep things simple.
I know you have been working on this LP for a while now, but what made y’all want to stick to the release date and release it during a quarantine?
K: Well, technically, there wasn’t much of a date planned; we got the masters back and knew we needed to release it immediately because we were coming up on three years since [first album] “bouquet.” all too soon. The only real conscious decision about the date was that we wanted to release before Dance Gavin Dance’s newest record because we know that people compare us to them and think of us as a bastard stepchild.
C: Yeah those are the two main reasons (laughs). Releasing the record during quarantine is a non-issue for us, we think. We’re not some big band with a lot of marketing [and promotion] behind us so we felt as though no matter when it came out, we’d probably get around the same reception. Simply getting the music out into the world is much more important to us than any arbitrary sales numbers. This isn’t our livelihood. And with everyone in quarantine, maybe that’ll let people sit down and digest the music more.
With the digital age allowing anybody to listen to all kinds of music, the stereotype that Black people listen to hip-hop and white people listen to rock ‘n roll is outdated and irrelevant. What artist made you realize you’re into rock n’ roll and wanted to play it?
K: There’s a bunch of artists, but I’d say the first few would be Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy, with letlive. being a late entry.
Not everybody realizes that rock ‘n roll comes from the blues, a genre created by African-Americans. So when you play songs that inevitably stem from the blues and blend them with hip-hop influences, do you feel like you’re paying homage to your roots or pioneering a new age of music?
K: Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw once said that, as a band, [they] make music that’s just the sum of all of [their] influences. So generally. I think it’s a mix of both.
C: I think it’s a bit of both. Our Black identity is important to us, and we want to represent that in our music as well. We’re intentionally paying homage to our roots while at the same time doing so in a genre where those roots are not very prevalent and apparent. These influences are what we feel is what brings us our specific brand of post-hardcore.
One of my favorite songs off the new LP does this, “Exist Warp Brakes.” It has clear D.C. go-go influences. What does the genre mean to y’all and why do you think it’s not that popular outside the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia)?
K: I think it’s mostly a case of not being introduced to it; they don’t know that it exists and is super fun. Not that he did go-go, but when Drake made “Nice For What,” it made a lot of people check out bounce music, so we hope “Exist Warp Breaks” makes people check go-go out.
C: Go-go is one of those genres that was always prevalent in my life growing up in the DMV area, but not something I truly began to appreciate until I grew older and started delving more into music in general. I’ll always remember hearing classics like Chuck Brown being played on the radio on my way to school, or it being played all the time in DC when we’d visit there. It means a lot as a genre and for us to do a song like “Exist Warp Breaks,” because it’s another piece of our identity, a musical style that represents where we’re from. I think it’s not as popular outside of the DMV simply because people aren’t exposed to it enough.
I’m a Black person that plays rock ‘n roll too, but I can only speak from my experience. How would you describe race relations in the DMV scene and the scene of your genre? Are people ever surprised by your skin color?
C: Luckily, I can’t speak to any negative race relations we’ve experienced in the DMV scene so far besides this one time in Fredericksburg where a Neo-Nazi was “playfully” bucking up to Danny [past member, El Salvadorian] during our performance. Regarding the scene at large, there’s not much to speak of either. I can imagine there are listeners who don’t expect there to be two Black members in the band, but it’s not mentioned to us directly. It can be somewhat cumbersome sometimes in making sure I present myself in certain ways with people in the scene, but that’s always a prevalent thing I watch out for in general.
K: Yeah, nothing’s ever came at us, but there are often times where we’ll be two of two or three Black people at a show sometimes.
One of my favorite things about y’all is that while your music does have some dark undertones, it’s mostly just fun. Why do you think it’s important for music to be fun? How does the balance of silliness and seriousness reflect our generation?
C: Music is an outlet for emotions, and not all those emotions have to be negative all the time. As much as this isn’t the reason for all sadness, there is some truth in the fact that if you listen to sad music when you’re sad, it’s not going to necessarily bring you out of it—though it can definitely help one rationalize things. I like to have fun with our music precisely because writing music is fun for me. It’s always a good time for me to be able to hang out with my bandmates, write some jams, and meet so many new people through it. Performing music is like acting; you have to place yourself back into the headspace you were in while writing the song you’re performing. When you perform those sad songs, you have to place yourself back into that sad state of mind, even if you’ve moved past that state of mind. For me personally, I’d like to place myself into a happy headspace when I perform. Performing is some of my happiest times, so whenever I’m sad and I have to act happy to perform at my best, that’s how I want it to be.
I always find it fascinating that so many bands have family members in them. How would you describe your sibling relationship? How has it affected the band?
C: Kevin and I have always been close with each other from the jump, and it’s only grown stronger since doing this band. We both have a lot of similar interests and tastes, so it’s always super easy for us to work together since generally, we’ll be on the same wavelength. We wholeheartedly trust each other.
K: It also makes it easier to know that we’re not going to ever break up entirely because I’m not gonna break up with him as a brother (laughs).
It’s safe to say that y’all are pretty popular for a young and independent band. Other than just making good music, what would you attribute your success to?
C: I’d like to think a lot of it comes down to being authentic and personable. I’ve always had disdain for this whole illusion bands have of being these larger-than-life personalities. I have no desire to be put on such a pedestal and always wanna carry myself and this band as just a bunch of dudes you knew from high school or something, and they just happen to play in a band. Being a band dude ain’t gonna stop me from tweeting dumb stuff on my personal or the band account. We always try as much as possible to show our personality in the music, so anyone that listens to us can get an idea of who we are as people.
K: Picking a rising sub-genre to slot into unknowingly helped too.
What would you say to the other people of color wanting to make rock ‘n roll music?
C: Don’t let any sort of stereotype deter you from doing something you have the desire to do. In fact, let your perspective as a person of color be your strength.
K: Be bold, be loud, be yourself. Never compromise your sense of self. Don’t be a jerk, but don’t get taken advantage of for being “different” because you’re not.
When this is all over, what’s next for pulses.?
C: Keep trying my best to make music that makes me happy, and hope those who listen feel the same.
K: Play shows, make more music, repeat.
Sounds like a good plan.
You can check out pulses. on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re feeling bummed out about everything going on, do yourself a favor and check them out! “Speak It Into Existence” is out now on all streaming platforms.
Nothing but love.