The Motet keep grooving through decades of change
Change happens. Some changes bring serious discord and potentially detrimental consequences (as America is finding out right now). But often changes are just opportunities to create fresh new moments in a more harmonious way. The Motet know all about the latter.
The Denver-based funk band has toured and self-released albums for nearly two decades, but not without a fair amount of change. Drummer Dave Watts began the band in 1998 initially as a rotating collective under the name The Dave Watts Motet. By 2000, the group had become an official sextet and changed to its current name, The Motet. Over the following years, the band went through several transitions, with a fluid lineup of nearly a dozen members coming and going, with new ones joining as recently as 2015 and 2016, including newest addition, lead singer Lyle Divinsky.
At the end of 2014, The Motet had released a self-titled album, and were in search of a new singer who could take on a prominent writing role as well. Divinsky was sent intrumentals, added his lyrical input, initiating a collaboration that would become the band’s 2016 album, Totem.
“The guys put their creative trust in me,” Divinsky said during a recent interview. “I wrote two songs before I ever met them in person. They sent me one song as an instrumental, and I sent it back and that became “The Truth,” the first song on [Totem]. Then they sent me another instrumental and I wrote that and sent it back, and that song is the second song on the record. Once we got together and sat down for the first rehearsal, it was as if we’d been doing it for years.”
Stepping in as a new frontman for a band with so much history behind it could be daunting, but for Divinsky it was the complete opposite.
“It kind of blew me away that I could come into something and just be welcomed so warmly,” he said. “It really worked out that we had similar visions, and even if it wasn’t the same vision, it grew into what we have now, which I think is kind of The Motet M.O. Look at the history, it’s all about constant evolution and constant change and whatever’s inspiring that particular group at the time. I think about The Motet as an ever- growing family.”
The Motet’s sound is as fluid as its lineup. Though rooted in tightly executed funk grooves, the group manages to weave in elements of jazz, Afrobeat and light disco, all with Watt’s subtle rhythmic shifts. What really ties it together is the energy created with the audience in the live show.
“It’s all about the connection,” Divinsky said. “With this group and with the fans that we get a chance to interact with around the country. It blows my mind how willing everybody is to bring themselves into the moment. I don’t feel like we’re performing for them, I feel like we’re performing with them. It can’t happen without the other; the energy is electric. That’s what drives the shows, and that only inspires the music more.”
Divinsky recently left his home in Portland, Maine, to join the band in Denver. The relocation has allowed the group to start working diligently on a new album. The sound will still be The Motet, but what that entails is always open for discussion.
“There’s always gonna be the core spirit of The Motet—you can’t evolve if you don’t appreciate the past, where you come from,” Divinsky said. “That’s kind of the responsibility I’ve taken upon myself—to honor the building blocks that have been set by all of the past records and versions of The Motet, and then do my best to further that, and to push it into something that is distinctly The Motet, [something] that people might not expect.”