Local group Soul Track Mind have no qualms about bringing the funk. From their melodic, powerful horn section to frontman Donovan Keith’s pleasing falsetto reminiscent of soul crooner Al Green’s, Soul Track Mind is all about one thing: being the life of the party. The seven-piece funk-rock ensemble will be performing tonight at the Continental Club.
The brainchild of Keith, Soul Track Mind came together when the vocalist moved to Austin in January of 2008.
“I wanted to put together a band with a classic soul sound,” Keith said. “I already had a few original songs written to start with that were rooted in soul music from the ’60s. Eventually, we blended our different influences together and created a more modern edge to our sound.”
Shortly after meeting guitarist Jonathon Zemek, Keith took to Craigslist to assemble Soul Track Mind’s current lineup: Michael Mancuso (bass), Sammy P (keys), Zach Buie (trumpet), Douglas Leveton (drums) and Benjamin George (saxophone).
With the band intact, Soul Track Mind released their first full-length debut, Ghost of Soul, back in August of 2010. The album received praise from Austin 360 and Texas Music Magazine for its nostalgic ’60s and ’70s R&B sound. For example, “I Get My Groove From You,” evokes Motown pop sound with its luscious melodies, while “Little Red Heart” is reminiscent of lonely soulman Smokey Robinson.
The group truly struts their stuff live — Keith becomes a dancing machine, moving his hips and snapping his fingers to Leveton’s rocking drums. George and Buie toot their horns with punchy bravado, bobbing their heads with such devotion you can’t help but do the same. It’s easy to get overcome by their upbeat, dance-friendly energy, clapping, hollering and knee-slapping until the very end of their set.
“We continue to get better and better at capturing our ‘live’ sound,” said Leveton. During this year’s South By Southwest, the group had a memorable performance at the “Austin High” film screening party.
“This was our first show where we had a video projector, smoke, lights and lasers,” Leveton said. “We did 100 minutes straight, before encoring with ‘Shout,’ and everybody went wild.”
The group’s SXSW festivities were kept at a minimum, however — the band was busy recording new material at the Converse Rubber Tracks pop-up recording studio. Based out of Brooklyn, the recording studio offered Soul Track Mind and four other Texas-based bands the opportunity to record material, free of charge, allowing the artists retaining all rights to their work.
“We decided to bring a Converse Rubber Tracks pop-up recording studio here to Austin because there’s no place that celebrates music and the diversity of music like Austin,” said Converse chief marketing officer Geoff Cottrill. “We just wanted to give something back to Texas and help out those bands that do not have the access to get into a good recording studio.”
The recording session was an enjoyable experience for Soul Track Mind. Using the studio’s equipment, the group was able to record new songs, tracking everything live to capture a more organic sound.
“It’s not often that a company comes along and provides an all-expenses paid, no-strings attached studio session,” Leveton said. “All in all, it was a great opportunity for us.”
Having taken some time to record new material, Soul Track Mind is preparing to tour around the country. The band will be performing their first major festival debut at this year’s Wakarusa Music Festival, at Ozark, Arkansas’ Mulberry Mountain. They’ll be playing alongside such popular artists as Girl Talk and Matisyahu.
Now the group is competing to play an even larger stage at the music festival: Through the use of a Facebook voting system, the band hopes to get bumped up to a bigger stage.
However, they are still excited to see other bands performing. “I know I’d personally like to see Fitz and the Tantrums, G. Love & Special Sauce, and our fellow Austinite, Gary Clark Jr.,” Keith said.
Soul Track Mind is taking their funk-filled journey one day at a time. The band will record new songs in some of the towns they stop in, and will be giving energized, enthralling performance.
“We look forward to seeing our old fans again as we travel, as well as saving many new souls,” Keith said.