Beulah performing in 2003
|Origin||San Francisco, California, United States|
|Labels||Elephant Six, Velocette, Sugar Free|
|Past members||Miles Kurosky|
Steve La Follette
Steve St. Cin
Early years: 1996-1998
The band was formed by Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan in San Francisco in 1996, while the pair were both working in the same office. The pair discovered that they shared similar musical tastes and, disregarding some mutual dislike, decided to form a band. This early incarnation of Beulah recorded a song every 6 weeks for 16 months, on their 4-track recorder. The band received attention from The Apples in Stereo frontman and Elephant 6 member Robert Schneider, who expressed interest on releasing what was to be their first single, A Small Cattle Drive in a Snow Storm, on Elephant 6 records. Their first album, Handsome Western States, was released in the same year, also on Elephant 6 and mastered by Schneider. The record soon sold out. This association with the collective has continued throughout their career, despite the fact that they did not release anything more on the label - they are listed as being part of the close family of Elephant 6 bands, on the official Elephant 6 website, and they have toured with other collective members, such as Dressy Bessy, Ladybug Transistor, The Olivia Tremor Control and of Montreal. In order to tour in support of the album, Steve La Follette, Steve St. Cin, and Pat Noel joined the band, with the band playing their first shows in support of the Apples.
Middle years: 1999-2002
Their second album, When Your Heartstrings Break, followed two years later to critical acclaim. The sound of the band had shifted — as Kurosky put it, the band's production values had shifted "from lo-fi to mid-fi", and it incorporated a very wide range of instruments, utilising eighteen additional musicians — strings and horns were heavily incorporated, along with more exotic instrumentation, the instruments totalling a number of several dozen. Also, at this time, the band added keyboardist Bill Evans to their line-up. Shifty Disco Records, an Oxford, UK based label, also released two UK-only singles in 1999, namely Sunday Under Glass and Score From Augusta, with Emma Blowgun's Last Stand released the following year. These singles featured b-sides culled from Handsome Western States, which remained unreleased in the UK, and had fallen out of print in the U.S.A., until 2000 further copies were made available by the band in 1999, with different artwork. Emma Blowgun's Last Stand was also released in Australia by Elastic Records, this time with two exclusive bonus tracks.
The band continued to tour extensively throughout 1999, taking a break in 2000. Steve St. Cin left the band after this extensive touring, to be replaced by Danny Sullivan, best known from his days in Screeching Weasel. In this time, Kurosky went to Japan, staying with a friend for eight weeks, here writing the songs that would eventually turn into their third album. He then mailed demo tapes of the songs to each band member, who would in turn mail back their own versions of, and additions to, the songs. This process created interesting juxtapositions in the band's songwriting process, as Kurosky describes: "Bill might have heard it as a soul song and Pat might have heard it as a country song — and I might happen to like both parts, and use them both". Kurosky then turned these recordings into the basis of the band's new record, The Coast Is Never Clear. During the recording process, however, Kurosky was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and took daily therapy sessions, which informed the lyrical mood of the record, which was often incredibly downbeat, very much at odds with the breezy, summery feel of the music. This also made the recording of the record difficult — Bill Swan's studio diary often contains excerpts such as, "Miles threatened to hit me over the head with a mic stand. This is going to be a long record". To add to these personal problems, Beulah also encountered other problems with the release of the record, primarily the buy-out of Capricorn Records, which had previously signed Beulah after When Your Heartstrings Break was released, which included the purchase of all of the label's acts save Beulah and three others. In the end, the record was released on newly founded independent label Velocette Records on September 11, 2001. The record again gained a great degree of critical acclaim, and the band continued to tour, despite having to cancel their European dates in the winter of that year. Shortly after the release of the record, Steve La Follette and Bill Evans left the band, to be replaced by Eli Crews and Pat Abernathy.
Later years: 2002-2004
2002 saw the then-out-of-print Handsome Western States being repressed for the third time, along with another U.S. tour, after which the band settled into rehearsing material for their next album. The period surrounding Yoko's conception and recording was one of great personal strife for the band - Kurosky separated from his longtime girlfriend, and three of the six band members went through divorce while the record was being written, rehearsed and recorded. Amid all this, the foundations of the band appeared to be shaking; rumours of a break-up were rife and well-founded. The mood of the album was certainly much darker and the band phased back much of their instrumentation, preferring to create more of a live sound than layering multiple overdubs atop the mix. The album took a much rockier direction than their previous efforts; yet, upon its release in 2003, attracted a similar lauding that had greeted their previous two records. An album of demos, appropriately titled Yoko Demos, was released in the December of this year.
At this time, Beulah appeared to be falling apart. Cryptic messages alluding to a break-up appeared on the band's website, and the state of the band was in much speculation. Beulah themselves had stated that, if Yoko did not achieve gold status, the band would split. Though it received the best reviews of the band's career, scoring Universal Acclaim on Metacritic and described as a "career-spanning epic" by Dusted Magazine, the record still failed to achieve gold status, and true to their word the band, after one final tour (with the band dios malos opening for them), split up, ending with a free concert at New York's Battery Park at Castle Clinton on August 5, 2004. On August 2, 2005, a DVD chronicling their last tour in fall 2003, titled A Good Band is Easy to Kill (referring to the band's song "A Good Man is Easy to Kill," which, in turn, references lead singer Miles's love for Flannery O'Connor) was released, again to much praise.
In 2005, all four Beulah albums, as well as the single "My Horoscope Said It Would Be a Bad Year," were released on iTunes after fans suggested they be easily accessible. However, "My Horoscope Said It Would Be a Bad Year" has since been removed and has become something of a rarity.
Miles Kurosky's Desert of Shallow Effects
Miles Kurosky announced that his first solo album (CD/digital), titled The Desert of Shallow Effects, was released on March 9, 2010 via Majordomo Records, an imprint of Shout! Factory. The EP was released January 12, 2010 on digital. Produced by Kurosky and engineered by former Beulah member Eli Crews (Deerhoof, Why?), The Desert of Shallow Effects includes a cast of more than two dozen musicians (among them several former Beulah members) playing a vast array of instruments. “When I wrote lyrics before, for Beulah, they were of an esoteric nature, but this time, I wanted them to read like stories,” says Kurosky of the compositions that populate The Desert of Shallow Effects.
In late 2009, the members of Beulah reunited to perform selections from The Desert of Shallow Effects for The Bay Bridged festival.
The 2009 film Youth in Revolt contained the Beulah song "Popular Mechanics for Lovers", which appears on the film's soundtrack album.
- Miles Kurosky - Lead Vocals/Guitar
- Bill Swan - Trumpet/Guitar/Vocals
- Pat Noel - Guitar/Keyboards
- Bill Evans - Keyboards (1999–2001)
- Pat Abernathy - Keyboards (2001–2004)
- Steve La Follette - Bass/Vocals (1996–2001)
- Eli Crews - Bass/Vocals (2001–2004)
- Steve St. Cin - Drums (1996–2000)
- Danny Sullivan - Drums (2000–2004)
- Handsome Western States (Elephant 6; CD; 1997)
- When Your Heartstrings Break (Sugar Free Records; CD; 1999)
- The Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette Records; CD; 2001)
- Yoko (Velocette Records; CD; 2003)
- Demo (Velocette Records; CD; 2003)
- A Small Cattle Drive in a Snow Storm (Elephant 6; 7 inch; 1997)
- Sunday Under Glass (Shifty Disco Records; CD; 1999)
- Score From Augusta (Shifty Disco Records; CD; 1999)
- Emma Blowgun's Last Stand (Shifty Disco Records; CD; 2000)
- Emma Blowgun's Last Stand (Elastic Records; CD; 2000)
- Popular Mechanics For Lovers (Shifty Disco Records; CD; 2001)
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