Colorado based funk outfit The Motet recently kicked off their spring/summer tour, including a performance at Los Angeles’ The Teragram Ballroom. We chatted with bandleader and drummer Dave Watts about the band’s newest record- Totem, life on tour, and festivals in outer space.
BLANK: 2016 saw the release of your newest album, Totem. Tell us about the process of writing/recording.
WATTS: We recorded 90% of the album in New Orleans at Parlour Studios, but our singer at the time had to leave the group, so we had the music complete but no vocal tracks. Fortunately, our new singer Lyle stepped in and wrote and recorded the entire record within a month or two. We were very lucky to find the perfect match for our music so quickly…
BLANK: What’s the process of bringing new members into the fold, and how has this added to your sound and the live experience?
WATTS: Last year we added Lyle on vocals and Drew on tenor saxophone. Drew is our bass player Garrett’s brother, so he was clearly an easy fit into The Motet family. Lyle was the first guy we called to audition for the group and he couldn’t have been more perfect for our sound, our vibe, and our creative expression. Somehow, he was exactly the right person we needed as we were trying to finish our record and hit the road full time. His energy on stage is unbelievable and brings the band and audience to a higher place every night.
BLANK: You kicked off your tour last month. What’s life on the road like?
WATTS: We love getting out to parts of the country we’ve never been to before, meeting new fans and seeing different cities. We also love coming back to places that are familiar to us and seeing friends and family we haven’t seen for a while…it can be like a family reunion every night. Festivals are always the most fun because we usually get to hang with our friends in the other groups that are performing….
BLANK: Speaking of festivals, we’re rapidly approaching festival season. Any on your wishlist to play in the future?
WATTS: I’d like to play any festival in Europe….and Mars, if Elon Musk can put that together.
BLANK: Mars would certainly take the cake. As far as venues/festivals you have played here on Earth, which have been most memorable?
WATTS: Bonnaroo just because it was early in our career, and because we were the first band to play that year, the size and energy of the crowd was over the top. Jam Cruise is amazing, as is Fool’s Paradise and High Sierra Music Festival. And of course playing in New Orleans during Jazz Fest is always a highlight of the year.
BLANK: You host an annual Halloween concert with a new musical theme each year. What was the impetus for and genesis of that tradition?
WATTS: The very first Halloween show we did was a tribute to Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters. That show went over so well we decided to continue it every year, and 17 years later it’s still going strong. Personally, our Prince tribute was my favorite…
BLANK: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be doing now as a career?
WATTS: I’d probably be an astrophysicist.
BLANK: Describe The Motet’s sound in one word or phrase
The Motet’s L.A. performance at The Teragram Ballroom was funky indeed–laced with the boundless energy of a newcomer act, while boasting the tight instrumentation of veteran musicians.
Lead singer Lyle Divinsky greeted the audience with effervescent energy and smiles for miles. He lightheartedly shouted “Welcome to the Motet workout tape!” to kick things off, a fitting way to introduce their upbeat grooves that provoke all manner of movement.
By song number two, beads of sweat were already visible on Divinsky’s brow. Pace yourself– not a phrase in his vocabulary. The group rocked through “Damn!” off their newest album, during which keyboardist Joey Porter stole the show with an impressive solo utilizing a talk box. The result was an impressive keyboard solo tinged with that signature Daft Punk-esque vocal overlay (Daft Punk supposedly uses a vocoder, but the result was near identical).
Solos abounded during their set. With the lights down low, Watts tore through an incredible drum solo. So too, did bassist Garrett Sayers. Every member of the group flexed their skills for a solo at one point; each musician having their time to shine while fusing with the overall ecosystem of the group’s sound.
Divinsky really elevated the show’s energy to unprecedented heights. His smile can actually be heard in his voice- look away and you’ll still detect the pure joy radiating out of him. That joy was especially evident as he led the crowd in a lighthearted and somewhat nonsensical call and repeat chant: “Damn / Jam / Marmalade/ Biscuit Baby/ Butter on the side.” The crowd had zero hesitations, perfectly content to follow the lyrics Divinsky was most likely making up on the spot. At the end, he admitted this, joking to the crowd: “You’re down with whatever, and I love it!”
The Motet exhibited an extreme blend of impressive musicianship and high-energy antics. They certainly brought the “fonk” and will no doubt continue to do so throughout their tour.
Check their tour dates HERE