Veering From The Status Quo, Boyang Matsapola is Chicago's Bassline

Photos by  Michael Salisbury

Age: 31 • Hometown: Flossmoor • FollowTwitter // Soundcloud

Of the three main elements of music theory the bass guitar lays a foundation for two of them, rhythm and harmony. Despite this fact the bass guitar is one of the most overlooked instruments in a group. However, long time bassist Boyang Matsapola has become a familiar face among Chicago musicians. Now with a budding solo career, Boyang is quickly pulling away from the pack, one riff at a time. 

The bass guitar’s significance may get overlooked by an untrained audience, but this does little to affect the demand for skilled bass players. In a city like Chicago that breeds new creativity by the day, Boyang has set a precedent for greatness by fulfilling the obligations of playing in several bands. Time management is an essential skill for musicians like him, seeing as he’s on the run for most of the week. Between recording, rehearsals, performing and practice, there’s almost never a day he doesn’t pick up his instrument. He’s only one man, so it’s important he focus on one thing at a time, “you can’t do everything everybody asks you to, so don’t promise people something you’re not prepared to do.” 

Self preparation seems to be Boyang’s strong suit. During his early years in Champagne and Milwaukee, he played in a couple local funk bands. After moving to Chicago he began making soul music. After about a year and half of living in Logan Square, he was introduced to singer/guitarist Maceo Haymes and keyboardist Nick Hennessy, the founders of his first musical family, The O’My’s. Since then he’s gone on to play with many of Chicago’s emerging talents like, Kaina Castillo, The Burns Twins, Drea The Vibe Dealer, Ric Wilson, Via Rosa, and most recently Brittany Nacole, but the grind doesn't stop there. Along with his collaborative “See The Sun” with OddCouple, he’s also recently released his vocalist debut, “ShO’ Nuff” featuring production from Dee Lily. He’s working with a lot of different artists at the moment. He’s currently recording with The O’My’s for their fifth album, as well as a project with former Highness guitarist Ora, all of which are set to drop this summer. As he builds his catalog Boyang’s teachings and inspirations will flood the scene. He’s been in the game for the better part of a decade now and shows no signs of regressing. This statement rings true simply for one reason; in all of his quality work lies an even greater work ethic, something he’s developed growing up as an aspiring musician.

Boyang grew up in Flossmoor, IL, a small town in the South Suburbs of Chicago. In fourth grade he began musicianship, a right handed bass was the first instrument he received. Back then his prowess for instruments hadn’t quite surfaced, “I was in bass and choir, and I never really really practiced like...either  [bass and choir]. I just showed up and know, kinda faked it in the back.” He always wanted to play an instrument, but around eighth grade he put down the chords and picked up a mic. Boyang being the funky soul he is today, found himself taken by artists such as Organized Noize, The Dungeon Family and Dr. Dre. As a rapper he was known as ‘Increment’, a fitting name as he always sought to be one step ahead of the game. He loved freestyling and writing lyrics but never officially released anything. Back in the day he was decent with the flows, but overall he felt like he wasn’t able to express himself correctly. After perusing the world of rhymes for awhile, Boyang rediscovered the bass guitar in his early twenties. According to Boyang, it wasn’t until meeting his mentor, Mark White of New York’s Spin Doctors, that he began truly studying music.   

The funny things is cause’ on some sorry s***, I’ve been singing way longer than I’ve been playing an instrument. I just like, dedicated probably more consistent hours to playing the bass. When I decided I wanted to play the bass, nothing else in the entire world mattered. I just played  for hours and hours a day for the last like...well forever.
— Boyang Matsapola

Composers like Boyang rarely stick to a certain style of play. Yes, he makes soul music, but like hip hop or rock n roll, soul tends to have a wide variety of sounds. When he picks up a bass the only thing he’s worried about is setting a vibe, a feel often centered around vintage funk and soul colors. Aside from his mentor whom he credits for a lot of his success, Boyang has had a handful of influences with instrumentation. His inspiration stems from some of the greatest American musicians to ever touch a bass. Whether it’s jazz, funk, soul, or rock n roll, he stayed in tune with names like: Stanley Clarke, James Jamerson, Rick James, Bootsy Collins, and none other than Drake’s uncle, the inventor of the slap and pop bass style, Larry Graham. Boyang doesn’t hesitate to pay homage to his idols either. On his right forearm is a tattoo of Funkadelic’s first album Maggot Brain, on his left, the Love Symbol Album, a tribute to George Clinton and the late Prince. As a musician who aspires to leave a legacy of this caliber, Boyang definitely has his work cut out for the future.

The next couple of months have a lot in store for Boyang. This summer, he’ll be at Mamby on the Beach and Summerfest with Kaina and OddCouple, Lollapalooza with the O’My’s, as well as both North Coast Music Festival and Logan Square Arts Festival with Rich Jones. Understand, he isn’t just a bass player for hire, he’s a musician who likes to invest his skills with someone else’s. It’s about cultivating a relationship, that way he’s still contributing and building his music while being apart of someone else’s show. Fortunately for Boyang he’s making great music with an even greater circle of friends. While he continues serving up these unique sounds, a leading Boyang Matsapola is sure to grace our near future.