Interview: Chicago band, Local Motive

They call themselves LoMo for short, catchy! Just like their music. In so few words they call themselves, “new old-school rhythm and blues.” We need music like this today. We need musicians out there reinventing what has been done in a way that appeals to a broad crowd. This allows listeners to discover not only music from the present, but music from the past as well. That is precisely what LoMo has done. Their tunes get my toes tapping and I am sure they’d get my folks swaying as well. I sent LoMo lead man, Mike Vinopal, a handful of questions and he sent some extremely thoughtful answers back. Mike touches on everything from LoMo’s love for CAKE (the band not the dessert, though I’m sure they enjoy the dessert as well), their take on music streaming platforms and their latest release, Grams. Check it out!

MFL: If your Facebook is accurate, you’re working with a 9-piece band! How did the 9 of you come together and have you rotated through other musicians since the start of LoMo? Include in this answer how long LoMo has been a band.

Local Motives (LoMo): Local Motive has definite core of myself (Mike Vinopal – vocals and guitars), Daniella Rojas (vocals), Brett Weides (Bass), my cousin Chris Vinopal (vocals and guitars), and last but not least, our trumpet player, Matthew Sypherd. This has been the core of the band since its formation in 2011. I had just moved back to Chicago in the summer of 2010 and by the following summer we had a great little band started. In the beginning, we had just gotten together to play some covers (specifically CAKE covers, a band we all adore), but that didn’t last very long. We quickly discovered that we had some pretty awesome songs of our own. You see, I was living with Daniella and Brett at time. Brett and I have been friends since kindergarten and played in some of our first bands together in high school. Playing music together for us came naturally.  And as it would turn out, writing music together with Daniella came naturally as well. She had tons of amazing lyrics and melodies, ready to go. Daniella just needed me to help her make the music part. Before we knew it, we had a bunch of original songs that we were really proud of. So eventually we got around to laying some down. 

 

We’ve had several wonderful drummers through the years. Jeb Rendall was first and he played on our debut EP released in 2015, “Superconductors.” That was the first thing we did. It began a relationship with engineer Noam Wallenberg at Rax Trax Recording that would continue to our present. He deserves credit as a band member as well, come to think of it. He really has helped to bring our compositions to the next level with his input and talent as a producer. Then Adam Boardman drummed for a bit.  Both friends found life pulling them to different zip codes and the LoMo train rolled on.  Adam Stein then joined and played on our new LP, our first vinyl, released in August of this year, Grams.  Adam also happens to be a talented bass player, so there are several other inductees in the LoMo family drumming spot to keep the music coming including Alan Maniacek, Joe Ritter (aka Sugarbear), and Mike Wells.

 These days Local Motive fluctuates between 6 and 8-pieces, depending on how many horns we have. Both Alex Willhite (trombone) and Andrew Carlstrom (saxophone) join Matthew Sypherd (trumpet) whenever they aren’t off gigging elsewhere.  Ultimately, we are fortunate to have lots of talented friends and we like to share our music with as many of them as possible.  Our music is fun, funky, and pretty easy to play along to if you’ve got a good ear.  So, we never shy away from collaboration.  

 

MFL: Who does most of the lyric-writing and where do they find inspiration for writing material?

LoMo: Both Daniella and I write lyrics for the band.  Often times you’ll find lyrics of ours side-by-side in a song but we also have stand alone songs that spotlight us individually. Speaking for my own lyrics, I often find inspiration for my lyrics in uplifting messages, lessons I’ve learned from my struggles, joy, etc. But often pain from the past will still seep out and I’ll find I’ve written a song about being heartbroken years ago. Or something about modern times and how heartbroken some of it makes me. Sometimes, for me, it’s just about how the words sound together, as well.  Many of my lyrics come from poetry or journaling. Sometimes I get some that pop in my head while driving or walking somewhere, so I’ll record a quick voice memo of the idea to work on later. I think it’s much the same for Daniella, but she draws on her unique life experience.  Her lyrics tend to be darker in mood and sometimes more cryptic. Lyrically we balance each other out really well. She is the yin. I’m the yang. Usually at least.

 

MFL: Congratulations on the release of your latest record, Grams. How has the record been received by your local supporters thus far?

LoMo: Thank you so much! We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. The reception has been great thus far. We released the first single, “Twig,” at Cubby Bear, after it was premiered by James Van Osdol at 101.1FM WKQX on his show DEMO 312.  Then we released the second single, “Killer,” at House of Blues, which Richard Milne at WXRT then played on his show, Local Anesthetic!  

 Grams has been out for almost two months now and over the course of those two months, we’ve played a lot of awesome shows in a lot of new places.  We released it on August 11th at The Elbo Room and since then we’ve played in record stores, at house shows, and at a bunch of great venues in the city and the suburbs supporting some awesome bands. We’ve also gotten to play on the Que4.org radio shows “Black Dot Radio” and “Chi City Lives with Mike Rice,” on 88.7FM WSRE Elmhurst College Radio’s show “The Underbelly Hours,” and on 88.3FM WZRD Northeastern College radio’s show “Thursday Night Live,” just this past Thursday. We’ve shipped copies of our new record to both coasts and several states in between. But we still have to find more ears. With an independent release, your work is never done. Oh, and we got a great review from Get It On Vinyl saying things like, “Lead singer Daniella Rojas deliver her best performance on “Booty Call.” For those who have not had the pleasure of listening to the track on vinyl, we weep for you,” and, “Local Motive is a tornado of sound.” (See the full review here)

This Thursday we will be appearing at 7:30pm on 88.7FM WLUW Loyola’s college radio show “Radio One Chicago” for an interview and maybe some acoustic Local Motive.  And this Saturday we get to do a double-bill at Quenchers Saloon with one of the other bands I play guitar for, Mason’s Case! That show is going to be so wonderful.  I can’t wait.

Live version of “Twig”:

 

 

MFL: On the note of local supporters, tell me about the Chicago music scene and how LoMo fits in there.

LoMo: The Chicago music scene is tricky for original music. There’s two main ways we fit in. Often times, we put the show together. Find the open date, ask bands you admire, cross your fingers, and hope it works out. That’s one way. Other times, you may want a date at a particular venue that means going through a promoter of some sort. This can result in bills that are less than cohesive stylistically, which can sometimes be good, sometimes not. The idea is that these promoters put together these odd combos to ensure that bands are drawing from different circles of people, thus maximizing the overall draw for the event and the promoters’ take away. 

Either way, one hopes that the other bands on the bill are hustling like we do to promote the event. And you can promote the same way each time, but your results can be varied. Why? Hard to pinpoint. The major reason is that Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world with any number of excellent, compelling, artful performances available to its inhabitants any day of the week. You may find yourself competing with a national touring act or your own friends’ bands that you wish you could go see too, just by sheer coincidence. You need to constantly be thinking of ways to set yourself apart with effective promotion. You need to be constantly making new connections, new friends, playing with bands you haven’t played with before, and providing constant content to social media in hopes that something goes viral and starts trending.  

 Chicago has some great music venues, big and small. We’ve played in both. Big rooms like House of Blues and Metro can be so special to play, but hard to fill. Smaller clubs have their trade-offs too. Love Tonic Room and the way they support the Chicago music scene. I think it’s important to do both. The energy shared in a small room is hopefully what propels you to having an easier time filling the big rooms as you grow your fan base.    

 

MFL: If you could share the stage with a band from the past who would it be and why? What about a current band?

LoMo: From the past? Jimi Hendrix Experience! That was first thing that came to mind. Why? Well, I’ve always drawn on the blues as a guitarist and have been influenced by Jimi Hendrix more than any other player. He was so aggressive and played with such passion. And his band! Just being able to watch Mitch Mitchell drum like a madman, trying to anticipate what Jimi was going to do next, that would be worth it. Plus, we’d have Jimi sit in with us to rip a searing solo on “Gracie” from the new album.

 As for a current band, I’d have to say CAKE, considering the beginnings of our band. It would be tremendously gratifying to open for the band that is the reason you got together to play music in the first place. They are quirky and funky, with a touch of twang. There’s really no band that sounds like them. They’ve put out cool albums for years without compromising their style while still sounding fresh. Plus, I’ve seen them a few times. They do a great show.

 And for a bonus, if we could share the stage with a make-believe band we’d most definitely choose The Blues Brothers.

 

MFL: Describe LoMo’s sound in 5 words or less.

LoMo: New old-school rhythm and blues. 

 

 

MFL: How do you, as a band or individually, feel about the turn music has taken to more streaming platforms?

LoMo: I’d say that both individually and as a band, we feel indifferent about the turn music has taken to more streaming platforms, not because we don’t care, but that it’s the way that it is. It makes me a little sad that an album in its entirety is something that many listeners are no longer interested in, whether it’s an issue of ever-increasing attention spans or just increased power of choice on streaming platforms. But people can literally listen to anything they want at any given time, so they may not set aside the time for your whole album. On the other hand of things though, it’s a truly amazing thing that people all over the world can hear my music with a simple click. It’s even more mind-boggling to me that at any moment someone listening on, say Spotify, may come across Local Motive completely by accident in one of their Discover Weekly mixes or something like that. We just try to embrace the new trends in music by having it available as many places as possible for streaming, then we cross our fingers that a person will like it enough to come see our band or buy some music or even just a t-shirt. There is no denying that streaming isn’t going anywhere. And luckily there are lots of people out there that still appreciate the long-form musical concept. Not to mention tons of vinyl collectors out there. 

 

MFL: What was the first song you wrote on Grams and what was the initial motivation to begin working on a new record?

LoMo: Oddly enough, the first song I wrote that appears on Grams is “Not For Me.” I demo’d that one a long time ago while living in Bloomington, IN, probably in 2008.  Nearly a decade later, the song had fully grown up with Daniella, Brett, Matthew, and Noam’s additions.  And I also know that Daniella’s song, “Booty Call,” had been with her for a good many years prior to landing on this album as well.  We started working on the Local Motive arrangement of that song way back in 2011 when we first formed based off a simple demo she had made from some loops. The Grams LP is bookended by “Twig” and “Symbiosis” to begin and end on a hopeful note, lyrically and musically, but the album also delves into darker tones throughout, commenting on universal struggles of identity on tracks like “Killer” and “High Life.”

 The initial motivation for working on a new record came from finding a new drummer in Adam Stein when Adam Boardman moved away. Boardman had helped us evolve, developing a gritty, yet funky, rock and roll sound with new songs like Killer, Gracie, and High Life. And as we taught the songs to our new member (Adam Stein) and worked to get them tight, I thought it was perfect timing to get back into the studio with Noam Wallenberg to lay them down.  

 Grams was titled as such for three main reasons. One, Chris & I’s Grandma Grace had passed away in 2010 which ultimately brought me back home to Chicago, where this all started.  The track “Gracie,” a rockin’ blues tune that muses about spirituality and mortality, is our tribute to her. Two, Brett’s Grandma Jane (who graces the cover with his Grandpa Dick) passed away about halfway through recording the new album. Third, it was a dream of mine to release my music on vinyl. We made it a reality, pressing 300 copies of 150-gram vinyl records. 

 

MFL: Finally, does LoMo have any plans to tour this fall or in 2018?

LoMo: Local Motive has plans in the works for a Winter tour in 2018. There is a music video we shot in mid-September to look forward to as well. In the meantime, come see us in Chicago at one our shows remaining in 2017, add both our releases to your playlists, and spread the word about our music to your music-loving friends. Thank you so much, Music for Lunch. 

 

Follow LoMo on Bandcamp and Facebook where you can find the latest on their new releases, like GramsBig thank you to Mike Vinopal for doing this with MFL despite all the delays ❤

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