Denver-based funk band The Motet has had an ever-changing cast of musicians through 18 years of performing and recording music. Despite this inconsistency, they have somehow managed to maintain their uniquely vibrant sound and increase audiences with each infectious dance party they throw.
The band recently performed at NOLA Brewing’s 7th Anniversary Celebration, which served as the New Orleans debut of their newest official members Lyle Divinsky (lead vocals) and Drew Sayers (sax).
With two upcoming Jazz Fest late night shows at The Howlin’ Wolf on April 28 and Tipitina’s April 30, The Motet is excited to get back to one of the funkiest cities in America and perform with some of the local musicians who help sustain that reputation.
Divinsky has been influenced by the musical culture of this city throughout his career, but never got a chance to experience it first-hand until the brewery show with The Motet in March. He took some time after a quick trip home to Portland, Maine to talk with me about his seamless transition into the band and his immediate connection to New Orleans.
You recently joined The Motet, how has life on the road been?
Oh, it’s been amazing. The guys have really welcomed me into the family, like immediately. They’re just as kind as they are talented so it kinda works out amazingly for me
You had a pretty successful solo career before becoming a part of The Motet. What made you want to join a band and how did you end up with this one?
You know I’ve been doing my own thing for a while and I still kinda do that on the side, but then, especially through Turkuaz and Lettuce, their relationship with The Motet onstage and off kinda pushed me in the direction of joining in and jumping in with the guys. My solo stuff is much more focused on the soul aspect, the soul side of things and then with The Motet it’s straight funk and everything like that which is another level of mine. So I figure if I get a chance to play high level funk with incredible people then it’s kind of a no brainer to me.
How has the transition been since you and Drew joined the band?
What’s so crazy about it is that it’s been so easy. I was super nervous about it and kinda building up all these, you know trying not to build expectations but you naturally do that anyway. But as much tension as I had built up and just kinda nervousness about doing it well and everything, the moment I showed up to the first rehearsal and really sat down with all the guys it was like we’d been friends for years. So it was like, it was almost immediate. And they really have given me a lot of creative control as well, so I’ve already written a bunch of songs for them and with them. And so immediately on the first couple gigs that I was doing, we were doing a couple of songs that we had collaborated on together. It felt like we were a band immediately as opposed to me catching up. And it just kind of, like turning the page into a new chapter already.
I know for the last album the band said it was truly a collaborative effort and everyone contributed equally to the writing process. In your short time with them has that been the case? Have you gotten to contribute to the new album coming out in July?
Oh yeah, I have my hand in pretty much every vocal tune. I either wrote lyrics and melody and kind of took the instrumental and wrote a new song to it or had my hand in crafting lyrics in all except for one of the vocal tunes.
So what can we expect from that new album?
It’s gonna be funky as hell, it’s gonna be awesome. What I was hoping to do with my coming into the band is to honor what they’ve been cooking up over the years and to honor what’s been going on, which is naturally gonna happen because I’m in with so many of the same members involved with the creativity of it. But like bring myself into it and not try to be anything that I’m not, but just bring as much genuine creativity and fun that I can into it. So I mean, it’s gonna honor what’s come from the past but I think it’s really gonna step into a new chapter, as it will with the changeover of the singer as well as the writer.
Yeah, it’s a fun record. We actually just finished, we got the final masters back and I was listening to it and just like yelling at the speakers and dancing around like an idiot. It was pretty awesome.
Had you ever performed in New Orleans before you joined The Motet?
No! Crazy enough. I mean I’ve played with a bunch of incredible musicians from New Orleans, like Nigel Hall was on my record and Calvin Turner was the bass player and the producer of my record. So it’s always been a part of, like New Orleans music has always been a part of what I grew up with. But my first time playing in New Orleans was last month singing Meters songs with Leo Nocentelli while he was sitting in with The Motet over at the NOLA Brewing Co. So I had a pretty amazing first experience to be able to walk in and just jump right into the New Orleans tradition.
Yeah I bet. I know the band is based in Colorado and you’re from Maine, but New Orleans definitely has a pretty renowned funk scene. Do you feel at home when you perform here?
It was, I mean just like joining the band it felt so immediate right. And the other good thing is that I know a ton of people down there so being able to, the night after our show I was sticking around to record vocals for the record over at Parlor, and I went out to Blue Nile to go see Sonic Bloom with Eric Bloom and Nigel and Danny Abel and Malcolm Ford. So it was like, to be able to walk in and see homies on stage and be able to jump up and sing with them a little bit, it was like okay, this is just another extension of the community. And plus it’s like New Orleans makes you feel at home immediately. It’s comfort food, it’s great people, it’s great music, it’s everything you could want to feel at home and feel loved.
I agree. So you said you said you were just here last month, are you excited to be coming back so soon for your Jazz Fest shows?
Oh yeah, yeah. It’s one of the few places that when people say, ‘Oh yeah, once you come down there you’ll never want to leave.’ I’ll usually be like ‘Yeah yeah yeah of course, that’s what they always say,’ but I really didn’t want to leave. So the fact that I get to come back so soon, and also see it like – I was very thankful to kinda see it in just kinda regular day-to-day beforehand. And now to get to see it in full on festival mode, and be able to have a bunch of friends in amazing bands around to go see. It just feels kinda, it feels right.
Yeah, it’s definitely a different experience but it’s good that you got to see it first without all the craziness and now you get to see it with.
Oh yeah, I’m coming down early anyway too. I’m coming down three days early just so I can get some more time.
That’s great. So my last question, do you guys have anything special planned for your show at The Howlin’ Wolf with Karl Denson and Mike Dillon?
Oh yeah, I mean we’re gonna be doing our mixtape over there and we’re gonna bust out some special stuff. It’s gonna be amazing cause we’re playing alongside such amazing bands that we gotta make sure we come correct. So we got that and then we’re super excited to get over to Tipitina’s and play on Saturday too with Pimps of Joytime, that’s gonna be an awesome show too. And I’ve been hearing about Tipitina’s for a long time, even up in the corners of Portland Maine.