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Beulah - Exclusive Interview with the US love-brits. They can't even resolven their own differences. What chance do we have?

On first glance Beulah probably just look like another melody heavy bunch of American alt-rockers with one foot in retro-sixties-shtick and the other nudging a place onto a more modern lineage of bands including usual suspects Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Olivia Tremor Control and Apples In Stereo. Y'know, how you'd only ever expect American garage indie to sound. And that they undoubtedly are.


But there is, you'll be pleased to hear, more than one surface to the Beulah coin. Not only can they justify their place on that line up of peers, earned over and over by the very fine forthcoming 'The Coast Is Never Clear' album, and the previous and wholesome 'When Your Heartstrings Break', but there are sides to them that that are, if not entirely unique, certainly a touch different.

As anyone who's followed the fortunes of Pavement or Sebadoh over the years will no doubt stand testament to, kinship amongst personnel is by no means the most necessary of band ingredients. But Beulah founders Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan have never liked each other. Not in the beginning and not now, not really. They met as mail-boys in San Francisco and it was only through Miles' desperation for someone with a four-track and smidgen of musical talent that they hooked up. But you have to suppose there's something there, as 3 albums down the line they're both still standing.

Then there's the fact that some bands have groupies, nay demand them. But think about that for a moment, it's so passé, so lightweight, so last century. And Beulah have a whole town stalking them anyway. Beat that Kid Rock! The Welsh valley's town of Resolven (where? Exactly) showed their appreciation so much last time Beulah were on British soil, chartering busses to gigs, singing every word to every song, that the band have repaid the favour by dedicating the opening track on the new record, 'Hello Resolven', to those good people's memory. And, as they should, the official album launch was held in Resolven at the end of August.

We caught up with genuinely affable and passive lead man Miles in his London hotel two days previous to the launch, just before playing a storming low key date at Poptones' Radio4 club night in Notting Hill with the volume turned to 12 and the melodies harsh, rugged and hopeful.

BEULAHCrud: So, your album launch just two days away and here you are playing a warm up in London before the main event in an obscure Welsh town that nobody's ever heard of. What's going on there then?

"Well, it was just these people, especially from this town, Resolven, in Wales, that showed a huge interest in our band even though we didn't even know they existed. I think it just touched us enough - especially being on the road, away from home, missing relationships at home or whatever - that it meant as much to us as anything, being that loved. It was like a beautiful one night stand with a whole town."

Crud: So much so that you wrote an ode to the said fling?

"Yeah, exactly. It was also taking the piss out of Britain too, saying "kill off the King, kill off the Queen," and everything'll be fine. Maybe it'll be a call to arms, we'll start a civil war & just leave the mess. It'll help record sales anyway. Better than killing myself."

Crud: True, but from what's been written about you it seems you and Bill could be close to killing each other anyway? You really hate each other?

"Well, we weren't friends before, we were just co-workers. It was an awful day job and you hate each other more because you hate the job. But I knew he was a good musician and then I just asked him later to help me record the record, and that was about it. I didn't think we'd become a proper band, never did. I did it as a hobby, just as everyone has a hobby, to get away from my apartment or whatever."

Crud: So what keeps the creative relationship going now? Always trying to better each other? Thrive on the tension?

"Well, no. Because he can't better me! That's a moot point really. Frankly I don't think the tension works so well. The tension only comes in because I'm the one that leads the band and says what's going to happen. So there's never been a battle for leadership in this band. Nor will there ever be. I write the songs and I direct everything. But in many ways if there's a certain vague or abstract idea he'll bring it to fruition through his playing or sense of music."

NOT BEULAHCrud: You get on better these days, now you're away from the shitty job where you met?

"Somedays! What it comes down to a lot of the time is that he and I are just very different people. We haven't had a blow up or physical altercation or even a yelling match in a little while, so we're doing ok. I think we've learnt to be around each other a little more. He's got married recently and changed a bit. We just know how to push each others buttons, which we're tired of doing. He has far more buttons… or maybe I do… oh, I don't know. His are easier to push. Well no, that's not true either. He's just very sensitive and I'm not. There you have it."

Crud: But making three records with a guy you don't much care for ain't bad. You two still going to be making beautiful music together in your death beds?

"I don't know. This might be the last record to be honest with you. This could be it, you have to wonder sometimes. We'll probably be asking ourselves, if we haven't already, if this is the best this band can do. And if it happens and it ends it's really no big deal. I don't think we've made a masterpiece but we've made three good records for what they were at the time. They communicated what they were supposed to. Very lo-fi records that in a way have their charm and for some reason people like it and that's great."

Crud: Have you found the success you wanted then, if you'd be happy to say goodbye tomorrow?

"I already know we don't get the same attention as The Strokes or The White Stripes say, or other American bands. Because we're not wearing fucking red and white polyester trousers every day. And that's fine because I know that musically anything we wrote on this last record is equally as good as anything America's put out in the last year. I know that as a fact. It's a good record and I'm very proud of it and it's kind of sad that if I don't do something in a certain way it won't get heard in this country. We're doing great in the States, it's fine, people are diggin' it. But here in Britain you have to play rock stars like Cowboys and Indians."

Crud: But (last record) 'When Your Heartstrings Break' certainly had some good press over here. And that's ignoring the obscure Welsh interest too.

"Yeah, it did well. Remarkably well. But we've heard the British press will love you the first time and second time round they can't wait to rip your head off! But yeah, we've done remarkably well. We're lucky that we can show up in any city and have a bunch of people come out and see us. We've been really lucky."

Band site -
Label site -

Interview and report by James Berry



2-4-7-MUSIC.COM 2009

STILL refusing to dumb it down.

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