The seven-piece Grand Rapids soul band with an inspiring lead singer makes its public debut at the Tip Top on Saturday. Check out the Local Spins Artist Spotlight and an exclusive premiere of a new song.
Diego Morales prefers his soul music with grit and a “nice, dirty” feel.
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“This is like honey with gravel and sand and grit, and there’s all kinds of layers of that. I just love it. It makes you feel so much,” the Holland singer says of the vintage R&B singers – Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett – who once graced Stax Records and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
“The stuff that came out of the South, that had Southern soul, had a real deep emotional feel to it and had this raw quality that I’m trying to capture.”
As lead singer for The Soul Syndicate, a new seven-piece ensemble with members culled from a host of respected West Michigan bands, Morales aims to re-create the vibe of that historic musical era while unleashing original material in the same vein.
“What we’re trying to accomplish in The Soul Syndicate is to bring you back to an era where soul music was a performance, it was a show, it was an emotion. We’re not just doing covers of the tunes, we want to kind of replicate what was going on,” says Morales. “We’re taking that same approach with our original tunes, giving it that retro, neo-soul feel … to kind of capture the magic that was in that era.”
THE LOOK, THE FEEL, THE SOUND OF CLASSIC SOUL
For Morales and the rest of The Soul Syndicate, that magic starts with inspiring renditions of the classics “Hold On, I’m Coming,” “These Arms of Mine,” “My Girl” and others, delivered with soulful fervor by musicians decked out in matching suits.
Morales and guitarist Mike Coon, of Rockford, made that their mission when forming the band, which also features drummer Tom Taylor, bassist Matt Fouts, keyboard player Mark Mainero, saxophonist Ray Redmond and trumpet player Tim DenBesten. Their band resumes sport names familiar to West Michigan audiences, including Domestic Problems, Deborah Kay & The Bluebloods, Flashback, River City Stew and Soulz of Rhythm.
“It’s a total package. We’re going for a look, we’re going for a feel, we’re going for a sound,” Morales says. “The personalities fit and we’re really making some really good music.”
The Soul Syndicate makes its official public debut on Saturday night at The Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids, with Rochelle & The Spoilers opening the evening. Doors open at 8 p.m. and admission is $5. Get more information on the Facebook event page.
“These guys in particular, this is a great group of guys,” says Coon. “Look for a very fun, energetic show.”
On Wednesday, three members of the band – Morales, Coon and Taylor – offered a sneak preview of that debut by performing an acoustic rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me” for Local Spins Live in the studio of News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW). Listen to a podcast of the entire show here, with a video of that performance below.
For Morales, The Soul Syndicate is the culmination of years of musical forays which included singing with Soulz of Rhythm and The Machines, a British Invasion-style cover band based in Holland with whom he still performs.
Of Cuban descent, Morales, a 1990 graduate of Holland High School who lives on the city’s south side, grew up in Chicago with the “great musical tastes” of his parents. He began singing at a “very young age. I was exposed to a lot of music in Spanish and English and a lot of vocally driven performers,” including Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
His older sister introduced him to The Beatles, The Monkees, Motown music and more, and he eventually embraced the soulful strains of singers such as Cooke, Redding and David Ruffin of The Temptations.
STRETCHING VOCALLY AND FEELING THE EMOTION
“I kind of soaked up all of it. I guess that’s what allows me to cover the different genres and styles I do,” he says. “I taught myself guitar, piano, harmonica, bass and percussion. Not an expert at any by any means, but proficient enough to play out and write songs.”
Morales, 41, a father of four, also is known in the Holland area for social services work with community outreach programs such as Circle of Parents, Just for Dads, Partners in Outreach and the “Real Talk” peer-based mentoring program he developed. Growing up in a turbulent, gang-oriented neighborhood of Chicago before moving to Holland while in high school, he insists that “music and reading literally saved my life.”
And with The Soul Syndicate, Morales has found a musical niche that challenges and pushes him in a good way as he strives to get audiences to “feel what the band is feeling.”
“The Syndicate definitely allows me to stretch vocally,” he says. “Soul music took the blues and said, ‘Take what you feel and move with it.’ It lends itself to a passion that is hard to come by. This band with these guys feel the music, the emotion behind it.”
It helps, says Coon, that Morales’ “showmanship and professionalism are second to none” in unfurling the band’s horn-hued R&B.
“It’s got a great beat, it’s got great rhythm and you can move to it. It appeals to a pretty large cross-section of our audience,” he says, noting the band plans to record material at his Rockford studio throughout the summer, with hopes of releasing its debut CD in the fall. The band recently completed work on one of Morales’ songs, “All of You,” which percolates with vintage R&B passion.
“I want to be able to have you listen to it,” Morales says, “and just for one second just wonder, ‘Was that Wilson Pickett? Was that Sam & Dave? Who was that?’ That’s kind of what I’m shooting for.”
Get more information about the band at its ReverbNation website. And listen to the premiere of “All of You” here.
THE SOUL SYNDICATE (ACOUSTIC) ON LOCAL SPINS LIVE
DIEGO MORALES’ 2013 TEDxMACATAWA PRESENTATION
Email John Sinkevics at email@example.com.
Copyright 2014, Spins on Music