The Motet is in the midst of a big year in 2018. In addition to a slew of high-profile festival sets and more throughout the spring and summer, the Colorado-based funk outfit is fresh off their annual Red Rocks blowout and gearing up for the first-ever Motet festival, Motet On The Mesa, on July 27th and 28th.
Set to take place at the scenic Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership in Taos, New Mexico—4 miles from both the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument and the Stage Coach Hot Springs—the festival will see multiple sets by The Motet, as well as performances by Break Science, SunSquabi, The Suffers, TAUK, Organ Freeman, and Mama Magnolia.
We caught both drummer/bandleader Dave Watts and vocalist Lyle Divinsky on the phone from Denver in the days following their Red Rocks show. Still buzzing from the memorable night—which Divinsky ranks among his favorite he’s played with the band—the two spoke candidly about Red Rocks, giving love to the 90’s, bananas smoking weed, prepping their new album and, of course, their excitement for Motet on the Mesa. Check out the conversation below:
Andrew O’Brien: From the looks of your Red Rocks photos, you all put on one hell of a show out there. Can you tell me about it?
Lyle Divinsky: It was amazing, man. It was a really, really special show. I can say from my end that it might have been my favorite Motet show I’ve ever played.
Dave Watts: I’ve heard that from a few people, actually… We’re gonna release a bunch of videos from Red Rocks, some recap videos and stuff like that so people can relive the show that way. We’re probably gonna have some multi-track recordings of it, but really we just wanna get it out there for folks to hear.
LD: These are gonna be cinema-quality videos. It’s the same dude that did the “Supernova” video last year, but this year he brought extra people, so rather than just him running it, he’s got the remote focus person, so he could go around with the camera and not have to worry it. For one of the instrumentals—actually, the percussion breakdown, Watts—I stepped offstage and was standing next to the dude who was doing the remote focus on the cameras…and it was insane, dude, it looked so good…
DW: [excitedly] Really? Killer! He’s really good, Steve Conry from Cinesthetics…
LD: So I’m so pumped to see these, it’s gonna be really special.
AO: The stage setup at Red Rocks looked new, with the whole big lighting rig and Dave up on the riser. Was that a new plot for you guys?
DW: We’ve done risers in the past, but our configuration was a little different this year because we had Jason [Hann] (The String Cheese Incident) involved…
LD: Jason and the backup singers. So being able to create, like, a pyramid stack was pretty awesome.
AO: That seemed to really come across, at least in the photos I’ve seen. A lot of times, at a place like Red Rocks, where photographers want to capture the area around the show in addition to the show itself, you kind of lose the details a little because everyone’s so spread out…
LD: It was really important for us to be close to each other. Like you were saying, at Red Rocks, it’s really easy to just be too spread out because the stage is so big, you feel like you have to make use of that. I feel like it was much more effective this year, the fact that we were right there with each other. It kind of created an aesthetic. For one, [lighting designer] Luke Stratton (Dopapod) is a lighting god, and the setup that he created, the design he put together, on top of the way that we created the stage plot… It felt so good onstage.
AO: Okay, this is important: whose idea was it to cover [Ginuwine’s] “Pony” at Red Rocks?
DW: [laughs] Gettin’ credit for the ‘90s cover!
LD: [laughs] I love this, because I feel like people probably would not have anticipated it. People probably are looking at me because I’m just, like, the champion of 90’s R&B. But….Dave. Watts. [all laugh] I still remember the day I got that email. He emailed me and said, “I’m thinking we should do something different…and crazy…”
LD: “…What’d you think about Ginuwine, ‘Pony’?” And I was at my apartment, where I’m sitting right now…I jumped out of my seat and went “Yeaaaah!”
DW: I think it was a good call.
LD: My sister was sayin’ that the banana smoking weed that was dancing next to her started singing every single word [all laugh].
AO: That sounds like a Red Rocks story if I’ve ever heard one.
DW: Oh, yeah…
LD: Yeah, definitely. This was my sister’s first time at Red Rocks, and her first time at a Denver-centric show. I was like, “How was the show, what was it like?” She was like “I danced with a banana smoking weed!” That was the first thing that she went for….a banana smoking weed.
DW: [bursts out laughing] …a banana smoking weed.
LD: But yea, Dave Watts is the doctor and the baker of the 90’s that we cooked up.
DW: I only know a few ‘90’s cuts, and I owe it all to Lyle. He introduced me to all the choice ‘90’s cuts, and I just happened to throw that one out there.
LD: I couldn’t be more proud of you, Dave [laughs].
AO: You guys had [former trumpet player] Gabe Mervine back up there at Red Rocks, too. That must have been fun to get to play together again. Was that something that was pre-planned, or did it just happen naturally like so many of these things do?
LD: It’s family, man.
DW: We’ve had different players move on and they kind of just disappeared a little bit, but Gabe is still in the scene, he’s still playing with all the players. He’s still part of our community. So it’s kind of an easy fit for him to just jump up with us still.
AO: Definitely. And it was cool to see the old guard and the new guard meet with both Gabe and [new trumpet player] Parris Fleming up there together.
DW: Yea, it’s great. Parris is one of the most chill people I’ve ever met in my life.
LD: Absolutely, just like a sea of chilled-out positivity.
AO: I know you guys all share the songwriting duties. Has Parris gotten involved in that aspect of the Motet yet?
DW: He’s still sort of stepping into that role. I think he’s been in the back a little witnessing how we go about the creative process, which is smart, so he can step in when need be. I think we have our first song coming up that he’s written a bunch of horn lines for, so we’re really excited about that.
AO: Parris is the “new guy” now, but the first time I talked to you back in 2016, you an [saxophonist] Drew Sayers had just joined up. I remember talking to [keyboardist] Joey [Porter] before Lyle’s first tour with the band, and he told me how you wrote lyrics for a few tracks before you guys had even met, and that sort of made it clear to everyone that you were the right guy to take over that role.
LD: Yeah, both “The Truth” and “Fool No More” happened before I had met them in person. I was in the studio like less than two months after the first time I met these guys [laughs].
AO: And now in the couple years since then, in your live show, those have developed into some of my favorite songs you play, more so every time. It’s wild to see how much those tracks, and your whole act, has really clicked and built up this great chemistry since then.
LD: It’s like we’ve known each other forever, Watts.
DW: Awww, man. That’s adorable… [all laugh]. There’re certain people that are cut from the same stone, you know? And when you find that, you know it. When we sent those tracks out to Lyle and he came back with those lyrics and those melodies. We completed the songs before we even met the guy, so it was clear that it made sense for us to be doing this together.
AO: Your last album, Totem, came out in 2016. Since then, you’ve released a few new singles and just debuted a new one at Red Rocks, “Highly Compatible”. Whats the status on a new full-length Motet album?
LD: It’s definite, baby.
DW: Nowadays, you can release a track at a time. You don’t have to release the whole thing at once, which is great for us because then people get used to the music, they know the music. You do them gradually in the live show, and you don’t have to sort of hit people with all your new stuff all at once when they don’t any of the songs, you know?
AO: Yeah, that can be overwhelming as a fan for sure…
DW: So for us it’s great. We’ll put out probably four or five songs as singles before we actually release the record. It’ll probably be a ten-song album? Eleven-song album?
LD: Yea, something like that. We’re catching a cool stride, though. It’s been interesting kinda doing it as a longer process like this as opposed to just going into the studio for a couple weeks. It’s been really fun. It’s been cool to take it slow and make a song at a time and be able to focus in like that.
AO: Looking ahead now, you guys have your first-ever festival coming up, Motet on the Mesa, at Taos Brewing in New Mexico. That looks like it’s gonna be a blast, congratulations on that. I’ve never been, but I hear fantastic things about that venue and just the area in general.
LD: It’s a magical place.
DW: Two nights in Taos, come on…
LD: I don’t throw these words around, but it is just kind of a spiritual place. It’s desolately beautiful… Part of you feels like you’re in Mad Max, part of you feels like you’re in this desert wonderland… These Earthships are all around you, these houses that are kind of built into the ground. … It’s unlike any place you’ve ever been.
Then the outdoor stage at Taos Brewing, I don’t know exactly what it’s made out of, but it’s made out of this, like, stone or clay dome. It’s crazy. The way that it’s shaped—Dave, I don’t know if you’ve checked this out—but if you stand in a certain place right outside of the brewery, like a couple hundred feet away, and talk into the stage at a normal volume, you can hear their voice because of the way that it acoustically travels.
DW: Whaaat, that’s wild…
LD: I feel like that’s sort of the vibe of the place. It’s these really kooky, crazy attributes about the area that make it that much more special and that much more unique.
DW: That’s gonna be a fun gig, I think there are gonna be a lot of New Mexico freaks coming out. We did a show recently at [Santa Fe’s] Meow Wolf, and it was pretty cool [laughs]… Hopefully, we get a lot of those same folks coming out…
LD: And I think a lot of the Colorado crushers are gonna come down, too. It’s such a family. The crew that we have going, the bands that we have, they’re such a cool family, man. And I’m really excited to see what happens with that.
AO: It definitely is a super cool group of players you guys have coming down—Break Science, TAUK, SunSquabi, The Suffers, Organ Freeman, Mama Magnolia… How involved were you guys in picking that lineup? How did you decide on those bands specifically?
LD: Yeah, it was fully us [putting the lineup together]. And as far as picking the bands, it’s kind of a list of our homies, and people that we love… People that we wanna see, people that we not only wanna play with but also support, give our fans a chance to see all of them. Whether it’s people on the rise like Mama Magnolia, or the homies in Break Science and SunSquabi, or folks that haven’t come through Colorado a lot like The Suffers. It’s people that we all believe in musically and that we love to hang with.
AO: And of course, since it’s all homies, I’m sure that opens the door for some cool collaborations at the festival. Any particular ones you have in mind that you’re most excited about?
LD: I don’t know, man…you know…doing fun, creative stuff with people that we love being around and hanging out with isn’t really our thing…
AO: Totally, it sucks. Super lame… [all laugh]
DW: We’ve got the late night set too, so that’s gonna get weird for sure…
The Motet’s first-ever festival, Motet on the Mesa, will take place at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership in Taos, NM on July 27th and 28th. To grab your tickets, head here.