SoulHat Artist Biography

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Name: SoulHat
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Popular Tags: austin, seen live, rock, funk, texas,

Published/Updated: 11 Mar 2007, 01:11

Biography: Soulhat is a popular Austin, Texas band whose sound incorporates alt-country, funk, hard rock, "jam band," and southern rock influences. Their live performances frequently include covers from acts as diverse as Black Sabbath and Van Halen to Jeff Beck, the Allman Brothers, and Devo.

Formed in 1990 by Southwestern University alumni Kevin McKinney (guitar, lead vocals, and the band's principal songwriter), Bill Cassis (lead guitar) and Brian Walsh (bass), Soulhat's career began in Austin's vibrant live music scene. At the much-beloved Black Cat Lounge, the band began attracting a growing fan base with McKinney's quirky humor and extended jam sessions displaying the group's chops to great effect. In 1991 the band replaced drummer Ian Bailey with the venerable Barry "Frosty" Smith, which upped the musical ante even further; Smith's résumé includes stints with Jimi Hendrix, Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly & the Family Stone.

Releasing a small live demo tape called Live at the Black Cat early in 1991, the band soon became a mainstay of the Austin music scene; along with other emerging acts such as Sister 7 (née Little Sister) and Joe Rockhead, Soulhat's shows and later recordings became seminal to the Austin sound of the early-to-mid 1990s. Local-press profiles in the Austin Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman followed; a full-length album called Outdebox was recorded and self-produced by the band in mid-1991, and high-profile appearances at Austin's legendary South By Southwest (SXSW) film and music festival as well as extended tours with burgeoning superstars Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthews Band over the course of the early part of the decade effectively served notice that Soulhat's hour had struck.

Voted Best Band in the 1994 Austin Music Awards, Soulhat was signed to a contract by Epic/Sony records, and quickly began work on a second full-length album, called Good to Be Gone, released later that same year. Sony seemed unclear about how to promote the record, however; other than pushing the band's hard-rocking anthem "Bonecrusher" onto Z-Rock radio, Soulhat got little joy from their relationship with Sony -- and the pressures of heavy touring caused "Frosty" Smith to leave the group in 1995. Within months the group had completely disbanded, leaving legions of fans around Texas and the Southwest crestfallen.

But this was not to be the end. A "Soulhat reunion show" booked at Austin's Liberty Lunch for two nights in December of 1996 sparked renewed interest in the band on the parts of McKinney, Walsh and Smith -- Bill Cassis played the reunion, but declined to rejoin the group -- who began playing as a trio around Austin using the Soulhat name on a regular basis once again. But by summer of 1997, Brian Walsh had once again left the group to spend more time with his new family in Palestine, Texas. He was replaced by John Vogelsang (formerly of the Ging'bread Men) shortly thereafter, and guitar player Mac McNabb signed on to fill lead guitar duties at roughly the same time, making the band a four-piece once again.

Although regular live Soulhat shows were once again taking place in Austin -- often at Antone's and Stubb's BBQ -- and elsewhere, only two more self-produced recordings were released during Soulhat's second era: a self-titled EP in 1998 (produced by McNabb, and featuring Barry "Frosty" Smith singing lead vocals on one track) and a full-length album, Experiment on a Flat Plane, in 2000. January of that year also brought "Frosty"'s second retirement from the band, and he was briefly replaced by Brad Evilsizer (a former member of the Scabs.) Evilsizer departed in March of 2001, and this effectively finished the second life of Soulhat -- or so it seemed.

A second set of "reunion shows" took place at Antone's in Austin in July of 2005, and additional one-off appearances in Austin and elsewhere have followed, with growing frequency, especially after the re-release of Live at the Black Cat (for the first time ever in a digital format) in December of 2009. And many fans' prayers were answered when a Saxon Pub show in September of 2012 debuted new material for the first time in many a year -- to date, 8 new tracks have been released via their Bandcamp page. It turns out that Soulhat is too good to be gone for long, and with the band playing regular concerts on almost a monthly basis again, the time seems right to declare a third era of Soulhat has begun. Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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