Cornell Siblings Find Niche Far From Soundgarden Sound

Inflatable Soule with Peace, Love and Guitars and Capping Day, Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., 10 p.m. tonight. 448-2114. --------------------------------------------------------------- Inflatable Soule was not what Peter Cornell had in mind. Not as a band name, not even as a band.

Cornell, lead singer, guitarist and frontman for the six-piece, highly harmonized, acoustic-cum-electric rock group had always wanted to be a working musician but just never got around to it.

"I had been writing and recording at home acoustically for four years or so," Cornell says, "when I thought it was time take it to the next level. I wanted to make a more highly produced demo with my brother, have him work with me, play all the tracks, make it more electric and then try to sell it as either a writer or artist. He said we could do that, but without a band there'd be no point. No one would even look at me without a band to back me."

That his brother is Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soungarden, gave those words extra weight.

"So I started to try to put a band together, but I didn't know anybody."

Not true. He knew his sisters Katy and Suzy Cornell. He recruited them as vocalists with Katy doubling on flute.

He ran into Jon Hedges, drummer, then Scott Elnes, bass, and Joel Tipket, guitar.

They worked together for three months before they showed anyone anything, and then they worked some more.

"So far the material we're using are things I've written," says Cornell, "but the arranging is all of us. It's a group effort. Everybody has songs."

"What we're looking for," says Elnes, "is more time to work them out."

Cornell, sister Katy and Elnes are finishing up lunch at a sunny Lake Union eatery. The brother and sister have already had a sibling go-around on furniture-moving responsibilities - they live next door to each other. Elnes looks on, smiling at what seems to be a familiar sight. They are half of a band that is finding its way and starting to feel pretty good about it. Hard work pays off.

"We have, like, 40 songs," says Cornell, "but we don't do all of them.

"Just the ones we feel are truly completed," Elnes adds.

"Some we bail out on," tags Cornell.

"But we come back to them," interjects Elnes.

"There's always five or six in the oven," Cornell finishes."When we get one to where we like it we take it to the stage, and it bites the big one every time. But we stay at it."

The band has been together a year and a half, but because of what Cornell calls his and his sisters' "greenness" he's been hesitant to headline. "After all, we had never been in a band."

"Yeah," says Katy, "I'd never really thought about a career in music until Peter came to me. I like it. Maybe I always had this dream and didn't know it. I think to some degree everybody does. It's nice to have a plan."

Tonight's show at the Crocodile will be the first time the band has officially headlined in Seattle, but the time has come. For an admittedly fledgling band, Inflatable Soule has acquired a large fan base and a lot of press, most of it favorable.

It's well-earned. The band has worked diligently on not only crystalizing their music, but firming up their onstage performance as well. Peter is the centerpiece, flanked by Katy and Suzy, the rest of the band fanning out. Their presence is strong and forceful, even if the dress is casual: Katy, with her Vassar looks, Suzy right off the beach, and Peter - always in short pants - a mad mountaineer. The interplay with the rest of the band is simply exhuberant rock 'n' roll.

"Hype (the newspaper) said Peter sounds like Country Joe MacDonald," chides Katy.

"That's what they said about the band, not me," he shoots back, adding "the girl from Hype said we reminded her of Country Joe and the Fish."

"And Billboard said we sound like a gospel version of the Velvet Underground," Elnes adds laughing.

"I'm not so sure that was a complement," muses Cornell.

"See, it's all starting to snowball," says Cornell, "we're working every weekend. We're even starting to make money! And it's through our desire to get better, and the help of people we know. We want a contract, and there are a lot of people we know who are contract players. We're close to the industry in that respect. And we all want to participate in that and we think we can do a good job at it.

"Like I said, all I've ever really wanted to do was be a musician, have it as my living. Or find out I couldn't do it and then move on. But I had to try. I've always had it too much in my face to just say, `Oh, that's nice, but I have to get back to college now and become a dentist.' "