Circle of Soul brings a Motownish vibe backed by a wall of Marshalls



By Steve Newton

From the groovy way guitarist/vocalists Joie Mastrokalos and Granville Cleveland mesh musically, you’d expect that the two players would have hit it off, buddy-wise, right from the start. But before they formed Circle of Soul, Mastrokalos once chased Cleveland around the Bay Area with a .38.

That’s not what friends are for.

“Me and him never really liked each other when we first met,” explains Mastrokalos. “We always played in rival bands. And then one day I sold him my Marshall amplifier for, like, $450. He gave me $50 and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll settle the whole thing up in the next couple of weeks.’ And I didn’t see the motherfucker for about three months!

“Then one day my room-mate came home from a party and said, ‘Hey man, Granny’s down there at this party, and it looks like he’s spendin’ a lotta money.’ So I jumped in a cab—it was two in the morning—and raced down there. When Granny saw me he barrelled out of a window and started running, and I’m chasin’ him with a fuckin’ gun down the streets of downtown San Francisco!

“About a week later he came over to my house and knocks on the door, and he kinda stands back about 10 feet and goes, ‘Hey man, I got your money!’ ”

Mastrokalos claims that he never did get fully paid for that used amp, but he and Cleveland managed to overlook the debt long enough to form a band. Neither were getting anywhere without the other at that point, anyway.

“I told Granny, ‘Look, you’re not doin’ what you really want to do, and I’m not doin’ what I really want to do, and we both wanna do the same thing.’ So he came by my house, and we wrote five songs the first day; it just clicked right from the get-go. I mean, I’m like the Spanish version of him, and he’s like the black version of me. We’re both the same height, we’re both the same build, and we both play Les Pauls. I had met my evil twin!”

When Circle of Soul plays Club Soda this Monday (August 19) it’ll be the first Vancouver appearance by Mastrokalos since his days in the punk band Verbal Abuse, which had performed at local joints like the Smilin’ Buddha and John Barley’s in the early ’80s. Back then the native New Yorker was listening to groups like the Ramones and the Dead Boys, but now—as evidenced by Circle of Soul’s debut album, Hands of Faith—he’s gotten into more of a hard-rock/soul/funk kinda thing.

“When me and Granny started writing,” he says, “we liked to listen to old Temptations and Marvin Gaye. So a lot of the songs that we were writing sounded real Motownish—but with this wall of Marshalls behind.”

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