Mike Doughty spent the 1990s as the gravel-voiced frontman for Soul Coughing. Fusing elements of pop, jazz, hip-hop and house music, the band had a sound all its own — but Doughty says he was never satisfied with it.
“I was a 22-year-old kid in New York, who had sort of grown up in indie rock, and had kind of arrived at this tremendous flowering of hip-hop music and house music and the very beginning of drum-and-bass music,” Doughty says. “At the same time, I was working at an avant-garde jazz club … and so I made a connection between the two and put this band together, that I thought would be the ultra hip-hop, house-music weird band. And it was, to a certain extent. But it became a very musicianly band in a way that I was not crazy about.”
Today, Doughty likens Soul Coughing to a “dark marriage,” saying he felt deeply unhappy with the group but unable to leave. Since the band’s breakup in 2000, he has kept it in his rear-view mirror, touring and recording extensively as a solo artist. But now, he’s revisiting the old days — sort of.
For his new album, Doughty has reworked a selection of old Soul Coughing songs, making them sound the way he says they would have sounded back then if he’d been calling the creative shots for the band.
“I guess I was trying to sort of divorce them from the experience,” he says, “and try and go back to whoever that kid was — the 22-year-old kid in a bedroom, picking out these songs clumsily on an acoustic guitar.”
The new record’s title is just a list of those tracks — all 13 of them — but for brevity’s sake, it’s known as Circles Super Bon Bon. Doughty recently discussed it with NPR’s Rachel Martin; click the audio link to hear more of their conversation.