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Soul Coughing

One of the most unique cult bands of the '90s, Soul Coughing anchored a new crop of quirky, unclassifiable bands that emerged in the post-grunge era, including Morphine, the Eels, and Cake. Driven by frontman M. Doughty's stream-of-consciousness poetry, Soul Coughing's sound was a willfully idiosyncratic mix of improvisational jazz grooves, oddball samples, hip-hop, electronics, and noisy experimentalism (described by Doughty as "deep slacker jazz"). Even at the height of the alternative rock era, it was too avant-garde to cross over into the mainstream, keeping one foot planted in the downtown New York scene from whence the band sprang. Yet their ironic sense of humor and stylized bohemian-hipster image made them accessible enough to earn a widespread, enthusiastic following on college campuses. Moreover, they built a reputation as an excellent live act, thanks to a jazz aesthetic that kept their concert performances fresh and spontaneous (not to mention a liberal policy on fans trading tapes). After three generally acclaimed albums, the group split up, and Doughty mounted a solo career.

Soul Coughing was formed in New York City in 1992 by lead vocalist Mike Doughty (who usually preferred the stage name M. Doughty). A military brat born at Fort Knox, Doughty had previously worked as a music critic, and wrote abstract, Beat-influenced poetry of the sort that went over well at live poetry slams. He also held a job as the doorman for the famed cutting-edge venue the Knitting Factory, which afforded him the opportunity to meet an eclectic array of musicians on the downtown avant-garde scene. He eventually recruited keyboardist/sampler Mark de Gli Antoni, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and Israeli-born drummer Yuval Gabay (bassist Wilbo Wright and cellist Catherine Bent were very briefly in the group before the quartet solidified). Taking their name from the title of a poem Doughty had written about Neil Young vomiting, Soul Coughing made their live debut in June 1992 at the Knitting Factory (naturally enough).

They built enough local buzz to land a deal with Warner Brothers subsidiary Slash in 1993. Soul Coughing's debut album Ruby Vroom -- named after producer Mitchell Froom's daughter -- was released in 1994 to mostly complimentary reviews. The late-night barroom atmospherics of "Screenwriter's Blues" helped the band start to catch on at college radio, as did the accompanying singles "Down to This" and "Sugar Free Jazz." Their second album, 1996's Irresistible Bliss, only amplified the buzz around the band, thanks to the alternative-radio hits "Soundtrack to Mary" and "Super Bon Bon." They went on to contribute material to several soundtrack albums, including Songs in the Key of X: Music From and Inspired By the X-Files ("Unmarked Helicopters"), Batman & Robin ("The Bug"), and the X-Files movie ("16 Horses"). Soul Coughing issued their third album, El Oso ("the bear") in 1998, and received their greatest mainstream exposure with the leadoff single "Circles," a good-sized hit on alternative radio.

However, it proved to be the band's last effort, as they announced their breakup in March 2000. de Gli Antoni had already released a solo album, Horse Tricks, that returned him to his roots in experimental electronic composition; it featured contributions from the other members of Soul Coughing and was released on John Zorn's Tzadik label. de Gli Antoni moved on to a career scoring short and independent films, including 2002's quirky romantic comedy Cherish. Steinberg and Gabay, meanwhile, continued to work together as UV Ray. Doughty, meanwhile, cleaned up from an addiction to heroin, and appeared as a guest vocalist on trance producer BT's club hit "Never Gonna Come Back Down" that summer. He also played a series of shows behind his solo acoustic album, Skittish, which had been completed in 1995 but never officially released until Doughty decided to circumvent Napster and sell the album from his own website. His official solo debut was reportedly in the works, but wound up postponed; however, he did issue another solo acoustic album, Smofe + Smang: Live in Minneapolis, in 2002, and continued his periodic work as a columnist for the New York Press. Meanwhile, the performance-oriented Kufala label attempted to arrange the release of several archival Soul Coughing live albums, although intra-band disputes put off the project indefinitely. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Soul Coughing is the band I like to travel with. Meaning when I have to take the train, bus, or walk anywhere, they are my travel companions. Try it. Crank them up so loud you can't hear the rest of the world, and start your journey. It's always proven awesome for me.
the artist is a rather brilliant lyricist. hes music always carry as a great a narrative as the musical talent he brings to the whole art that his his music.
best music ever
call up bop and a chunking stomach? what the heack!?!?
bobonnit listens to BOTH types of music, country AND western.
curtisstetka
Love Soul Coughing. I saw that band twice. First time was great. Second time they were phoning it in. I saw Doughty solo and that show was also lacking in energy, sadly. I wish they would have stuck together, but they left us wanting more rather than just driving their thing into the dirt until it was tired and uninterestin g .
Can't remember how many times I saw them live. Never a bad show. Remembering the days of the AOL groups they were so active in brings back the fond memories. They were so accessible. When they issued a tape of a live show for us to record and pass around I must have checked my mailbox every day waiting for my copy. I need to give Doughty's solo stuff a chance. I was so deflated when they went their own ways. It's still just not the same for me.
True pioneers of musical sound.
I had the chance to see these guys play and they were great, only wish I could have seen them again.
Yeah, I was a hardcore x-files fan at one time. That was my first exposure. I own both x-files albums. But I didn't really get into them until a good friend loaned me all their CD's. After that I couldn't start the day without Soul Coughing. Too bad they broke up. That would have been a killer live show. Right up there with Beck. I also really like Mike's solo stuff. I also write poetry....mu c h in the same style as Mike. I wrote a lot of my stuff while listening to soul coughing. Very
peridot100
Du: Sandman was in Morphine and Treat Her Right, not Soul Coughing. Mike Doughty was the frontman of Soul Coughing and he's still very much alive.
can these guys be called "indie"?
Harder than your mother wished it would be.
great music wish they were still around and playing shows
ameeliuh
Soul Coughing Radio is pleasing me greatly. Discovered Soul Coughing as they opened for Everclear show in 1998 or 99. El Oso blew my little teenage mind. I love every album they produced. I love every band on the "similar artists" list above also. Sadly, Soul Coughing was way ahead of their time.
jasonwprice
Saw them live in '99. Melted my gray matter.
true creativity. wish they still were together. imagine what they would be doing. i mean doughty's solo work is good but not even close to the creativity of soul coughing.
The song "Is Chicago, is not Chicago" is friggin haunting with Doughty singing about someone flying a plane into the Chrysler building years before 9/11.
The album "Ruby Vroom" is a masterpiece.
RIP Sandman
was my favorite rock band
reminds me slightly of beck, you know?
i love soul coughing. they inspire evrything i love about music
The first song I ever liked was Super Bon Bon from Gran Turismo 2. Now I love them. Also try How Many Cans.
Yea.... my first GAY lover also played this for me when he stuck his #$@% in my @#$!!!
my first lover introduced me to these guys... i'm no longer with him, but i'll always love soul coughing.
These artists are true to their work. Love them. Thanks baby for re-introduci n g me to the music. Pay them for their work and listen here!!! Just about anywhere you live, they have traveled in one way or another. So check them out
I saw these guys at the Webster Theater in Hartford-- loved it. I saw Mike Doughty solo last year in Northampton. . . t o o "indie" for me. His solo fans seemed to have no idea that Soul Coughing existed, and one guy said, "That's the rock band he used to be in, right?" Sigh.
Soul coughing Radio, is a winner on Pandora.
Man do I miss these guys. I experienced them live six times, always a great time. They played at Oberlin college's football field at six in the evening and they ripped it! Who the hell makes music like this today?
Yuval Gabai & Sebastian Steinberg have to be one of the best rythmn sections ever. I miss these guys. Def. ahead of their time.
A flash of 90's brilliance.
I saw them on headbangers ball back in the day. It was cool to hear the explanations behind some of the songs. I love the random thoughts thrown into the songs.
classic goodness.
matthewsbuch a n a n
Wow we miss Soul Coughing.. Mikes solo work just doesn't do it by comparison!
Please get back together Soul Coughing.. we need you!!
love -track Rolling
uh dubunoartgla s s , get a f**king life. Do you just go around to pages of bands that you hate, just to write something like that??? Wow, you've got class....... I think in the long run, you will be the one eating s**t and dying a horrible and painful death.
these guys can lick my nutz and all you hoes who suck soul cockin eat s**t n die ( but I like this song, its legit ) HAPPY LISTENING FAGITS
I don't believe they have one bad song....I think "janine" is my least favorite song, only because of the woman singing in the background annoys me. They say that makes the song, but what do I know..?
whoa what asound get back together
f**k sobriety do drugs write music dont become apole smoker like Elton John preaching sobriety!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
bunnyjo
i sometimes wake up from a dead sleep at 3am singing parts of their songs
F**king brilliant.


nuff said.
theese guys kick ninja a**!!!
Irrestistibl e Bliss is truly phenomenal:) I love Mike Doughty's uniqueness.
The best band ever!!!
haleses
Mike Doughty's one of my all time favorite musicians

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