Artist: Local Motive
Age: 35 years old
Location: Chicago, IL
Based out of Chi Town, Local Motive is all about the soulful/old-school R&B style. The soul is evident in every lyric and note sung by the group’s lead. The passion, the pain, the feeling. It’s all there. The group recently released a 9-track album, ‘Grams’, which features plenty of great tracks. Our current favorites are ‘Twigs’ and ‘High Life’, but the whole album is worth your time. Back in May of this year, the group headlined the House of Blues, so there’s lots to be excited about for the members and their fans. We’ll spare you some reading talking about how great these guys really are, and we’ll let their music and story do some talking of its’ own. Press play on some of their music below, and get to know more about Local Motive through our interview with member, Michael Vinopal:
How old are you?
Just turned 35 on Christmas Day 2017. Yep, I’m a Christmas baby.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Des Plaines when I was little, moving to Arlington Heights somewhere around kindergarten where I spent the bulk of my youth. Went to college at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, moved to St. Louis for a bit, then returned to Chicago in 2010 when Local Motive originally started. We’ve gone through some lineup changes, but myself, my cousin (rhythm guitarist Chris Vinopal), and trumpet player, Matthew Sypherd have remained constant. I currently live in Logan Square at a place we affectionately refer to as “The Tree” with my lady and our two fur-babies (Minnie the dachshund and Luna the cat) .
Who or what helped get you into music?
My dad, John Vinopal, grew up with 6 other siblings, many of which played guitar, sang, and performed in the theater to some capacity (high school musicals and that like). My mom, Jan Vinopal, made me take piano lessons when I was about 6 years old for which I’m eternally grateful. Around the time of Green Day’s “Dookie,” Silverchair’s “Frogstomp,” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” I became enamored with the electric guitar and asked to quit piano lessons. My dad made me earn it though, telling me that I had to show I was serious by learning the basics on his old beat-up nylon-stringed classical. He taught me the first position chords and then encouraged me to learn by ear, as he had done, playing along to my favorite records. I never really took any formal guitar lessons. Just imagine, a teenager trying to be “grunge” with an old Yamaha classical guitar. On my 13th birthday, Dad took me to Guitar Center to pick out the Fender Stratocaster that I still play to this day. I’ve added some guitars to the collection but that one’s my baby and will always be my favorite.
Did you teach yourself to sing?
I guess. I’ve always loved singing and was luckily around lots of it when I was little. My dad and his brothers would sing amazing 3-part harmonies which they had honed when they were younger, copying groups like Sha Na Na and later Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I’ve always had a great love for harmony and after my grunge and metal phase, I became obsessed with the blues, Motown, and all those classic soul singers like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke. Oh man, and I love the ladies too! Aretha, Ella, Etta, Gladys…I could go on for days. I just loved their passion and how emotional it was. Like they were singing from their toes! Still gives me the chills and I try to bring that same spirit to what we do in Local Motive.
Do you play any instruments?
Guitar is my primary instrument but I still love to mess around and sometimes even write on piano. I also play the bass whenever possible because it’s so damn fun! In the last few years, I’ve also become quite fond of the ukulele, having collected 3 at this point, ranging from cheapo toy ukes to a really nice one I got last year for Christmas. Drums are really the only thing that I can’t do too much with. The independence of limbs it requires is so challenging so I leave that to the real drummers out there. But man is it satisfying to bang on some drums! I only wish I could play more that my 3 stock rock beats.
If so, how did you learn to play those and how long of a process was it?
Learning an instrument is a lifelong process. There’s always things to learn and ways to improve. I’ve been really lucky that music has made sense to me from an early age, probably more so than anything else.
Tell us a little about your new music.
Local Motive’s main influences are that of old-school rhythm & blues. I have a great love of soul and funk music, but at my core, I’m a blues player. I really loved rock music when I was younger, even heavy metal for a time, but as I developed my own style & character as a songwriter, blues made the most sense to me. I loved hearing guys like Buddy Guy & B.B. King just really dig into notes they played, bending the shit out of them, sometimes gently like on B.B.’s “The Thrill is Gone” but also with such aggressive attack like Buddy’s “First Time I Met The Blues.” But there were also those tunes where those blues riffs were so damn funky! And the horns and the way they incorporated those elements into the blues, it just was so powerful to me. I was like, “I wanna do that.” And the singing! They truly sang like each note was their last, straight up from their toes, resonating through their body, and coming out of their mouths with this unworldly power. And I heard it again in their unbridled playing of possibly my all-time favorite, Jimi Hendrix. What an unbelievable force of nature! He broke all the rules of blues, yet he captured that same passion & power. When I first heard it, and I mean like REALLY heard it, it stopped me in my tracks. So I try to bring that passion and power to our performances & our songwriting, hoping that we might stop someone else in their tracks.
We recorded a 4-song EP at first at Rax Trax Recording here in Chicago. Originally I picked that studio after taking a tour because their was an autographed picture of Buddy Guy on the wall. I asked about it & the engineer told me that Buddy had recorded there. In my mind, if it was good enough for Buddy, it was absolutely where I wanted to be laying down this band’s first tracks. At that point I understood, that there would never have been a Jimi Hendrix without Buddy Guy playing electric blues as aggressively as he did. And I wanted to be true to his example too, incorporating that flavor that only horns can bring. Plus we had modern influences that brought this band together, particularly the band CAKE, with their sound that incorporated nearly every genre you could think of, utilizing the trumpet to make their music glow. That first go-around, we were really excited and spent perhaps a little too much time producing the songs. So the second time we returned to Rax Trax, I decided we would go for a more live-energy, a more raw sound that represented more accurately who we were & are as a band. The result was “Grams,” our first full-length & our first release on vinyl. It was less produced & had that perfect amount of dirty funk to it. I can still listen to that record over & over & over again. It truly turned out more perfectly than I could have ever imagined & we owe a great deal to the wizard, Noam Wallenberg, who helped us achieve it.
Any performance rituals you follow before going on stage?
Nothing in particular. I love talking through the set with the band to mentally prepare ourselves so that we are confident, comfortable, and ready to sit way back on that groove, so we can really enjoy ourselves. I also really love getting out there in the crowd to enjoy the other bands with my friends & family that make it out to support my creative pursuits. Having a chat, a drink, sharing a real-deal bearhug or high-five or whatever with those people can really help to fill you up with love before you go do your thing. And if your heart is full of love when you step on that stage, it may sound silly, but I believe that you’ll be able to pump that love-power out into your audience & fill them up with it too. I think music is magic like that. It’s able to cross generations, cultures, even time.
What are you thinking of when you record and perform your music?
I’m thinking, “I want people to feel this. I want people to feel less alone in the world when they hear this.” Music is not only magic, but it’s that extra powerful magic. The messages we put out there into the world have a ripple effect & I want the ripples I create to be full of positivity & hope. I want it to mean something to me so that it can mean something to someone else. I also want it to be the kind of music that anybody can listen too & derive enjoyment from it. I know that not everyone is going to like every song, but I know that there is at least one Local Motive song for everyone, no matter their musical tastes, whether it’s the music that gets them or the lyrical messages.
What’s something you want our readers to remember about you after this interview?
I want your readers to know that it’s ok not to be ok. I do a lot of work with a non-profit organization here in Chicago called Hope for the Day, who’s mission is proactive suicide prevention & mental health education and that is our call to arms. Too often people are shamed for having mental health challenges when in reality, we’re all human beings & we all have a brain that we have to keep healthy. If we don’t, injuries are possible, just like spraining an ankle or breaking you leg. If you are struggling today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it isn’t you that’s struggling, but someone you know, you can always reach out to me via the band page. We can help you through it. We’re in this together. Life can be overwhelming & lonely at times. I want your readers to know that I’ve got their back, that I’m right here.
What inspires your songwriting?
A number of things inspire my songwriting but one can never really anticipate what is going to inspire them. I was inspired to write our first single, “Twig,” after a conversation with a friend from England that was visiting Chicago. We were talking about life & the struggles that many people face, sometimes even more heinous than we can ever imagine. She said, “Just be a twig,” meaning that when shit gets tough, be a “twig” & let the raging river of life just carry you. Essentially go with the flow or roll with the punches or some other old adage.
People we interact with each day can inspire us in their words, their actions, even their experiences, in addition that of our own. Sometimes songs just fall out of my head while other times I really have to pull them out, bit by bit. I guess if some idea or thought bubbles inside me long enough, I start feeling like, “I should write that down,” or “I should make a quick voice memo of that idea.” Sometimes I may not come back to it right away and then when I do, I get inspired all over again.
Any other new songs or albums coming out soon that we can look forward to?
We made a video of one of our newest compositions recently while we were recording our submission for the NPR Tiny Desk Contest. We submitted a performance of the first single of the Grams LP, “Twig,” but before calling it a night we figured we should lay down a version of “Supposed To Be.” It’s a great new tune & will likely be a single off our next record. It has a hook that goes “Are you happy to be free now?Or are you sad to be alone?” I think it’s an extremely powerful & relatable lyric as love is such a tricky thing for most to navigate in life, especially now in a world of click culture, social media, Tinder, Bumble, & the like, where people don’t want to put the work in on a relationship like they once did before all that. We’ve got another new one that’s been completed called “Gloria,” about a singer downtown that has all the power. The song oozes with sexuality & really flips the script where this lady leaves a trail of heartbroken men pining for her, but she gives zero fucks. These super funky songs are the beginnings of our next record for sure.
Where’s your favorite place to perform?
For me, it’s not 100% about the venue, rather the energy in said venue. Playing a historic room like the House of Blues or Lincoln Hall or Metro is amazing in its own right but if you’re not feeling that energy from the people in the room, then it can’t be your favorite, at least not that night. Not to pander to HOB since we’ve got a show coming up & all, but no joke, we played HOB between Christmas & New Year’s in December 2016 for a special Home for the Holidays local music showcase where that energy was through the roof! You not only felt the history of the stage & all the world-famous performers who have graced it, but you felt this wall of love rising to meet the joy emanating from the stage. It was tremendous & I’ll never forget it. With that said, when we played at Metro after releasing our first single, it had that same vibe, so I guess I’d have to flip a coin.
On the topic of performances, what’s a venue you’re looking forward to headlining someday?
I think it would be amazing to headline a big outdoor venue someday like Millenium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion or Alpine Valley up in Wisconsin. That’s where I saw my first huge outdoor concert way back in high school. And while we’re talking moon shots, maybe play one of those huge festival stages like Bonnaroo or Jazz Fest in NOLA. That would be incredible!
What artists inspire you and your music?
Well obviously given my earlier answers, definitely all the classic soul singers and legendary blues guitarists really inform a lot of what I do musically, but if you want to talk contemporaries, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr. & the Alabama Shakes are definitely equally influential. At the end of the day, I’ve got to give it up once more to CAKE, as they are one of those bands that took all these seemingly disparate influences and somehow distilled it into their own undeniable sound which carries through all their records throughout their career, while remaining fresh, an extremely hard task to achieve. Inspiration for our music comes in all forms as I love listening to a vast variety of artists & genres. Not only that, live experiences really inform where the music is going, particularly lyrical content. Lots of fucked up shit going on in the world today & there is no doubt that it also informs my musical inspirations.
What keeps you motivated to do what you do on a daily basis?
Honestly, music is my medicine. It helps me valve out the pressure that builds up from the daily stressors of life. Without music, my mental well-being would surely suffer. It helps me relax. It gives me an outlet. It gives me a platform. It helps me learn about myself & it helps me to learn about the world. It gives me momentary solace. But most of all it brings smiles, shakes hips, & tap toes. Not just my own, but that of the people that I love & the people I have yet to meet. I’ll say it again…music is magic.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself knowing everything you’ve accomplished now?
Not sure what to say that won’t sound slightly corny but I’d tell myself, “Take care of yourself. If you can be your best self, you’ll be a better friend, brother, neighbor, colleague, & lover to those who need you.” I’d also tell myself to invest in Netflix & Amazon stocks for sure, cause I could use the money. Got another album to record! Thank you so much for helping to amplify our message & to spread our music around. It means the world to me. -Mike Vinopal of Local Motive