Introduction and interview by Luke Nicholson
“I’ll say this… writing has to be genuine in order to truly connect. Because of that, I never go into writing a song with a particular agenda. I want the relationship between the song and I to grow together and evolve just like any relationship.”
The Motet has always been resistant to being put in a box. It’d be easy to write these guys off as “just another Jam band”, but with each new album, they manage to find a new niche to explore, another element to add to their already versatile toolbox, a new quirk that makes them stand out from any of the other funky prog rock bar bands floating around. In their beats and in their lyrics, there’s a willingness to be playful and experiment that always keeps things from getting stale.
Both onstage and in the studio, frontman Dave Watts and his crew make a point of going the extra mile, incorporating a classic late sixties Chicago brass feel with new and different electronic sounds not normally found in your average funk band. By applying an extra layer of energy and craftsmanship, they keep the vibe fresh both for their audience and for themselves, an approach that has paid off nicely. Their new tour is charged with a distinctly infectious kinetic energy. They engage with their audiences more fully than most touring bands, and that’s a fact that’s won them a steady and devoted following over the years since they first got together in 1998.
We sat down with Lyle Divinsky, lead singer of The Motet to find out how they’ve kept the creative spark alive for the last twenty years, and how they plan on evolving further in for the years to come. Check out the highlights from our conversation below.
The Motet will be playing at The Top Hat Lounge, April 19th.
Why did you feel like you had to record your last album on analog equipment?
While I wasn’t a part of the instrumental recording process (just the vocals as I came into the band after most all of the instrumental tracking was complete before I joined), I can speak to how we’re recording our new single. The music that we play is steeped in the instruments and effects from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The tones and vibes that were able to be captured with the equipment from those eras was incredible and has so much incredible potential to connect with the soul. We want to capture those tones and vibes while bringing ourselves into it in conjunction with taking some of the new technological advancements that allow us to take those tones to new levels. It’s really about utilizing every tool in your shed in order to build the best house.
You frequently have a lot of political themes in your work. How will that evolve given the current political climate?
I can only speak to myself as a writer, so I’ll say this… writing has to be genuine in order to truly connect. Because of that, I never go into writing a song with a particular agenda. I want the relationship between the song and I to grow together and evolve just like any relationship. I try to release all preconceived expectations to allow it to blossom fully, while employing my past experiences to best care for and respect it.
How do you think your sound changes recording in the studio versus playing live? Is it possible to replicate live energy in a studio?
The studio and the stage are different creative processes, but share so much. There are things you can do in the studio that you can’t on stage, and vice versa. There are things that work incredibly well on stage, but don’t in the studio. It can be different with every song too, which provides a really beautiful life learning process. I love seeing the evolution of a song in each environment. As a vocalist, I have the ability to create choirs in the studio, with so many layers of melody and harmony that we can’t necessarily replicate in the live setting, which provides a really cool challenge of writing concisely and with intent, and keeping in mind that the song needs to exist in both capacities. You can treat things differently if you’re a band that only operates in one of these settings – but we love both and fully intend on exploring the furthest reaches of each that we can.
The Motet’s newest music video, “Fool No More”
How do you think your sound will evolve going into 2017 and beyond?
We’ve really grown together with this latest version of The Motet (referring to the addition of Drew and I). Both Drew and I come with a lot of experience and influence, so as we mix ourselves and the other guys, there’s some incredibly potent energy and inspiration bubbling in our pot. Where it will go… who knows until it happens. As I mentioned before, I believe that having preconceived notions can prevent the full potential of a song. So… I guess we’ll all be finding out what our potential is along the way together. That’s pretty exciting!!!
How do you manage the stress of a tour and still manage to have fun? Do you get to spend any free time on tour stops?
We’re a family, and we love each other, so where we are and what we’re doing doesn’t affect whether we have fun or not. Because we don’t tour in a bus, we don’t get a ton of time to spend in each place unfortunately, but we find time to check some really cool things out and do our best to see our friends and family in the tour stops. We love good food too, so being on the road gives us a lot of chances to taste a whole lot of deliciousness.
How do you think the recent expansion of the festival circuit has changed the way you reach your fans?
I absolutely love that festivals have grown so much in numbers and attendance. What is better than a safe, supportive, encouraging scene that expose huge communities to music they love and/or haven’t yet heard? I’ve learning about so many bands through just the festival posters alone! On top of that, the positivity and the encouragement to be true to yourself and not be afraid of embracing you originality and weirdness is just so amazing. One of my favorite quotes is Dr Seuss on love, “We’re all a little weird, and life’s a little weird….” FILL IN THE REST… I see this in action at most every festival I go to, and it fills my heart to the brim with joy.
How has technology changed the way you create your music? Do you find yourselves compelled to keep up with new developments?
Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more clearly you’ll be able to bring ideas to life. As I mentioned before, it’s all about utilizing all your tools to build the best house you can. If you only have one kind of saw, you’re going to run into trouble when you need to execute the finer details. So… our once tool shed grew into a workshop which then grows into a factory and so on. You’ll always have your favorite tools, but there are times you’ll need that one sitting in the corner to finesse something in a way you can’t otherwise. It’s never a pressure, it’s an opportunity to expand our ability to realize our ideas.
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This interview was produced in partnership with Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT).