There's no specific reason San Francisco's Beulah titled their upcoming fourth album Yoko. In stores September 9th, Yoko came out of an album cycle during which three of the six band members got divorced, singer Miles Kurosky broke up with the girl he thought he would marry and the band members considered hopping a freight to Splitsville as they pondered the wisdom of pursuing major musical ambitions for minor financial returns.
"What I write about is not so much mortality," Kurosky says, "but the mortality of being in a band: How long can this last? Here I am in an indie rock band that's done quite well and done a lot of things we never thought we would. We've played festivals, we've been on Conan O'Brien . . . but at the end of the day I wonder what I've done. All I got is some crow's feet. What's the fucking prize?"
The nebulous title began as an acronym for the track "You're Only King Once" and gained traction as the name of the fourth record as Kurosky became increasingly fascinated with the power, emotion and perceptions generated by the word "Yoko."
"One of the themes of the album is love," says Kurosky. "Despite all the bad things people sometimes associate with 'Yoko,' it also represents an undeniable love, the love of this one person's life."
The album begins with "A Man Like Me" and "Landslide Baby" -- a two-song his-and-hers dissection of a breakup -- and "My Side of the City," which details a drive-by shooting Kurosky witnessed, and nearly became an inadvertent participant in, in his hometown of San Francisco. "Not twenty yards from me, kids pulled out guns and started shooting at me right there," he says. "'You're Only King Once' is about me hanging in there and telling myself you gotta be happy. Every fuckin' song there's something like this."
After the dense arrangements Beulah favored on their last two albums, 1999's When Your Heartstrings Break and 2001's The Coast Is Never Clear, Kurosky and company went with a sparser sound for Yoko and gave the songs a chance to breathe.
"I'm really proud of the progress and evolution of this band," says Kurosky. "I've never seen a band change from album to album, one through four, this much. We don't always need to resort to strings and bells and whistles and what-have-you. This record means more to me than the others. It feels like it's the purest, most artistic record we've ever made."
Beulah tour dates:
10/3: Los Angeles, Troubadour
10/4: San Diego, The Casbah
10/5: Tucson, TBA
10/7: Austin, Emo's
10/8: Dallas, Gypsy Tea Room
10/10: Nashville, TBA
10/11: Atlanta, The Earl
10/12: Carrboro, NC, Cats Cradle
10/13: Washington, D.C., Black Cat
10/15: Philadelphia, First Unitarian Church
10/16: New York, Bowery Ballroom
10/17: Brooklyn, NY, TBA
10/18: Boston, Middle East
10/20: Montreal, La Sale Rossa
10/21: Toronto, Horseshoe Tavern
10/23: Columbus, OH, Little Brothers
10/24: Newport, KY, Southgate House
10/25: Chicago, The Abbey
10/27: Minneapolis, 400 Bar
10/30: Portland, OR, The Blackbird
10/31: Vancouver, The Royal
11/1: Seattle, Graceland
11/6-7: San Francisco, Great American Music Hall