The Soul Motivators Building Future Legacies

The Soul Motivators Building Future Legacies
Photo: Yao Kouadio
The Soul Motivators are a nine-piece band funk and soul band that focus on creating late '60s sounds on Free to Believe, their first full-length album. But that fixation doesn't make the Toronto troop antiquated.
 
"We're trying to make music that's timeless," keyboardist James Robinson tells Exclaim! The band — comprised of Robinson, bassist Marc Shapiro, guitarist Voltaire Ramos, percussionists Doug Melville and Nigel Pitt, Nathan Dell-Vandenberg (trombone), Tom Moffett (trumpet) Dominique Morier (sax) and Lydia Persaud, a petite but powerhouse vocalist in her mid-20s who was the first female winner of the nationally renowned Oscar Peterson Award — attain that timelessness through the sheer gusto of their playing, creating vibrantly sweltering songs rather than meticulously predictable tributes.
 
Bassist Marc Shapiro says the band was even more equipped to deliver those in-your-face vibes on Free To Believe. "The album is bigger, badder and stronger," Shapiro says of the LP, compared to the Motivators' five-track 2013 EP. "On this full-length, we had more space for all the musicians to bring out their solos, and we spent more time writing it and enhancing our approach."
 
Shaprio says a key influence on the band's new LP was Lee Fields, the esteemed funk and soul vet for whom the Motivators opened act in 2013, and who has gone on to collaborate with and befriend the Toronto troop.
 
"Lee told us that he had some old songs that would sound great with a female vocalist," Shapiro reveals, "and invited us to help him rewrite them. So we've been communicating with him and his band long-distance since then, and we maintain a warm relationship with them. We'll see what comes of the recording, but we're very optimistic."
 
Robinson hopes that this will be the first of many collaborations with such elders of funk and soul, adding that the Motivators plan to not only create songs but also build a movement. He explains: "We're looking at some of our contemporaries in the states, like Daptone Records, particularly the Dap-Kings and the number of different things they're involved with."
 
As they work to bring those ambitions to fruition, the Motivators can draw confidence from their already considerable achievements. When asked which of those feats makes him most proud, Robinson points to the sheer act of forming such a large band, and giving each member time to shine on their debut full length. "We wanted to build a nine-piece funk orchestra."