Pullman is an acoustic quartet featuring Bundy K. Brown of Directions in Music, Curtis Harvey of Rex, Chris Brokaw of Come, and Douglas McCombs of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day. Although the members of Pullman are based in three different cities, (McCombs & Brown in Chicago, Harvey in New York, and Brokaw in Boston) the union came out of years of collaboration. Brown played on Rex's album, C, and Come's, Near Life Experience, both Harvey and Brown are in Loftus, McCombs and Brown were founding members of Tortoise, and Harvey and Brokaw are long time friends who have been collaborating in kitchens for years. Pullman came together through a common desire to explore instrumental acoustic music; an exploration that had no room for development in their other musical outlets.
Each individual had compositions for such a project dating back to 1993.While it's impossible to ignore the influence of John Fahey on their music, Pullman draw upon the influence of a variety of performers, fingerstyle and otherwise: Nick Drake, Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder,Bhrij Khabra, VM Bhatt, Bola Sete, King S. Ade, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Steve Tibbetts, Robbie Basho, Peter Laing, Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Doc Watson, Richard Thompson, and even Jimmy Page. The length of this list only speaks to the passion of Pullman for acoustic music.
Pullman formed several years ago after some conversations by Ken Brown and Curtis Harvey during collaborations on other recordings, principally during the sessions for Loftus’ self-titled cd (Perishable) and Rex’s C (Southern). After some consideration and an opening in their schedules the two recruited other like-minded and longtime collaborators Chris Brokaw and Douglas McCombs. They set about recording their debut, Turnstyles and Junkpiles, in Brown and McComb’s Chicago loft in the autumn of 1997. The songs were a combination of new compositions the four wrote together as well as a number of older pieces individually brought to the table for such an environment. The album consisted of fourteen pieces, recorded entirely with acoustic stringed instruments, primarily guitars, live to stereo 2-track. With its somewhat skeletal and intimate approach to songwriting and recording, Turnstyles and Junkpiles turned into a very personal recording, which conveyed to the listener a feeling of "being there." The feat of accomplishing such a dubious task was not lost on the band. Since most club or rock venues do not lend themselves to quiet and acoustic instrumentation and sound they choose to leave them as purely a recorded output and did not tour in support of their debut recording.
In the intervening three years since their first recording, Pullman members have kept busy. Brown has been involved in numerous recordings as an engineer, primarily jazz sides for the Delmark label as well new recordings by Isotope 217 and a number of remixes, including Aerial M and DJ Food. Harvey has gone on to start a new trio The Curtis Havey Band, now that Rex has disbanded and is in the process of finishing their first recording presently. Brokaw has toured and recorded with Steve Wynn, The New Year (featuring former members of Bedhead), completed another Come record and started his own solo recordings. McCombs has toured and recorded with his own solo project (now a duo with Noel Kupersmith), Brokeback, and recorded another Tortoise record.
On their new recording, Viewfinder, Pullman expanded their approach to include electric instruments, multi-track recording and a new drummer, Tim Barnes, (Tim runs his own recording label in NYC, Quakebasket, and performs and records with a number of other artists including Tower Recordings, Jim O’Rourke, Silver Jews and Nagisa Ni Te). While their first effort was in many ways a reaction to some of the prevailing approaches used by other groups with whom the members might be identified; an attempt to pursue a more bucolic, simpler vision; with Viewfinder Pullman has embraced many of the sounds a listener might more readily associate with the collective’s members other groups: Come, Directions, Rex or Brokeback. Though the music on Viewfinder departs somewhat from Turnstyles’ template of "Americana" and finger-style guitar playing, Pullman’s affinity for rustic soundscapes continues to be heard throughout. While the live-to-stereo approach employed on Turnstyles helped create a particular atmosphere, by using different recording techniques and taking full advantage of the studio with their new effort, Viewfinder presents an entirely different, more cinematic portrait of the group’s vision.