When fellow music lover and lead writer Gabriel Mazza introduced me to the Milwaukee-based duo The Pulltops and their tune ‘Stronger’, I was instantly sold! Delivering an infectious blend of indie-rock and power-pop, Mark Pierret and Tom Crowell have a seriously strong catalogue of music going all the way back to 2002!
I was intrigued to find out more about the talented twosome, and was stoked when they agreed to an interview! Taking us through the band’s early days, which acts helped shape and mould their sound, and just how much new music they’re sitting on, please give a big welcome to our friends Mark and Tom of The Pulltops!
Hello and welcome guys! It’s awesome to be able to introduce you to our ever-growing audience today! Your first release as The Pulltops came all the way back in 2002, so could you give our readers a brief overview of what has led you to where you are today?
Tom: Thanks for having us, we really appreciate it! Wow, it has been a few years since our first release. We wrote that first album right after the band we were in at the time split up. The singer of that band decided to take a break, and we basically just continued on without him. Songwriting was still new to us, and there was a lot we were still figuring out.
Between then and now, we did a lot of performing in cover bands. That’s why there are some gaps in time between albums. But through doing that, we were soaking up a lot more influences and working that into our writing. You can learn a lot when analyzing what others are doing.
Like with most other bands, performing dried up with that pandemic. We took that opportunity to really dive back into the writing in a way we’ve never done before, and really push ourselves. By constantly repeating the process of writing and recording, we got a better handle on how to take all of these influences and fuse them all together. Now we’re just working at getting all of this new material released.
Your most recent single ‘Wide Awake’ immediately caught my attention upon its release, and it’s a track that I haven’t been able to stop listening to recently! I just love everything about it! What does the tune mean to you?
Mark: It’s a song about hope, new beginnings, and getting through hard times. Realizing that it’s time for a change, and that opportunity to make things happen.
Tom: It’s feelings we all go through. Identifying what it is you truly want to do, throwing yourself into it, and the challenges you face along the way.
Here comes a toughie…What song are you most proud of bringing into this world and why?
Mark: That is tough. Truthfully, all of them. But if I had to pick one, it would be ‘Destination’. That one is deeply personal. It’s about friends who have battled addiction, some of whom we’ve lost. Luckily, some have pulled through.
Tom: Until recently, I often told people that ‘Shine A Light’ was a favorite. Mostly because it was very self-indulgent. Moody, with a very long instrumental section. It was a lot of fun putting that one together. But since then, we put a lot of effort into developing our production and songwriting skills. I feel like ‘Better Life’ is a great representation of who we are now, and it resonates lyrically. ‘Wide Awake’ is really a continuation of that.
Who would you put down as some of your biggest musical influences and who would you ultimately credit for helping shape and mould your overall sound?
Mark: Really, it’s anything that moves me. We both grew up on our families’ record collections. For me, it was The Cars, Cheap Trick, Johnny Cash, and a lot of classic rock. Honestly, just a lot of influences.
Tom: Early on it was a lot of Pink Floyd. That was something I gravitated to all on my own. Then mix that in with my brother’s record collection. He started off with a lot of early British metal. But later on, he really got into alternative and underground music, and that had a big impact on me, like a lot of the 70’s New York scene. But everything I listen to somehow ends up going through that Pink Floyd filter. As a result, I gravitate towards bands like Muse, where they mix a lot of theatrical elements along synths and guitars, and really push the envelope.
What aspects of being musicians do you cherish most? And on the flip side of that, what would you say have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered?
Mark: What I cherish is the ability to connect with people. Making people happy, or sharing any emotions with them. The biggest challenge is getting people to listen to your music, and getting people to come to the shows. In a world of infinite choices, it’s hard to stand out from the noise.
Tom: It’s so easy right now to connect directly with people on a daily basis. And since it’s easy to be self-sufficient, you can make any music you feel like making and be really honest about it without worrying about old ideas like signing to a record label. But, as Mark said, it’s a world of infinite choices. It is literally impossible to listen to all of the music that is out there. You don’t have enough time in your life to do it. But as long as we can connect with someone, anyone, who is interested in what we are doing, that makes us happy.
If you each had the chance to claim any song in the world as your own, which one would you choose and why?
Mark: I would have to say Bob Dylan’s ‘Things Have Changed’. It has great lyrics that I love, and I feel personally connected to it. I love great songs and have always been more connected to songs than I am to bands or musicians.
Tom: That’s such a difficult question. So many great songs and songwriters come to mind. I could easily go classic rock and say Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’, or go more recent with something by Muse from ‘Simulation Theory’. I also LOVE The Joy Formidable. Maybe something more quirky like Jonathan Richman? But there is one song I can think of that both lyrically and melodically is perfect, and that’s Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’. I love the contrast of each verse, looking at something from both a positive and negative view. And with each chorus, she comes to the same conclusion, no matter how many experiences we go through in life, we never will quite figure it all out. And the way she starts with something simple, like looking at clouds, and then ends with the complexity of trying to understand life itself. And it’s all put to this melody that is hauntingly beautiful and utterly sad all at the same time. It makes you realize how much of a craft songwriting is, and how some people are complete masters at their craft.
I’m a sucker for having to know the origins of a band’s name. I just can’t help myself! How exactly did The Pulltops come about?
Mark: When we were looking for a name, we knew we wanted something with a retro feel to it. A lot of what we listen to is retro, and we wanted a name that was in that same vibe. It’s a reference to early soda and beer cans, the ones that actually had a tab that you pulled completely off the can.
Tom: We had a list of a few things like that, and we hadn’t completely decided. In fact, we had something else we were going to go with, and I can’t remember exactly what it was, something with “Phonic” in it. But when we were making posters for our very first show, we found out that the band we were playing with already had that name. The Pulltops was actually our second choice, and we had to use it.
Thanks so much for chatting with us guys! Just before we let you go, what comes next musically for The Pulltops?
Mark: We’re going to keep releasing all of these songs that we wrote over the last 2 years. It will be one song every 6 weeks, and grouping them into EPs along the way with a couple of unreleased tracks. We have 20 or so songs to get through. It will end up being 4 EPs!