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Life music 

Charlotte's Soulganic harnesses its passion onto debut CD

The room is peaceful on a Friday night as 75 percent of the band Soulganic quietly divvy up some take-out Chinese food. They've finished practice for the evening and it's time to relax, eat and chat about their music and history with the lone outsider in the room. They don't hesitate to talk about their band with passion and, of course, occasional jokes. As they are on stage, the bandmates are "butt-ass naked." (More on that later.)

Anthony Rodgriquez, Ryan McKeithan, Lucas Torres and Cory McClure are ready for people to take home their music. They've been rehearsing for a May 4 show that could be one of the most meaningful in their short careers together so far. It's a release party for their debut CD, All Directions Forward. While Torres was not present at this practice, the band will let him know about any changes and they're confident he won't miss a beat when it comes to performing live.

With band members living in various areas of the Queen City, they don't get together too often. They'll find time for lunch or a quick chat by e-mail or phone. Twice a month, they practice at McClure's home. Approximately once a month, they perform live -- this way, it's an "event," Rodriguez says.

"Your favorite bands only come to town once or twice a year," McClure adds. "You don't want to be out there so much that people take you for granted."

Though the band, with various lineups, has been together for approximately two years (formerly known as Organic Soul), the current foursome got together last year. Now that the right pieces are in place, the group feels it's time to release a CD. "We didn't want to rush something out just to say we did it," Rodriguez says. "That's less important than putting something out that says something, at least substantial if not profound. People have asked for a CD at every show we've done."

They've tried recording live shows in the past, but the quality did not turn out the way they hoped. The band started talking about recording an album last summer and began the process in December. They went into the studio with 19 songs, but cut it down to 12 over the course of two full-band sessions. "We wanted to get it down to 10, but there was no way to do that and keep everything we thought needed to be heard," Rodriguez says. Local poet Bluz is featured on one of the album's tracks, freestyling over a track called "Smell, Pt. 2."

They hope the 12-track CD, which will be available at their shows, some local and online record retailers and at their Web site,, will have something for everyone. What attracts the new fans and those who have stayed with them through their previous incarnations, is, in addition to the smooth falsetto vocals and soul grooves, the lyrics and hooks. "It's a groove, but it's song-based," Rodriguez says. "When there's structure and a hook that's memorable, you'll always come back to that. If you give them something they can remember or walk away from talking about or humming or singing, they're gonna come back."

It doesn't hurt that McClure and Torres offer a rhythmic dynamic that isn't often found on the musical landscape. While Torres brings a traditional Latin element to the band through congas, McClure, who is primarily a keyboard player, finds melody and balance on the drums. Add in the bass and vocals of Rodriguez and playful guitar work of McKeithan and you've got an amalgamation of styles that combine to form a funky, jazzy, soul collective.

Their lyrics focus on the aspects of existence you may expect to find in a soul band -- love, life and all the things that go with it. "It's life music," McKeithan says. "Anybody can relate to it. It doesn't matter where you come from, because it's just the ups and downs of life."

The music lends itself to improvisation within the structure of the song without becoming a "jam band." The band has played a number of shows where musicians in the crowd were able to come on stage, step in with the band and perform like that's the way the song was written.

So, what about being "butt-ass naked"? It's in the way the fully-clothed band energetically performs and opens themselves up for improvisation, interpretation and conversation while staying true to form. "You've gotta be butt-ass naked," McClure says. "You have to come outside of yourself and be willing to take a risk. You have to put it out, and people will like it or they won't. It's heavy market-based and you have to appeal to your fanbase, but you want to be appreciated as an artist."

For the future, the band plans to keep on plodding through the Charlotte music scene and see where its album and performances takes it. After countless fans have come up to ask for a CD, the members are glad they finally have a positive answer to the question.

"We really want it to be something that people pay attention to," McClure says. "I'd love it to be something that, when a cat comes in from a long day at work, he can pop our CD in, grab a beer and just chill. When you leave a show, we want you to leave smiling."

Soulganic will hold their CD release party at The Neighborhood Theatre at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 4 with Rebecca Loebe and Sauda. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

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