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Beulah

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Bill Swan, am: 13.01.2004 ]

Beulah machen grandiose Popmusik und das obwohl ihr neues Album "Yoko" heißt. Oder vielleicht gerade deswegen. Selten habe ich eine so ausgewogene und eingängige Platte gehört, die sich allerdings nach einiger Zeit als sehr viel mehr als das offenbart. "Yoko" ist ein ungemein vielschichtiges und über weite Strecken sogar eher dunkles Album, das sich den gängigen Klischees gekonnt entziehen kann und schon allein deshalb begeistert. Grund genug mich mit Bill etwas genauer über die Band zu unterhalten. Wir sprachen über Groupies, gewachsene Erwartungen und die Zukunft nach der Musik.

 

Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about the writing process for "Yoko" and how you approached the album?

Beulah: We've been known as a band that created in the studio and by trading tapes among one another, but this record was done more traditionally. Miles and Pat brought their songs, and then we worked on them in band practice. We taped the result to an eight track, mapping out our parts. Then we went into the studio for two weeks straight and hammered it out, recording much of it live in the studio.

Musicscan: Is there one major songwriter in the band or does everybody contribute equally?

Beulah: Miles Kurosky is the main songwriter. Pat Noel contributes a song or a part of a song here and there. The rest of us either play our parts, help out with engineering or specialize in arranging.

Musicscan: What did you try to achieve with the new album musically as well as lyrically that you didn't in your previous works?

Beulah: We tried to strip away excessive arrangement flourishes like "bah bah bahs, oohs, aahs" in the background vocals and we didn't really have a whole lot of horns on this record compared to our previous two. We didn't become too obsessive about minor performance mistakes in the studio and we wanted to capture how we play as a live band a little more. We shed the cut and paste method for something a little more organic. Lyrically Miles dug straight out of his heart without as much lyrical editing from the head.

Musicscan: What was it like to work with Roger Moutenot and what impact did he have on the album?

Beulah: It was a lot of fun. He is very easy to work with and very fast. He played along with all of our jokes and would laugh when we made fun of him. He would step in and take command when we were losing focus or arguing amongst ourselves. He had our complete respect and in this business that's a hard thing to have. I would work with him again with no questions asked. He captured our essence as a live band in recording. As a mixer he made everything fluid and natural, presenting the band as it is and how it was feeling in an elegant way without calling attention to the production by throwing in bells and whistles that announce how clever they are and what decade they're from. Does that make sense? I guess I just mean the record was well produced, but not overproduced. I don't believe this record will ever sound dated until rock and roll becomes dated.

Musicscan: What makes for a good show in your opinion?

Beulah: It has to be entertaining, and the band has to have fun playing. We like audience participation, people getting naked in the audience, that kind of thing. And we like to play drunk or stoned, slamming beers onstage. Our keyboard player keeps a cooler full of beer next to him at all times. After the show our drummer likes to throw temper tantrums by stabbing his tom toms with his drumsticks and pick up teenage girls by lying to them. Playing to their sympathies by saying the paxil's not working and he wants to kill himself. It's all part of the act.

Musicscan: What inspires you, not necessarily limited to music or art?

Beulah: The idea of infinity at the beginning. For example, in music, when you enter the practice space or the studio and begin playing and you have no idea what is going to happen. In writing, it's the blank piece of paper that barely cost you anything. And then you pour your life experiences out. Infinity is the only logical answer to this question, as anything specific that inspires always changes. One day it could be the warmth of your surroundings and you try to describe that. The next it could be the disappointment you feel in being betrayed by someone you thought you knew and you bare your feelings. Or it could be in seeing how far you've come from being that dumb little shit in Berlin, Wisconsin to be a big dumb shit in California. It's limitless.

Musicscan: Have your goals in the band changed from when you first started? If yes, how?

Beulah: Yes they have. When Miles and I first started recording, we just wanted to put out a record. Then when we put out the record, all we wanted to do was tour with our friends and break even. Then when we put out our second record we wanted to do well touring in our own right, and maybe see Europe. We've achieved all of those goals. As far as being able to make a living playing music without having to work during the day, that goal has been a little more elusive for some of us because of where and how we live.

Musicscan: How did you get in touch with Fargo Records who are taking care of things in Europe for you? Are you happy with how things are working out so far?

Beulah: We just sent them a CD and they liked it. Then we weighed the pros and cons. We knew we wanted to shift our European focus to the continent, and Fargo gave us our best opportunity to do that.

Musicscan: Do you think you are perceived somewhat differently in Europe than in the States?

Beulah: We're not as well known in Europe. We sell over 30,000 records in the States and about ten percent of that throughout the rest of the world, mostly in Europe. So I can't say that we know exactly how we're perceived. Resolven, Wales is the exception. There we get the royal treatment.

Musicscan: How far do you want to take Beulah? Could you imagine a life after the band already? What would you be doing?

Beulah: It's up in the air to an extent, but personally I agree with what Miles has said in thinking that the thing called Beulah has just about gone as far as it can go. Maybe whatever happens next should be named something else. I think Miles has grown tired of having to answer to people with expectations and comparisons with records past, and I think the only way he's going to be able to break from that is to change the name. I'm positive he'll be putting out records for a long time though he may not know or say it yet. I do believe he is still growing at an amazing pace musically and creatively. Shit, when I first met him, he had no idea how to sing harmony at all. He didn't know what a minor chord was. The concept of tuning a guitar was completely foreign to him. I've learned so much from him, too. What fits, what's too much, and how a really good melody is written. How to write a really good fucking song. And now he's already talking about doing more experimental, avantgarde stuff for the next record. Does this mean the incorporation of dissonance and arhythmic meter? I wouldn't put it past him. I will continue to work with him musically as long as he'll have me around, but I'm going to settle down for a short while and raise a kid or two, so that may mean a hiatus for me as far as being on the road a lot. I'm committed to touring in support of Yoko and will honor those commitments but come 2005 it is up in the air. I will always be playing music in one form or another, but I'm not sure what that means yet beyond the life of Beulah.

Musicscan: 3 favorite records, books and movies?

Beulah: Records. Traditional choices:
Talking Heads, Fear of Music. Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool. Beatles, Revolver
Books are tough. I'm not a literary connoisseur:
Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman. Truman, David McCullogh. On Writing, Stephen King
Movies are also tough. My choices aren't exactly on the fringe:
This is Spinal Tap, Better off Dead, Empire Strikes Back.

Musicscan: What are the plans for the near future? Any tours, releases, etc...?

Beulah: "Yoko" comes out on Fargo in January, and we plan on touring Europe in the spring and the States in the summer. Nothing is finalized yet. We also completed a remix of a song by Yoko Ono, "Let Me Count The Ways" for an EP she's planning on putting out. We submitted it last week, so we'll see how that goes.

Musicscan: Any last words?

Beulah: Long live the Green Bay Packers.

 
 Links:
  Beulah
  Fargo Records
 
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