A touch of SoulFeel | AspenTimes.com

A touch of SoulFeel

Stewart Oksenhorn

Local band SoulFeel, with lead singer Brad Foster, performs tonight at Iguanas and on Saturday at Basalt River Days. (Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen Times)

On the one hand, the members of local rock band SoulFeel might want this to be their endless summer. The band, whose five (or six or seven, depending on the night) members live in New Castle and Glenwood Springs, has racked up many accomplishments these last few months. They played the Yagatta Regatta in Glenwood Springs and the Fruita Fat Tire Festival, and opened for Marcia Ball on Fanny Hill in Snowmass Village, respectable accomplishments for a group whose players had had little experience prior to forming SoulFeel. They hit a career high at last month’s Carbondale Mountain Fair. Not only was their main-stage set an impressive showing in front of a large crowd, but their nighttime show at the Hurricane Grill brought in enough loot – at $7 a ticket – to buy a trailer.They are getting accolades as well as gigs. The readers of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, in the paper’s Locals Choice Awards, voted SoulFeel best local band. SoulFeel’s Dane Wilson was voted best local musician – a particularly notable honor for a drummer – while Kirk Radomski, the band’s mandolinist, took second.And the hot summer continues rolling, as SoulFeel plays at Basalt River Days tomorrow, Aug. 20. Their 4 p.m. set in Arbaney Park precedes the event headliner, blues-rock singer-guitarist Coco Montoya. SoulFeel also plays tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Iguana’s at Highlands Village.”It started with getting the news of Mountain Fair,” said Brad Foster, the lead singer and guitarist who formed SoulFeel two-and-a-half years ago with his stepbrother, guitarist Brook Mooney. “And as soon as we got done with Mountain Fair, we got asked to open for Marcia Ball. Basalt River Days is coming up. And more good news: We got signed by Down the Road Entertainment. It’s been really snowballing.”

On the other hand, SoulFeel might be looking beyond this summer. This fall they are booked to play their first out-of-state gig, at Mystic Hot Springs in Utah. The road show may provide the impetus to take the biggest step in the band’s existence: giving up the odd day jobs for good, and focusing solely on the music.”We all started with the intent that we’d be a touring band at some point, making a living at touring,” said Mooney. “And it looks like we’re getting to that point.”

Being a full-time band was a mighty lofty intention in early 2003. Foster, now 27, sang while his mom taught yoga classes, and did one year of vocal training at Southeastern Louisiana University. But apart from performances as part of a choir and the occasional open-mic night, he had no experience onstage. His stepbrother Mooney, a Glenwood native who is a year older than Foster, had played extensively – but that was woodwinds, in orchestras in Colorado and southern California, where he spent much of his time as a kid.As an acoustic duo, Foster and Mooney played their first gigs in the spring of 2003 at Glenwood Music and Sunlight Mountain Resort. And if their plans were big, they had a calm approach to how to attain them.”Our philosophy was just to let it come,” said Foster. “We didn’t put anything out, about wanting to find a drummer or a bassist. We were happy doing the acoustic duo shows, and figured we’d find people who wanted to jam.”The third member joined up in what was perhaps an expectedly unexpected way. Dane Wilson was working his job as a Coors sales rep at the Glenwood Ramada when he struck up a conversation with Mooney’s wife. When he mentioned that he was a drummer who had played in bands in Ft. Collins and Minneapolis, Mrs. Mooney called over her husband, and SoulFeel had its drummer. Foster and Mooney had known Kirk Radomski, 28, from Radomski’s days in the Glenwood band the Finless Brown. Finless Brown and SoulFeel had a sort of merger when Radomski and bassist Chris Kalouse, at 35 the old man of SoulFeel, joined Foster and Mooney. The picture is more or less complete with keyboardist Jeff Johnston, who has missed the summer’s excitement by taking leave in Alaska and Florida. Hand percussionist Sam Irmen is a part-time ‘Feeler.With its mixture of instruments, SoulFeel has a thrown-together feel. “The mandolin – that wasn’t even an afterthought,” said Mooney. “It just happened. Nobody said, hey, we need a mandolin in here. Kirk just started playing with us, and so we had a mandolin in the music.”

The songwriting emerges from a similarly spontaneous process. Foster and Mooney, who live together in New Castle – with Wilson just down the block – collaborate in an unstructured manner.”A lot of the songs start out as me hearing Brook play a riff,” said Foster, adding that the band focuses almost exclusively on original material. “Two or three weeks later, it’s grown a few parts and Brook will start singing a bit to it. From there, it’s just what kind of vibe we want the song to have. Do we want a funky bass and drums; do we want Dane to have a big part? Some are more simple; some have a little more on the bones.”The results tend to be warm acoustic rock with a slight funk tilt. Use the name SoulFeel to imagine the band’s sound, and you probably won’t be far off.The band points to the relatively extensive experience of Kalouse, who also played in local band Sector 7G, as a key to SoulFeel’s climb. But it is Foster, the lead singer, who captures the attention onstage. His looks, highlighted by long, dirty blond curls, and charisma make him reminiscent of Russell Hammond, Billy Crudup’s rock-star character in “Almost Famous.”Probably the biggest surprise so far is not the success in the small local music scene, but how it has been treated by the larger local community. They cite the support given by the Post Independent and the boost they feel from all sectors of the valley.

“It’s kind of a grass-roots movement for the town,” said Mooney. “Established members of the community are recognizing us as a real local asset. We feel like we’ve got the community spirit behind us.”But neither the community support nor Foster’s charisma is likely to lead to widespread fame anytime real soon. And fortune even less so. But SoulFeel has come to terms with what is on the road ahead as an accompaniment to gradually bigger gigs and paychecks.”A lot of peanut butter and jelly and Ramen noodles,” said Mooney. “Being poor is the worst part, being a broke musician. But it’s worth it.”It becomes more a lifestyle than a job. You wake up in the morning and think, OK, who do I have to call and where do we have to go?”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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