Soft Skulls
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Soft Skulls

Denver, Colorado, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Denver, Colorado, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Rock Alternative




"Cat-A-Tac a memory, Jim McTurnan has found his Kids"

When former Cat-A-Tac singer-guitarist Jim McTurnan played his first few shows without a band, he felt the common yet terrifying sensation that has gripped countless musicians.
"I had no idea what I was doing," said McTurnan, remembering early solo dates at the 2007 Underground Music Showcase and the Larimer Lounge. "I felt like I was standing there with my pants pulled down."
But McTurnan's series of baby steps — and a bit of advice from indie-rock godfather Lou Barlow ("Man, you have to play solo") — turned him around.
His latest project, Jim McTurnan and the Kids That Killed the Man, puts not only his name out front but also his unapologetically garage-inspired melodies.
The band will release its hook-laden debut, "Joie de Vivre," at the Hi-Dive on Saturday. Its nine tracks represent the culmination of nearly two years of on-and-off touring, lineup changes and intense recording.
"I realized if I wanted to control something, I had to put my name on it," McTurnan said recently between sips of ale and bites of beef stew at the Cheeky Monk.
That was a slow realization for a lanky, affable guy who once was happy to hide behind walls of feedback and his bandmates in Cat-A-Tac. That group's position near the top of the Denver scene seemed assured a few years ago when it graced the cover of Westword and was frequently mentioned by local critics and tastemakers as the city's next big thing.
"A lot of bands in Denver run into that," McTurnan said. "But I've always had unusually dumb good luck. Everything I've done has probably been more successful than it possibly deserves.
"Still, it's never really been that 'it' band — which is a blessing, since that's a dead end when you burn bright and fade out fast."
After Cat-A-Tac dissolved in 2008, McTurnan indulged his newer, faster songs with solo performances that made him realize he could move forward without a band.
His next step? Putting a band together, of course.
McTurnan discovered chemistry with a string of local notables, including Mike Marchant (Widowers, Houses) and Joseph Pope III (Born in the Flood, the Wheel). But the core of the group for the past couple of years has been bassist Josh Wambeke (Fell), drummer John Fate (Hindershot) and guitarist Nathan Brasil (Fingers of the Sun) — all of whom share McTurnan's love of retro song structures and doe-eyed melodies with punk undertones.
The band recorded an EP at Bryan Feuchtinger's Uneven Studios in early 2009 but never released it, opting to record its own full-length over the course of 2010.
Like a raft of other musicians today, McTurnan would rather have people get "Joie de Vivre" at no cost and instead support the band live and online. (The album can be downloaded for free at
"Joie de Vivre" is a definite departure from McTurnan's five years in Cat-A-Tac. The agreeably sleepy vocals are still there (think Evan Dando or Pat DiNizio), but standout tracks such as "Goodnight" are inherently more urgent, jettisoning solos and transitions for punchy song structures. It's slacker-rock meets garage-pop, all coasting on a sheet of cranked-out guitars and unrelenting rhythms.
"When I was writing a lot of the songs, I was primarily listening to music that was pre-1964, pre-Beatles rock 'n' roll. Lots of Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers and Motown," McTurnan said. "I wanted to incorporate some of the stylistic things from that era, like tambourine and backing vocals, but at the same time I didn't want to be as blatantly retro or kitschy as some of the other stuff out there."
McTurnan and his Kids have had some exposure over the past couple of years, with scattered local shows and festival appearances (The UMS, CMJ Music Marathon, Monolith). But the release of "Joie" represents the first real coordinated push for the band, including a radio and PR campaign that McTurnan is funding himself.
A lawyer by day, he knows that it's all about getting the right message out to the right people.
"Being a lawyer is not any different than somebody who's waiting tables," he said. "It fills in your daytime hours and takes away from the amount of time you can spend making music.
"With every band I've had in the past, jobs are always an obstacle. But every band has that little existential crisis."
John Wenzel: 303-954-1642 or

- Denver Post


It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Jim Mcturnan. Last we saw this much action from him was when he was making the rounds with Cat-A-Tac and playing a WOXY (RIP) session at Monolith. He’s back with a fresh material and a new supporting cast. Jim McTurnan & the Kids that Killed the Man are giving away their new album (“Joie De Vivre”) for free over here. It’s a limited time, so act fast. For those of you local kids, they’ll be doing a release party tomorrow at Hi-Dive. C=T had a chance to catch up with Jim and see what’s been shakin’ as of late.

It’s been a minute since we last heard from you, and the Kids that Killed the Man. What have you been up to and how do you stay busy?

“We try not to wear out our welcome. We’ve spent a lot of time recently working out details for this release. Our PR campaign will be kicking off after the release party and will go through the end of the spring. We will start the radio campaign in late May. We’ve also been working on writing some new stuff and are hoping to do some more recording sooner than later. Plus everyone has other bands. I’ve even got a new semi-secret band with Josh that I’m playing drums in.”

How was recording the new release different than the last Cat-A-Tac album?

“This was the first time I’ve ever made a record where all of the instruments, even the drums and bass, were tracked completely separately. There was nothing live about the performances. So that presented some opportunities and some challenges. But, ultimately it made recording the songs’ skeletons a little easier than it was with the last Cat-A-Tac record, where we recorded all of the rhythm tracks at the same time. ”

The production on the new album is very crisp. Talk to us about the producer and where you recorded “Joie De Vivre.”

“Josh Wambeke, our bass player, handled the recording and mixing and did all of it in his basement studio. He’s been making records and collecting recording gear his whole life, and he has a fantastic ear. I think he’s got a real knack for capturing very honest sounds. So many times when making a record, the final product is really colored by the studio itself. I think Josh is good at getting transparent, natural sound out of the instruments. The record was mastered by JJ Golden at Golden Mastering in California. He’s done work for a lot of great bands and did a really superb job on this one.”

What kind of touring plans do you have cookin’ for the record?

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to get out on the road a bit later this year. Right now we’re mostly excited to get started on the big PR push and see how people react to the record. That, along with the radio campaign, will help guide our plans for the coming months. We’ve got our fingers crossed for some good things. “ - Cause Equals Time

"Best Second Act - Jim McTurnan and The Kids That Killed the Man"

With well-received appearances at Monolith and CMJ for its sixth and seventh shows, respectively, it's safe to say that former Cat-A-Tac frontman Jim McTurnan has gone from good with that group to better with his new band, The Kids That Killed the Man. This time around, McTurnan is writing catchier songs that hit harder. Maybe it's the freedom of having the lead role to himself, or maybe he's just wiser and happier; we're not going to ask too many questions. Now with a second guitarist locked in, the band is working on what promises to be an awesome album of rock-and-roll fuzz. - Westword

"Jim McTurnan & The Kids That Killed The Man start the push on their new album with a video"

?Jim Mcturnan & The Kids That Killed The Man, fresh off the release of their excellent album Joie De Vivre, have made a video for standout single "Give Up Suffering." The conceit couldn't be simpler. McTurnan explains: "I wanted to use footage of us actually playing as a way of introducing the band," he says. "Back in the days of videos on TV, a band's first video was almost always the band simply playing. It was just the easiest way to give people a sense of what a band was all about."
McTurnan & The Kids, no strangers to seeing an album off into the world, begin a nationwide campaign this week. PR is being handled by Minneapolis firm The Swim Agency, and they'll promote a couple singles in advance of the "official" release date for Joie De Vivre on April 26.

"We are going to start our radio campaign in May," says McTurnan. "And contrary to a lot of sound professional advice, we are going to try all digital delivery for that as well."

It's an interesting strategy -- whether the music world's infrastructure is ready for an exclusively digital release remains to be seen. If Joie De Vivre winds up reaching lots of people around the country and world who wouldn't have heard it without the legwork McTurnan and the band are putting in, that will be a compelling model for other bands facing harrowing margins on pressing copies. - Westword

"Listen to new music from Jim McTurnan and The Kids That Killed The Man"

?Jim McTurnan & The Kids That Killed The Man, the subject of this week's feature, will officially release its debut album, Joie De Vivre, on Saturday at the hi-dive. It's a thrilling nine track affair, clocking in at just under thirty minutes. McTurnan told us he set out to make a happier album, one that was fun to play live. The band honed its sound at a series of high-profile gigs in 2009, playing Monolith and CMJ in rapid succession. Listen to standout tracks "Don't Count Me Out" and "This Will All Work Out" below.

The band doing an almost exclusively digital release, and the album is available on their bandcamp page or you can download the entire album.

Joie De Vivre has been years in the making -- McTurnan tried to rehearse at least one of the songs with his previous band, Cat-A-Tac, back in 2008. Since then, The Kids That Killed The Man has recruited the services of John Fate on drums, Josh Wambeke on bass and Nathan Brasil on guitar. McTurnan says he feels like the least talented musician in this band.

Saturday's show will also feature Family Band from New York and Joshua Novak. Doors open at 9:00 p.m. and tickets are $7. - Westword

"Infectious pop: Jim McTurnan & the Kids CD release on March 12"

Jim McTurnan does not seem like someone who would put out an album called Joie de Vivre.

Christine cool
Jim McTurnan & the Kids that Killed the Man just look like they have murderous intentions, don't they?
Jim McTurnan & the Kids That Killed the Man,CD release show, with Joshua Novak, 9 p.m. Saturday, March 12, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $7-$10, 720-570-4500.
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McTurnan is just not the type you usually find espousing the joy of living. Cat-A-Tac, his previous band, was a consciously dour affair, and McTurnan spent some formative years living in England, where he developed a wry sense of humor. These days, he's working as a lawyer — hardly a free-spirited profession. Yet here it is, the debut full-length from Jim McTurnan & the Kids That Killed The Man. Joie De Vivre, and it's really not a joke.

"To me, music is the part of life where I feel like I'm really living," McTurnan explains. "I wanted to make a happier record, to embrace life rather than whining about it."

McTurnan has been in bands since before he could drive. He had his first gig at sixteen, playing drums for a teenage blues band. They played at a Mexican restaurant, during the set breaks of an old group with a regular time slot. But you never know what you might find: That band's drummer turned out to have played with Johnny Winter during the Woodstock era and for Stevie Ray Vaughan through the '70s. "I'm sitting there with Johnny Winter's drummer when I'm sixteen," McTurnan remembers. "And he's like, 'Yeah, you're doing it right, kid. Just keep doing it, man.'"

In Denver, McTurnan rose to prominence in the local scene with Cat-A-Tac, which he formed with a group of close friends. They shared a love for bands like Galaxie 500 and rode a moody shoegaze sound to greater success than any of them had anticipated. They started getting radio airplay across the country and touring the Midwest, where they were developing a real fan base. When Columbia Records sent McTurnan an e-mail expressing an interest in signing the band, he was cautiously optimistic.

At the time, Columbia had the worst reputation of all the major labels, but he figured, worst-case scenario, they could live for a year or two on the corporate dime, touring and playing music. He was shocked to learn his bandmates weren't ready to take the plunge. "All those guys weren't lifelong musicians," he says. "It was a novelty to be in a band for a while, and when the novelty wore off, it was like, 'Okay, that was fun. We're going to go do something else.'

"Whereas for me," he goes on, "it was like, 'What else is there?'"

Since then, McTurnan has passed the bar exam and now works as a staff attorney for the law offices of Wachsmann & Associates. "I enjoy what I do for work," he clarifies. "But definitely, for me, music is still the thing that gets me out of bed."

But now that he's got a time-consuming career and a life outside music, he can relate a little better to one of his Cat-A-Tac bandmates, who decided he loved his day job too much to give it up for the band. "At some point," he points out, "you run out of excuses for being a bum, and you have to do something seriously. I ask myself sometimes, 'Why do I spend so much time and effort on this?'"

Cat-A-Tac shared a practice space above the Great Divide brewery with Everything Absent or Distorted (A Love Story). One day, McTurnan was talking about music with EAoD's John Kuker. "He thought about the same sort of thing, you know: Why put so much effort into this weird intangible thing," says McTurnan. "And his explanation was, there were so many records that made life for him, that he felt like creating music was a way of giving back, was a way of continuing this culture of creativity. That resonated with me."

He set out looking for people who wanted to play music as badly as he did. He saw John Fate playing with the Pseudo Dates, and remembers thinking, "Oh man. That's the kind of drummer I want." He didn't have to look for an approximation — Fate soon joined McTurnan's new band.

"Music has such a profound effect on everyone involved. We don't have a choice," says Fate. "We have to be a part of it if we can, whether it's just playing the tambourine or something."

"It's the longest relationship I've ever had," says McTurnan.

"Me, too," Fate confirms. "Man, me, too."

McTurnan was originally just looking for some musicians to put together demo recordings. From the Pseudo Dates, he got Fate and Nathan Brasil, who started out just playing tambourine before becoming the band's second guitarist. They were joined by Josh Wambeke of Fell on bass, and the new outfit recorded some demos and decided it might as well play a show to promote itself. From there, the guys landed a string of high profile gigs, including CMJ and Monolith. (McTurnan, incidentally, was the only person to play all three years at the latter: Once with Cat-A-Tac, then as a stand-in member of EAoD, and finally with his current band.)

"This band is probably more collaborative than Cat-A-Tac was," notes McTurnan. "Because in this band, everyone adds their own thing." McTurnan considers himself the least talented musician in the group. He'll still sometimes bring ideas for bass lines or drum parts to practice, but mostly each of the Kids That Killed The Man figures out his own way to improve the songs McTurnan writes.

"This is the first band where I really thought about what it is that I wanted to do," he adds. Learning his lesson from the way Cat-A-Tac ended, he put his name on the band to ensure it would be there as long as he was interested in playing music. "I finally have the courage, after a long, long time of making music, to say this is what I want to do."

He'd been developing as a songwriter with Cat-A-Tac, moving away from slow, labored music. "I wanted to do something that borrowed a lot from oldies," he says. "Three chords, two and half minutes long, a great melody, and it was all about the song."

Christine cool
Jim McTurnan & the Kids that Killed the Man just look like they have murderous intentions, don't they?
Jim McTurnan & the Kids That Killed the Man,CD release show, with Joshua Novak, 9 p.m. Saturday, March 12, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $7-$10, 720-570-4500.
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March 10, 2011
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And most of Joie De Vivre is exactly that: simple, infectious pop. "It's as caveman as you can get," says McTurnan. The album's most triumphant song, "Give Up Suffering," is the same three chords the entire time — the drums, bass, and vocal melody vary to distinguish the verses from the chorus, but the spine of the thing is completely rigid from start to finish.

Who knows why certain music resonates with certain people? What we all know is what it feels like when it all just clicks. You stop hearing individual instruments and voices and instead feel the whole thing as the expression of something true. "I don't want anyone to go, 'Wow that's genius, they're breaking new boundaries,'" says McTurnan. "I want them to go, 'Wow, that's a song.'" - Westword

"New video from Jim McTurnan And The Kids That Killed The Man Band shows off “Give Up Suffering” YouTube-style"

Die-hard ’90s nostalgists have had 11 years to comb through back issues of Spin, dig up episodes of Alternative Nation online, and unearth every last band the alt-rock era has to offer. That doesn’t mean the fun of the post-grunge years is completely tapped out, though. Conveniently overlook the copyright date on Jim McTurnan And The Kids That Killed The Man’s debut, Joie De Vivre, and you can make believe you discovered the band when it opened for Blur that time it played 7 South. Here’s a first look at the first video from that album. The tune, “Give Up Suffering,” builds a bit of Teenage Fanclub or The Stone Roses jangle around a fierce vocal hook and a tale about a trip to the Big Apple. Although the video boasts the sort of no-budget ethos that brands it a product of the YouTube era—it’s shot exclusively in a poorly lit practice space on an unsteady handheld—if you close your eyes, it’ll almost be enough to make you want to go dig your beloved super-baggy sweater out of storage. - The Onion - AV Club

"Jim McTurnan And The Kids That Killed The Man are working on a debut, but aren’t rushing through it"

Last year, it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without running into Jim McTurnan And The Kids That Killed The Man: The new Denver band turned up at the UMS main stage, at Monolith, the Starz Denver Film Festival, even the local evening news. With such an auspicious start, you’d better believe that Mile High’s scorekeepers are ready to pounce on the group’s forthcoming album to prove or to discredit their rapid ascension to scoring those coveted gigs. But bad news, impatient shit-talkers: The Kids aren’t going to rush through their yet-to-be-titled debut.
McTurnan And The Kids—which features members of Fell and The Pseudo Dates—are only five songs into the album, and are taking the recording process slow and steady. Straightforward guitar-pop has been McTurnan’s calling card since his days slinging distortion in Denver’s Cat-A-Tac, and the foursome have been ramping that up in the studio, dressing songs with synthesizers, layers of guitar, and backing vocals—all in ways that they couldn’t pull off onstage. “Recordings these days have become so complex and we’re so ADD that if you have space in a song and it’s just empty space, it’s boring,” McTurnan explains. “Instead of putting a song against a plain white background, what kind of weird background noises are you going to put in that only peek through in those songs? It’s stuff you never have to worry about live that really makes a night and day difference in how interesting a recording is.”
And, hey, even if you end up hating on the album, McTurnan just might be right there with you. “To date, I still have yet to make a record that I’m really proud of,” he admits. “I feel like stuff I’ve done in the past is the best I could have done at the time. I have yet to make something that I really love after the fact. I hope this time around, we’ll get it right.” - The Onion - AV Club

"Steal This Track: Jim McTurnan & The Kids That Killed The Man"

Jim McTurnan and the Kids That Killed the Man bring plenty of power too, but in a very different way. The group’s debut album, “Joie De Vivre,” is packed with powerful pop rock hooks, expert songwriting and intelligent lyrics that grab hold of your ears and won’t let go. In fact, we had a hard time choosing just one of the record’s nine songs because it’s such a fun and compelling listen all the way through.
You might hear hints of Jim McTurnan‘s previous band, Cat-A-Tac, in the layered guitar work and somewhat understated vocal approach of McTurnan, but make no mistake — this is a whole different animal. Where Cat-A-Tac focused on textures and atmosphere, Jim McTurnan and the Kids That Killed the Man are slaves to sing-a-long melodies and perky beats. Second guitarist Nathan Brasil (also of Denver power pop act Fingers of the Sun), bassist Josh Wambeke and drummer John Fate (highlighted last week in Reverb) help McTurnan crank out bursts of catchy, fuzzy, melodic rock that alternate between joy and pain like your divorced, alcoholic uncle on New Year’s Eve. “Goodnight” and “This Will All Work Out” are examples of the more lush, orchestrated and melancholy side of the band. Details of the record’s release are hush-hush right now, but you can steal “Give Up Suffering” — a straightforward, carefree rock song that looks lovingly back at melodic punks like Hüsker Dü — to quench your thirst until the full album arrives some time in February. - Denver Post Reverb Blog


Coming soon



Soft Skulls was founded in 2015 as the new vehicle for songwriter Jim McTurnan (Cat-A-Tac), who creates, "...blissful pop songs that wear a snarl..." according to KEXP, and whose past work Under The Radar magazine described up as, "...My Bloody Valentine with a few licks of Pete Townshend..."   

Soft Skulls features Jim McTurnan (vocals, guitar), Tyler Campo (bass, backing vocals), Madison Lucas (drums), and Robin Lucas (guitar, backing vocals).

Soft Skulls made its first live outings in Denver, Colorado during summer 2015, playing the Hi-Dive's annual Garage Fest and the Denver Post's Underground Music Showcase.

Soft Skulls recorded its debut four song EP between April and August of 2015 with Jamie Hillyer at Module Overload.  The tracks were mastered in August 2015 by Dominick Maita (Bryan Ferry, Bronski Beat) at Airshow Mastering in Boulder, CO.  The results are now available digitally (Feb 2016).  Radio and press campaigns will commence March 2016, with touring to follow in the summer.

R.I.Y.L.: King Tuff, Ty Segall, The War on Drugs, Sonic Youth, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr, Spoon, Swervedriver, Slowdive, Guided By Voices, TV on the Radio, etc.

With his past projects, Jim McTurnan has provided support for Art Brut, The Black Angels, Cold War Kids, Lou Barlow, and many others.  He's also shared festival billing with the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, The Walkmen, Phoenix, The Flaming Lips, The Dandy Warhols, and others.


Band Members