The Racing Pulses
by Teri Barr
Every band has a unique story about its members, and what originally brought them together. But The Racing Pulses, which prides itself on being a rock band built on swift melodies and big rhythms, may have one of the most interesting of all. Kristian Iliev, a Madison guitar player originally from Racine, placed an ad on Craigslist. Both Mike Newby, a drummer from the East Coast, and Brian Blanchette of rural Mineral Point, responded. But both also told family members, if they weren’t in touch within an hour, call police. Luckily, their differences have helped form a solid foundation, and some great goals. I talked with all of them recently about hitting the road, while creating their first full-length album.
Maximum Ink: Everyone decides to play music for a different reason. What was your inspiration?
Kristian Iliev: Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed singing. In middle school, my dad bought me a drum kit and we started talking a lot more about music. During high school, I was a jazz band drummer. But, rock was always my first love and it was during that time I learned to play guitar. My family inspired me, too. I have memories of watching my father play guitar, seeing my sister sing in musicals, and going to concerts throughout those years.
Mike Newby: When I was 11 or 12, I wasn’t a huge music fan. My friends listened to pop music and hip hop, so I would casually listen to it. Then my portable CD player died on the way home from a school trip. Luckily, the kid I was sitting next to on the bus had a headphone splitter, so I could listen to his music. He only had one CD - The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters. We listened to it end to end twice on that bus ride, and it changed my life. I immediately needed a guitar and every Foo Fighters album I could find. Not long after that I got a drum set, and learned to play some bass, too. I’ve played guitar, bass, and drums in various bands inspired by Dave Grohl. But I think I like drumming the best.
Brian Blanchette: When I was in 3rd grade, I hijacked my first drumset from school and taught myself how to play it. I grew up on a farm, and my mother would play piano and have all the kids sing around her; I enjoyed that. One year for Christmas, my father got a candy apple bass guitar. Naturally, I had to learn it. I’ve now played a variety of music, from jazz to death core, and also indie rock, but rock and roll is where I’ve ended up.
MI: Brian, you mentioned you grew up on a farm? The three of you have very different backgrounds?
Brian: Yes, I’m from Mineral Point, and was born and raised on a farm with the classic Wisconsin farm boy story. Madison has something special all its own with all of the water and progressive University thinking. I’ve stayed in the area because of family, great food, and year round activities.
Mike: I’m from Clark, a New Jersey suburb. After college I was planning to go to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics, but decided it wasn’t worth the hustle. A friend of mine from college had moved to Madison for a job and said it was awesome, so I joined him here. Almost five years later, I’m still loving Madison. It’s vibrant and active, there’s always something going on. Good music, great people.
Kristian: I was born in Bulgaria. My parents emigrated to the United States in 1995, and I grew up in southern Wisconsin. Right now I’m finishing my degree at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. This part of the state is so beautiful, and has an exciting music scene. We all met and started playing together in this region, so it just makes sense to continue here right now.
MI: You’ve been together a couple of years, and just working on your first full length album. It must be an exciting time?
Kristian: All of three of us are first and foremost friends. I think a lot of bands don’t have that kind of connection at the core. Nothing To Write Home About is an album we have been spending lots of time on together because it is our first, and we want to get it right. We’re very comfortable with one another and the ideas that emerge from our work. Our understanding of how to approach songs and communicate effectively is something I believe is critical to our success. Our style is also constantly evolving but we seem very attuned to ourselves and are never far off from the sounds we enjoy when we bring it to rehearsals. As multi-instrumentalists, I think we are able to separate ourselves a bit from our instruments and make better creative judgements during the entire songwriting process.
MI: But you aren’t waiting for the album, and are already on a brief tour?
Mike: We’re working through a bunch of spots across the Midwest right now, mostly within reasonable driving distance of Madison. We’re playing at the University of Dubuque and a Milwaukee Bucks game this month. Live shows are our bread and butter, and it has been really fun to get around to different cities in the area, meet other musicians, and check out the different scenes. It’s incredible how different each city feels, even though it’s all in the same general area of the country. We’re really looking forward to heading to the east coast after our new album is out!
MI: Sounds like you’ve already set some goals for the band?
Brian: The band is great fun, and we continue to grow together. I want to take the music everywhere. Traveling and music go hand in hand; I love road trips.
MI: Yeah! Why not!? And, as more people become familiar with your music, is there anything surprising about you?
Kristian: Hmm…I have a penchant for aliens. They probably exist somewhere, right? I’m also an avid RuneScaper and my Yu - Gi - Oh! card collection is glorious.
Mike: Brian is a full foot taller than me. (I’m ~5’8’‘, he’s ~6’8’‘) So, in all of our band pictures he’s usually squatting down a bit and I’m on my toes so it seems less weird. I’m actually glad I sit down on stage! We will also practice on Brian’s farm, which is the same place he grew up; so we’re actually practicing where he learned to play music, which is pretty incredible.
The Racing Pulses is headlining a show at The Frequency in Madison on November 18th. The new album is expected to be out early next year.