Five years ago, recent UW-Madison graduate Kristian Iliev was sitting in his high school English teacher’s homeroom. On the other side of the room rested an acoustic guitar that seemed to call out to him. On a whim, Iliev picked up the guitar and began working on a simple chord progression that would eventually become the foundation for his song, “Mrs. Supernova.”
When it came time for lyrics, Iliev said the rugged progression needed something equally as raunchy. Inspired by the quirky lyrics of ZZ Top, the track was one of the first pieces put out by The Racing Pulses.
Now, the group’s debut album, Nothing to Write Home About, is finally out. Comprised of songs written in the time since he first picked up that guitar in his high school, the album is a fresh take on the alt-rock sound popularized by bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes—both of which Iliev is a big fan.
Recorded at Madison’s Megatone Studios, the group laid down the album’s 10 tracks over the course of this past year.
“Now, reflecting on it, just from a human standpoint and the fact that it’s less taxing, it is easier to just go in for a week. But one thing that’s cool is when you do it over time you can reflect on it,” Iliev said. “You can take some time to listen to them and just think about them after the whole euphoria of being in the studio.”
While in the studio, Iliev, along with drummer Mike Newby and bassist Brian Blanchette, approached recording as if each session were a live performance; there was no metronome and very few takes.
“We got it pretty fast because we had spent five years practicing,” Iliev said with a slight laugh.
Despite sticking to the classic arrangement of vocals, guitar, bass and drums, The Racing Pulses still finds ways to make themselves stand out in a crowded sea of alt-rock. Most notably, the group’s lyrics are engaging, telling stories of legitimate value.
Clever and earnest testimonials about life, love and lust flood the album, giving it an unbelievably authentic feel.
Whether it’s something as simple as ignoring traditional verse-chorus-verse structure or something more exciting like throwing in an unexpected, raucous drum breakdown, the group is constantly trying new things to keep their music fun and exciting.
The Racing Pulses has such strong chemistry, you’d assume the three guys are all childhood friends. In actuality, the three musicians met through a Craigslist ad that Iliev posted back in high school.
“That’s where the love of music will take you. It’ll lead you to online posting,” Iliev said. “It’s one of those things that works out. I’m sure there’s a lot of bands that have started that way, but have not made it even through a couple months. There’s no guarantee. It’s not personalized like some dating website.”
Since the album’s debut, they’ve moved up the Billboard charts; they currently sit at No. 15 on the Heatseakers Albums chart and No. 43 on the Independent Albums chart—quite an impressive start for a band that met through Craigslist a number of years ago.
After finishing up a brief string of shows on the East Coast, the band is back in the Midwest taking time to let their stunning creation grow organically. Iliev said they are working on a few ideas for a couple music videos during the summer months and gearing up for a few performances in the area.
There’s really no telling where The Racing Pulses will end up a year or two down the line, but their output so far has been nothing but an absolute joy to listen to. Simply put, Nothing to Write Home About is a fun, vibrant and honest album that acts as an excellent soundtrack to carefree living.
The Racing Pulses is scheduled to perform at the Summerfest music festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 28.