Charlotte’s very own, Pullman Strike was nice enough to sit down with me the night of their CD Release Show at Tremont Music Hall. Unfortunately, their sixth member, Evan Stepp wasn’t available at the time to join us. We had a lot of laughs as we discussed their transition from punk/hardcore to country-rock music, their new album and plans to go on tour. Whether you enjoy country music intermixed with rock or not, the Charlotte music scene seems to have a soft spot for Pullman Strike. Because it is difficult to tag them with country, indie, americana or simply rock, they bring an eclectic mixture of people to their shows. Often times, people who you’d never imagine to be in the same venue at the same time.
After this 6-piece band recorded their first EP and performed their first show at Snug Harbor in the Summer of 2010, things took off. They’ve played in numerous venues around Charlotte and have taken their music on the road to surrounding cities. Pullman Strike’s powerful yet sincere vocals are backed up with a solid, dynamic band with a pedalsteel player, enhancing their country sound.
In my opinion, Pullman Strike is an indie rock band with a southern twang. They have catchy melodies with genuine lyrics about life, love and being your own person. But what do I know? Find out for yourself by streaming their new album on punknews.org (www.punknews.org/bands/pullmanstrike).
Shutter16: OK guys, introduce yourselves and what role you have in the band.
Neil: I’m Neil [Mauney] and I play the guitar and sing.
Josh: I’m Josh [Robbins], I play bass, book shows and attempt to sing.
Daniel: I’m Daniel Beckham and I play drums.
Wes: I’m Wes [Hamilton], and I play pedal steel.
Dan Smith: I’m Evan [Stepp], I play guitar and sing.
What’s the history behind Pullman Strike? How did you guys get together?
Wes: One day me and Dan were talking about starting a country band and we were trying to figure out who we could get to be in it. So we convinced Evan to come over and play music with us one day. Then Josh weaseled his way in because he was at the house—we lived with him at the time. And the rest is a match made in history.
Dan: And then we met Daniel on casual encounters on craigslist.
Daniel: I answered a craigslist ad and totally lied to my wife that I knew these guys so she wouldn’t freak out about calling random people over from craigslist.
Josh: And I guess Evan invited Neil along.
Neil: Basically, Evan said, “You wanna come play with us?” and I said, “Alright.”
Josh: I think it is important to note that we jammed with Mark Keener.
Wes: A few other drummers.
I’m sure you get this question all the time but what does “Pullman Strike” mean?
Neil: It was a railroad strike in the 1800s, am I right?
Josh: 1894, I think.
You’re sometimes referred to as a ‘country rock’ band. What do you guys think of that? Is that what you were going for?
Josh: I think the problem with it is that when you label yourself as a country band people get a lot of preconceived notions about what you sound like.
Daniel: There’s an expectation.
Wes: I also think that we don’t know how to play proper country music. The idea was to be a country band and whatever happened is what came out.
Neil: Yeah and now I think people still call us an all country band but we’re more of a…
Wes: Rock band.
Neil: Yeah. We’re just a rock band. I really don’t know what else to call it.
What are your influences?
Wes: Influences… I don’t really know. Dan’s a major influence on my life.
Neil: What about the Lord?
Daniel: Rock n’ roll in general. I grew up in the 90s so there’s a lot of rock n’ roll and indie stuff that I like. Tons of punk rock and just rock n’ roll in general, of all types.
Dan: The mustang, that was my influence. (laughter)
Neil: The Rolling Stones. Uh, what else? Third Eye Blind, I’m not gonna lie.
Daniel: And definitely the Ramones.
Neil: Dinosaur Junior.
Josh: I’d say… well do you mean influences—sorta like an idea for us in a way? Or just in general?
Just what has affected your sound?
Josh: Oh. I’d probably agree with Dinosaur Junior and getting turned on to Drive By Truckers and stuff. Lucero but we don’t sound anything like them. Dinosaur Junior and Uncle Tupelo the most…ish.
Neil: I think a lot of us like a lot of old country too.
Neil: Being in a band with Daniel Beckham.
Wes: Making decisions.
Daniel: Six schedules, six personalities.
Neil: Three alcoholics.
Daniel: And a 50% unemployment rate.
Josh: I think we do okay with being six people. I think for the most part, most of us communicate well. So we are able to get something done but it is probably not a good idea having six people in the band but it is what it is and we make the best of it.
Daniel: I love being in a band with six people for the most part. For as hard as it is, it is worthwhile. For as big of a pain in the ass as it always is, it’s worth the pain in the ass.
So, a lot of you guys were once in a punk or hardcore band. Since Pullman Strike is the opposite of that, do you still gain support from the punk/hardcore community?
Wes: I wouldn’t say out right, no.
Neil: Maybe the ones we’ve been friends with but I feel like the ones we don’t really know, they don’t give a shit. But some do.
Josh: I think the switch for me and Wes was a shock in a way to people. But I think it is kind of catching on.
Daniel: Yeah, we’re doing an interview man!
Wes: And another thing is, a lot of times people seem to think since we have been in punk or hardcore bands, then playing stuff like this… Even though it’s not that far off from that sort of stuff they think that… we’re over it, but I’m not.
Josh: Yeah that’s a big thing that bugs me.
Wes: I still listen to punk. I still like to see punk bands play. I’m just not playing in a punk band because I’m doing something different.
Neil: I feel like, too, we get pigeon holed because we say we’re a country band or people say we are a country band. Then people say, “They don’t know anything about country” or all country. Then people say, “OH, they’re like the Avett brothers,” but we aren’t at all like The Avett Brothers.
Josh: I think what Wes said, basically. We’re all into lots of different music. Growing up, I always listened to a lot of different music. So it’s just another form of music I like.
Neil: It’s more solid, more definable.
Daniel: When we recorded that EP, we had been playing together for what? 3 months?
Wes: Yeah, 3 or 4 months as a whole.
Daniel: Yeah, we really had not been playing together long.
Neil: We were really getting used to being in a band with 6 people.
Wes: And then all of us playing completely new music too. Like, a new style. Also we wrote stuff to have songs, but now we’ve figured out more of our sound.
Josh: Someone said that we’re dynamic.
Wes: Yeah, somebody did. And that I threw in crescendo or something. And we became musicians.
If someone has never listened to you guys before, what song do you recommend listening to first to get an idea of what you guys truly sound like?
Wes: Buy our CD and listen to the whole thing. (laughter)
Josh: I guess the question is, you’re on a deserted island and can only bring one song.
Neil: Then they should cut the CD in half and kill themselves.
Wes: Get a copy of our album that doesn’t have any stops in between the songs so it’s one continuous song.
Neil: Like the master track.
Wes: Yeah. But for real, I’d say “Tow Truck.”
Josh: I’d say “Tow Truck.”
Dan: “Ten Long Weeks.”
Neil: I wouldn’t say “Tow Truck.” They say “Tow Truck,” which is fine if they do. “Central Park” is one of the best ones on there.
Josh: It’s kind of hard to pick one because Evan sings some and Neil sings the other ones.
Neil: A lot of our songs are different so it’s very hard.
Josh: I just say “Tow Truck,” the easy answer.
Dan: Just listen to the whole thing.
Neil: That’s why it’s called an album. It’s not called ten songs.
Dan: Illegally download it or something.
Daniel: If you want to illegally download it, let one of us know first.
Wes: We’ll let you illegally download it.
After releasing this album, what is the band’s next goal?
Wes: We’re breaking up.
Neil: With our girlfriends and our wives.
Wes: I’m actually quitting right after this interview.
Dan: Playing more shows.
Josh: Yeah, play out of town more. Record again.
Do you have any plans to go on tour?
Daniel: Not yet.
Wes: Anything is possible.
Josh: It would have to be a strategic move.
Daniel: That’s the thing about touring in a band with six people that are taking big steps into adulthood like getting married. So that’s someone else’s schedule you have to take in account.
Wes: That’s their own fault for getting married. Just messing everything up.
Josh: I would hope we go on tour, we just got to be smart about it. Nowadays, I feel like bands don’t have to tour as long because of media and the Internet. I think if we were smart about it, we could possibly do it but only time will tell. I gotta get married first.
Wes: Then we won’t tour!
Well, that’s it guys. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Neil: Uh, dat’s what’s up.
Daniel: That is what’s up.
Wes: That was the best interview I’ve ever been apart of.
Neil: Yeah, Evan did a good job.