If You’re Looking for the Funk, You Need to See Lettuce With The Motet
We chat with The Motet frontman and the Sasquatch of Soul, Lyle Divinsky, to get a closer look at the funktastic performers getting ready to rock The Cap next weekend.
Photos Courtesy of MGMT
What you put into your craft, you get out of it, and it’s not hard to tell when a musician puts pure love and care into theirs. It’s what makes your favorite band your favorite band, separates the legends from the fads, and when it comes to funk, gets the crowd movin’ and groovin’ on a one-way trip to boogie town, never to return the same again.
Fortunately two bands of such magnitude, Lettuce and The Motet, are hitting The Capitol Theatre March 23 and 24, bringing with them some the most soulful, funked-up tunes on this side of the Hudson River. Separately, each band has knocked the socks off of crowds across America, but with their funk forces combined, these jam and festival scene mainstays will fill The Cap with enough unadulterated musical energy to power Port Chester for weeks after the show.
We caught up The Motet frontman Lyle Divinsky, aka the Sasquatch of Soul, to give us a sense of what to expect next weekend, and to tell us what the Denver-based funk/soul standouts are all about.
The Motet’s been to The Cap once before to play with the Funky Meters. How does it feel to be returning?
I’m so excited, man, I’m so excited. I’ve lived in New York for just under seven years so getting back to that area is going to be amazing, especially with the boys and Lettuce. We did six shows with them in the South and West Coast, and it’s been pretty amazing when we get together.
Both The Motet and Lettuce have blown me away multiple times. Tell us a little about the synergy between your two groups.
We’ve all been friends for a long time, kind of in different ways too. It’s really family at this point. Some of those guys live out in Denver now, too, so we all hang out; it’s just likeminded musicians and friends getting together and having a good time.
What's your journey with The Motet been like since joining in early 2016?
Personally, it’s been kind of a whirlwind of just incredible things. The moment I came in it was just hitting the ground running. Within two months of being in the band I was already in the studio, doing seven songs, six of which I either had a hand in writing or wrote the complete lyrics and melody.
It was pretty cool to be able to come in and just be able to immediately feel like I had a part of the creative influence, which is really a testament to these guys, because, while there have been fluctuating members as well as movement through genres, The Motet as an entity and as a family and as a community is just the willingness to explore creativity in a really open and genuine way. It doesn’t matter what change has happened, new energy that comes in will inevitably create new inspiration and new energy, so if you’re able to just be open and be willing to go on that journey which, everyone in The Motet is, then incredible things can happen.
The band name started as the Dave Watt’s Motet, and then was shortened to The Motet. From my very quick research, a motet is a vocal composition or a piece of music in several parts with words. How does that name align with who you guys are?
It’s kind of funny that there’s a crossover of that, they’re actually kind of mutually exclusive. The Motet, as you said, used to be the Dave Watt’s Motet, before that it was the Dave Watt’s Quartet, then it was the Dave Watt’s Quintet, and then it was the Dave Watt’s Septet, and then it was like, “Fuck it, let’s just call it ‘The Motet’ because we don’t know how many people are going to be in it.”
It’s funny, I have the Google alerts set for anytime “motet” pops up; 90% of the time it’ll be our band related stuff, but then 10% of the time, it’ll be like, “Oh wow, look at that nice classical piece.”
The band originally hails from Denver, but you’re from the East Coast. What was it like for you to integrate with a band that already had such a uniquely established sound and following?
It was intimidating at first, until I met everybody and I met the community and everything. Crazy enough, my first time playing for the hometown Denver crowd was at Red Rocks in 2016. So I’m walking in pretty nervous because I had never been to Red Rocks before, and I’d always dreamed about just going to see a show there.
The first time that I was ever going to play, for it to be headlining in front of Medeski, Martin & Wood, it was like, “Whoa, what is going on?” And also to come out and have about 10,000 people looking down at me wondering who I was.
But just like the band, everyone was so willing, and so open, and so accepting of me. They were excited about the journey that was going on as opposed to being concerned about the change. That’s what I’ve really found about the Colorado community and all of The Motet fans and the community across the country; it’s been incredible. It’s really beautiful I can’t express how grateful I am for that.
What do you love most about the music that you play?
I grew up on funk and soul music, and these boys are some of the best that are playing it I’ve ever met. Dudes like [keyboardist] Joey Porter and [bassist] Garrett Sayers, the whole band, they’re incredibly studied within not only the funk and soul genres but also jazz and reggae. Dave gets into a lot of the Afro-Cuban world percussion and rhythms.
Everyone has a really different influence that makes the music special and makes something that’s not just funk music, and not just soul music. With everyone’s wide array of influences, we’re able to create a sound that sounds familiar, but it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard. I think that that’s my favorite part about it; it’s just a combination of influences. The boundary-less inspiration that people are willing to go to, where it doesn’t have to be a certain way, it’s just what’s going to make us feel good and what’s going to make us excited about playing this music right now. It’s exciting every night because of that.
You’ve been called the “Sasquatch of Soul’ for your tendency to perform barefoot. Quick question: does singing barefoot supply you with your vocal super powers?
[Laughs] Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s all the hair that I’ve got! I’ve had to stop being barefoot for a lot of shows now because I’ve started messin’ my feet up. When I trust in the stage and know that I’m going to be all right, then the toes will still shout.
I think it was Summer Camp 2016, where we had a really quick change over: It was like, “Go, go, go,” and I kicked off the shoes when I went out. But what I didn’t realize, or didn’t think about, was that the sun was setting directly on this black stage, and just straight burned the bottom of my feet. It brought me back to like high school basketball, doing foot flyers because I was trying to move my feet so quickly. That and a couple rogue guitar strings and other things like that have made me go back to shoes for a little while.