Pulley – ‘Once the record is done, the next one is starting’

Words: Miljan Milekić

A staple in the southern California punk rock scene for almost three decades now, Pulley was always a band that did things their own way. Balancing records and tours with singer Scott Radinsky‘s baseball career and playing in the MLB, the band has gained a devoted and loyal following and influenced a generation of bands that came after. Just days ago, the band released their brand new album ‘Golden Life,’ and we were lucky enough to catch up with Radinsky to discuss the new record, the connection between music and skateboarding, and a little bit of baseball. Check it out below. 

Hi Scott! First of all, thank you for finding the time to do this in your hectic schedule. You’ll kick off your European tour in just a few days, so what do you expect from it?
Scott: I hope it goes smooth. Not to bring up a sore subject of Covid, but we have a lot of friends that have had to cancel shows and tours, so right now, that’s my biggest concern. That’s the biggest challenge, to get through that, the group that we’re traveling with. We’ve got a new record that came out on Friday. We’ve been preparing for this. We’re ready to play, so I just hope that everything goes smooth, and I’m sure the shows will be really good. We have good shows with Bad Religion, some shows with the Punk In Drublic tour, and a couple of shows on our own. And then we go to Canada to do some festivals there. So we have a lot of good stuff that I’m looking forward to, and I just hope everything goes smooth.

Fingers crossed! So you mentioned that you have a new album that just came out. So how do you feel about it now that it’s finally here for everyone to hear it?
Scott: Well, there’s always a sense of accomplishment. We’re proud, and there’s certainly a lot of hard work that goes into it. You know, once the last record was done, the next record is always starting. There are always new songs – we always write. I think that when we had the realization that we had a good chunk of songs, and we said we’re gonna start writing a complete record, that’s when it becomes exciting and fun. We started working with SBÄM Records in Austria. So from that point on, it became a lot of fun, and the songs started coming together really, really quickly.

We have a pretty good writing formula, so the recording process was smooth. And I’m proud of the songs. Like I mentioned, me and the two guitar players have a pretty good system of writing music. And then, it was during the pandemic. The guys weren’t working their jobs, so that made it a little easier to spend more time, and work on the music a lot more than we would normally do in our normal daily lives. So it was fun to have that opportunity and time to work on it full time.

READ MORE: Check our interview with legendary Orange County punk rock band Ignite

I have to admit that I’m in love with the record, although I only got to hear it a couple of times in the last few days. I feel like it’s very well-crafted and I love the sound and the production of it. How much of a challenge was it to bring something new and fresh, but still make it as a Pulley record as it could be.
Scott: Well, it’s always a challenge writing new songs, but I’m really, really happy with the sound of the record. Like the overall sounds, the drums, the guitars, everything sounds amazing. And as far as songwriting goes, we just write what we write. And I’d like to think that, having been a band for quite a long time, we’ve learned how to write songs together and try to keep pushing ourselves to stay within our sound, but also not get stale and not repeat ourselves. That we’ve, kind of, figured out a formula and a style. But it’s hard. You never know until people hear it. So far it’s been received pretty well, and it makes us feel proud that people are hearing what we tried to do. We have a sound that is us, and I don’t think we’re ever gonna be much different than that. And hopefully, we could just keep it fresh.

I love the contrast between happy and dark, optimistic and pessimistic views that you always had in your lyrics. Was that ever a conscious effort, or was it just natural to you to explore both sides?
I think it’s natural. I mean, all of us in our lives, we have those emotions throughout our days, our weeks, our years. And, you know, when you watch TV or you read the news, there’s a lot of happy, there’s a lot of sad, there’s a lot of dark. So, I think it’s very common in the writing process to pull from what’s going on in the world at the moment. And in all of our lives, speaking for all of us, we all experience that. There are days when you’re happy; there are days when you’re sad. So it’s just natural that when you sit down to write, that’s what comes out on a given day. It’s definitely not a conscious thing. It just happens naturally.

I feel like Pulley has always been something like “everyone’s favorite band’s favorite band,” in terms that the influence you had in the punk rock scene was greater than your commercial or mainstream success might suggest. Are you comfortable with what you did as a band so far, and do you think you might have done more if the stars aligned a bit differently?
I’m not sure, to be honest with you. We’re very happy with where we’re at, and we’re very happy with what we’ve accomplished and done. Our goal from the very beginning was to write good music. That’s all we ever wanted to do. We never had these dreams to be some big successful band and make a lot of money. That’s not what we started a band for. So, I guess there’s never been a disappointment because we never had those expectations.

I’d like to take a step back and think that, when I listen to the music, we’re very proud of what we’ve written, we’re happy with what we’ve written. And if people like it, they like it. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. If they say we sound like this band or that band, those are critics. That happens. But we definitely have a following that is loyal, and it’s small. And we’re comfortable with that. We’re genuine with that because we’re just regular people. We’re not some big rock band, and we never really thought we were going to be. So, to be where we’re at at this point in our lives, we’re super thankful. We are grateful to have the opportunity to still play.

READ MORE: Check our interview with the legendary California punk rock band Face To Face

You do have a very loyal following, not only in the punk rock community but the skateboarding community, as well. And you made sure to send some love back, even on the new record with the video for ‘Lonely.’ How did that one come about?
Scott: I actually had a skateboard park in my hometown where I grew up in. I opened and owned it for 21 years. And we did a lot of events, a lot of filming of demos and just skateboarding every day. So when the guys from SBÄM asked if we had any video footage, I just pulled some up and sent it to them. And this is how they put the video together. It’s really cool because there are a lot of cool people, and a lot of big names in it. And that wasn’t even the idea. That was the reality of what we had on video. So it worked out really good, and I think they did a really nice job putting it, piecing it all together. 

And it fits the song. I mean, I think the style of music we play has always been associated with the skate, surf, and snowboard culture. Especially back in the nineties, when the music was played on a lot of those videos, or Tony Hawk‘s video games. We were, kind of, lumped in with that pile of bands and music, and I think the music does have that melodic, aggressive… When you hear it, if you’re wearing headphones and you were gonna go snowboarding or gonna ride a skateboard, it has that power that makes you push yourself a little bit harder. So, I think it’s normal that it goes together.

Yeah, I actually know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news about Skatelab closing, and watching videos of that big show with Rise Against, Touché Amoré, Moby, and all the others. It was kind of on my bucket list if I ever get to the States. But do you think it’s a closed book, or there is still a chance to maybe bring it back in the future, maybe in some other shape and form?
Scott: Well, I would never rule it out and say no. But it’s a really tough thing to do nowadays, especially with the number of public parks and free parks that are there. It’s hard to have a private skate park. It takes a lot of work and a lot of money. And I don’t know if it could ever happen or it would ever happen. But I’ll always leave that door open, for sure.

And are you still into skateboarding? Do you still ride?
Scott: I do still skate around. I don’t crash anymore. (laughs) I just like to cruise around. I think I’ll always cruise around on a skateboard. Since I was a little kid, it’s been very popular here where I grew up, and I think it will always be a part of my life. I have six, or seven skateboards in the garage right now. If you skate and you try to push yourself, you’re gonna crash. And the older you get, the harder it is to heal. So I stay away from crashing. (laughs)

It’s a well-known fact that you have spent years in baseball and MLB. Do you think that the mindset and the level of commitment that you needed to have to be successful in professional baseball, on the highest stage possible, helped you in pushing the band, and keeping it alive for so many years?
Scott: That’s a great question. And I think you’re pretty accurate – in order to have success in anything in life, there has to be a level of work ethic. You have to be willing to commit yourself and work your ass off, to survive. And the harder you work, the longer you can sustain that – the greater your chances are of eventually having some sort of success. And although there are two separate entities, I think the approach is identical. And goes with anything, though. I have three kids, and I wanna be the best dad I can be. Whatever I set myself out to do, that’s the mindset. Not that you have to be the best, but that I’m gonna do the best I can. I’m gonna commit myself, and when I do it, I’m gonna be all-in. It’s not gonna be just like a small percentage. I don’t want to have kids and just be – “Oh yeah, I’m a dad.” I don’t wanna be in a band to say I’m in a band. I wanna be working towards making myself better, pushing myself, and trying to be the best I can be.

READ MORE: Check our interview with a legendary Chicago punk rock band Rise Against

During your career in baseball, both as a player and as a coach did you ever meet some other punks or punk fans? I know that baseball has quite a few fans among the punk rock fans, but what about the other way around?
There were maybe a couple of guys. Maybe two or three players when I was playing, that were even familiar with it, until the mid-nineties, when bands like The Offspring and Green Day started getting more popular. But through the eighties and the nineties, there weren’t too many players that knew much about punk rock music. And it’s funny, but when I became a coach in 2004, the internet was obviously getting popular, and I think it was more part of the culture of the players at that time than it was my generation’s culture. So I had more in common with the players that were in their twenties when maybe I was almost 40. We had more in common because they actually listened to a lot of that music. They knew a lot of that music. So, I probably knew more players as a coach, than I did when I played.

So, are you still involved in baseball? Do you still follow it, and who’s your favorite team at the moment?
Scott: I do follow it. I look at scores, and I look at certain players. I think it’s one of those things where once It became my job, I really never had a favorite team anymore. I just followed the game, I followed the players, and that’s pretty much all I really do. When I grew up here in Los Angeles, my favorite team as a kid was the Dodgers, and I still like them, but I don’t have a favorite team. I don’t wear hats or shirts or anything. It doesn’t really interest me.

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