The Motet have been laying down funky performances across the country for well over ten years now, growing outward from their home base of Boulder, Colorado. The band is lead by drummer Dave Watts who formed the band in the late 90’s after moving to Colorado from the east coast. Over the years, The Motet have explored different influences and rolled with line-up changes, including a few years with Dominic Lalli before he started Big Gigantic. The last few years have seen The Motet really hitting their stride, tightening their sound to a more hard-hitting funk, and translating that energy onto the stage where they have grown their fan base more quickly than ever. This year the band was joined by their new singer, Lyle Divinsky, and they released Totem, their first album with the new singer, which is full of soulful tunes and funky jams.
I asked band leader and drummer Dave Watts some questions about their musical influences and life on the road ahead of their show at the Canopy Club on Saturday, September 10th.
SP: What brought you all into playing funk music?
Dave Watts: We’ve all grown up with funk music. I am a child of the ’70’s, so funk and disco was everywhere for me growing up…in my house, on TV, even in the grocery stores!
SP: What era of funk music is your favorite, or influences The Motet’s music the most? Favorite funk artists from that era?
Watts: I would say the mid-1970’s to the early 80’s. For the past sixteen years on Halloween, we’ve paid tribute to a different artist or a particular year. Some of those would include Prince, Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, Michael Jackson, Parliament Funkadelic, and what we call “mixtape” 1980, 1975, and 1977. This year it’s 1979!
SP: What contemporary musicians have you been into recently that you’d like to turn your fans onto?
Watts: Snarky Puppy, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat.
SP: You’ve said that your last two albums have been collaboratively written, where your prior albums were mostly written by [you]. How did that change come about, and how are you enjoying the new process?
Watts: We finally came to find a group of band members who have the same musical intentions and all really trust each other during the creative process. It’s been amazing and has really made all the difference in the recent success of the band.
SP: Totem is your first album with your new singer Lyle. How did you guys link up, and what has the experience been like, writing, recording, and touring together?
Watts: When we lost our previous singer, we had our new album 70% complete, but with no vocals and only a quarter of the lyrics written. Our friends in Turkuaz told us about Lyle and we sent him the material. After a few days, he sent us the first track back completely written and recorded, including new lyrics and vocal harmonies. After a month, he had done the same for three more tracks… and this was before we had even met him in person! We knew we had our guy.
SP: You’re veterans of touring and of the music festival scene, which has exploded in the last ten years. What has surprised you most about your 10+ years on the road?
Watts: How many “do it yourself” festivals there are these days. Because of technology and social media, smaller festivals are able to survive in this hectic scene. The same goes for bands wanting to tour on a grass roots level. It’s much easier than it used to be to get your music across to a huge audience without the help of major record labels – the hard part is just cutting through the noise!
SP: As a Colorado based band with your early career starting on the east coast, what does playing in the Midwest mean for you?
Watts: Although The Motet has always been based out of Colorado, we are all individually from the east coast. The midwest is a little foreign and exotic to us right now, so going there and finding an enthusiastic audience ready and waiting is pretty damn exciting!
SP: Do you have a favorite memory from playing at The Canopy Club or at Summer Camp Music Festival to share?
Watts: Yes, this past year at Summercamp [sic] we played right before Parliament-Funkadelic. During our set George Clinton was listening from his trailer and was so impressed he sent his grandson to find our singer after the show and bring him back. He asked Lyle where he was from and when he told him Portland, Maine, George said “Man, it can come from anywhere nowadays!”
The Motet are playing Canopy Club on Saturday, September 10th, at 9 p.m., with Steady Flow. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.