When The Motet takes the stage at Red Rocks on July 22, they’ll be bringing along new talent and a better-than-ever sound.
As one of Colorado’s most iconic homegrown bands—born in Boulder in 1998 as Dave Watts’ Motet, named after the group’s drummer and only continuous member—The Motet has been ever-changing, initially recruiting musicians from the Front Range and gradually drawing national artists. But in the last few years, the lineup has solidified to include Joey Porter (keyboards), Garrett Sayers (bass), Ryan Jalbert (guitar), and Gabriel Mervine (trumpet). In February, saxophonist Drew Sayers signed on, as did lead vocalist Lyle Divinsky, replacing longtime frontman Jans Ingber and creating the most powerful band yet.
Although The Motet has had many players throughout its history, its music has remained consistently funky. The band is perhaps most famous for its tradition of playing cover set shows on Halloween, adding their own soulful flair to music from such artists as Prince or Stevie Wonder. The 1970s is The Motet’s musical sweet spot and served as the influence for its last two Halloween shows, “Mixtape 1975” and “Mixtape 1977,” although past albums have drawn from the likes of afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti and Calypso King Harry Belafonte.
On July 8, the septet will release Totem, its debut album with the current roster.
“I truly feel that finding Lyle was the final piece of the puzzle,” says Watts. “We’ve really found our sound.”
Originally from Portland, Maine, Divinsky has been a rising voice on the Brooklyn scene for the past seven years, crossing paths with the funk band Turkuaz and the Grammy-winning guitarist and producer Eric Krasno. When Ingber left The Motet in December 2015, both him and Krasno recommended Divinsky as a replacement. Krasno’s opinion wasn’t taken lightly: At the time, he was already producing Totem. By way of an audition, Watts sent Divinsky an untitled track for him to do what he pleased.
“Within three days he had the entire song—lyrics, melodies, all the harmonies, everything—written and recorded,” says Watts. “I listened to it one time and knew we’d found our guy. Now it’s the first track on the record: ‘The Truth.’”
In just a month, Divinsky had penned two more songs and rewritten the lyrics to another two. There’s only one vocal tune on Totem—Krasno’s “So High”—that Divinsky didn’t have a hand in writing. The end result is a cohesive representation of The Motet of now, with a fresh voice interspersed with old-school grooves and new-school jams—it’s a nonstop dance party that evokes the band’s high-energy concerts.
“Playing live was instant chemistry,” says Divinsky. “It was almost absurdly easy.” When the band performs instrumental numbers, he feels lucky to have the best seat in the house.
Divinsky’s first Colorado show will be at Red Rocks later this month. The show was one of our 15 to catch this summer, and the night will also feature Brooklyn funk-groove band Vulfpeck and progressive jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood as openers.
“We’ve been listening to Medeski Martin & Wood since the mid-90s and Vulfpeck is this energized-funky-creative group that everyone’s talking about,” says Watts. “I think the entire night is something to be excited about.”
Get a sneak peek at The Motet’s new album, Totem, below: