Madison-based indie-rock band, The Racing Pulses, goes global

The Racing Pulses has a deep Bulgarian connection
Madison-based indie-rock band, The Racing Pulses, goes global

The Racing Pulses is a Madison-based indie-rock power trio founded by singer-songwriter-guitarist Kristian Iliev, a 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate. After introducing the band’s music to audiences in his native Bulgaria last summer, Iliev says his eyes opened to adding elements of traditional Bulgarian music to The Racing Pulses’ straight forward guitar-bass-drums mix.

“What I took from the whole experience is that it’s definitely possible,” he says.

He played songs by The Racing Pulses – including those on the 2017 album “Nothing to Write Home About” – as a solo acoustic artist in and around Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, last June and July and garnered some national media attention. “The audiences over there have a hunger for rock,” he says.

Bulgaria has a rich folk music tradition not unfamiliar to Iliev. His family immigrated to Racine in 1995 when he was just 1 month old. He spoke only Bulgarian until kindergarten.

Iliev doesn’t play a traditional Bulgarian instrument – like the gaida (a goatskin bagpipe), gadoulka (a stringed instrument played with a bow) or the kaval (“a very cool flute”), but, he says, “it’s never too late to learn.”

To share his ancestral music with his bandmates, Iliev says he hopes to return to Bulgaria sometime soon with West and Newby.

“I think there’s a lot of sounds to be explored,” Iliev says. “We’ve heard the endless guitar solos, we’ve heard the three-chord punk, we’ve heard heavy metal. But the real question for artists I think, especially those that want longevity in their careers, is how can you make something that is captivating audiences? To captivate an audience you have to bring a fresh but familiar sound. It’s a fine line.”

To hear The Racing Pulses’ music, visit