Beulah is like a diamond in the rough. Whereas much of today’s music is either overproduced kiddie fare or angry stuff only your delinquent, electro-shock-loving cousin would enjoy, Beulah write sunny pop tunes that don’t burn with repeated listening. The San Francisco band first made splashes with their sophomore album When Your Heartstrings Break (Elephant 6/Sugar Free), which Rolling Stone called “Nourishing, lush retro pop.”
Singer Miles Kurosky and crew are back with another album of heart-tattooed-under-the-sleeve pop, The Coast is Never Clear (Velocette), and they’re bringing their rock show to the Khyber (56 S. 2nd St.) on October 5. Guitarist/Trumpet player Bill Swan muses on Oldenburg’s giant clothespin and bad John Cage-worshipping indie rock to Temple News.
TN: I saw you guys last time you came to Philly with the Apples in Stereo. Any thoughts on the city of brotherly cheesesteaks?
BS: The first couple of shows we didn’t venture far from Upstairs at Nick’s, getting only as far as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We also searched endlessly for Oldenburg’s giant clothespin. The last time around we ventured out a bit, went to Geno’s Steaks and hung out in South Philly for a while. That’s about it. If you have any suggestions, please pass along.
TN: With six band members, does touring often get hairy?
BS: In my case two years ago, yes, I had a lot of hair and I looked like a troll. Seriously, as any girl who’s had a steady boyfriend can relate, guys don’t always communicate well. Magnify that by six, and you can suspect a few misunderstandings. But I think we’ve all grown up a bit.
TN: From where do you draw inspiration for a song (lyrics, melody, etc.), say “If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surly I Can Win Your Heart” (from 1999’s When Your Heartstrings Break) or “What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades?”
BS: Miles’ approach to lyric writing has evolved a bit since the early days. When we first started recording together his writing had a few layers of clever wordplay and was a bit cryptic. In order to understand the songs you had to crack the code, so to speak. On this record he’s writing more directly about the things he was feeling and dealing with on a personal level. “Man on the Moon,” was actually one of the more direct ones from the last record, written as an open letter to a critic, though it could also be taken as a long pickup line. Most people think it’s a love song. “Suntan Fades,” on the other hand, to me, is about getting older and reflecting on the things one could have handled better. I believe it is a genuine concern about karma to a degree, and a yearning to correct things, yet a sense of fatality that one’s punishment is to simply fade away. I guess there’s a more genuine depth of emotion there which takes more than a few words to sort out.
TN: In “Silver Lining” you sing: “Punk rock was my first girl/ She left me a scar so I have her still.” Did punk rock play an integral part in your formation as a musician?
BS: For Miles and Danny [drums] that is a definite “yes.” My roots begin in the exact opposite place: Prog rock. From there it went into post punk bands like the Talking Heads, but for Miles it revolved around bands like X, The Germs and Minor Threat. As for Danny, he used to drum for Screeching Weasel. Danny and Miles were also huge Beatles fans before I even knew who John Lennon was. We all have musical skeletons, but I will be merciful this time.
TN: What was Miles doing in Japan when he wrote the demos for The Coast is Never Clear?
BS: Miles was staying with a friend, seeing the sites, trying fugu, doing interviews, placating gawkers in the bathroom while taking a piss and taking a lot of boring pictures of other people taking pictures. He seemed to enjoy it, though.
TN: What current musical artists do you detest?
BS: Pretentious jazzy indie rockers yapping about John Cage and Stockhausen.
TN: Does the perfect song “rock,” “roll” or “pop?” Please offer an example for the unfamiliar.
BS: Anything by John Cage or Stockhausen.
Beulah will play The Khyber with Mates of State on Oct. 5