The Motet

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For the type of composition, see motet
The Motet Live
The Motet Live

The Motet is an American funk, discoafrobeatjazz, and soul influenced band based in Denver, Colorado. Founded in 1998 by drummer and bandleader Dave Watts, The Motet is made up Watts, guitarist Ryan Jalbert, bassist Garrett Sayers, keyboardist Joey Porter, trumpeter Gabe Mervine, vocalist Lyle Divinsky, and saxophonist Drew Sayers.[2]

Known for energetic live shows including an annual Halloween concert, the band has released seven studio albums to date. Their 2014 self-titled album was co-written and produced by all the band members and was cut on analog recording equipment to capture their instruments' live sounds. The newest album, Totem, was released July 8th, 2016. They continue to tour nationally and have performed at festivals such as Bonnaroo, Electric Forest Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, North Coast Music Festival, Wakarusa[3] and Summer Camp Festival.[4]


1998–2004: Founding and first albums

The Dave Watts Motet was founded in Boulder, Colorado, in 1998 by drummer and arranger Dave Watts as a musical collective with a rotating cast of musicians. By 2000 the group had changed its name to The Motet and become a sextet consisting of Watts on drums, percussionist and vocalist Jans Ingber, percussionist Scott Messersmith, guitarist Mike Tiernen, bassist Kurt Reeber, and organist-keyboardist Steve Vidiac.[2] Watts, Ingber, and Messersmith had also traveled to Cuba twice to study bata drums of the Santeria religion, which at the time heavily influenced the band's sound, as can be heard on their first two albums.[5]

The Dave Watts Motet first performed together on Halloween 1998, and at that time were incorporating elements of funk, jazz, folk, and world music into their sound.[2] Watts wrote and arranged the majority of their early music for a rotating lineup of musicians, throwing energetic local dance parties.[6] Their debut release, Breathe, was self-released in 1999, and produced entirely by Watts.[2][7]

The band released their second album, Play, on aNOnym reCOrds in 2001, which was followed in 2002 by the album Live, their first record on Harmonized Records. Music for Life, released in 2004, was also on Harmonized Records.[8] Also in 2004, the band self-released the DVD Shine, which was produced by James Marshello.

2006: Instrumental Dissent

The Motet playing a set
The Motet playing a set

On September 12, 2006, they released their studio album Instrumental Dissent. While the album is largely instrumental, the voices of activists such as Harry Belafonte, Alice Walker, and Noam Chomsky are woven into many of the songs.[9] Allmusic gave release 3.5/5 stars and largely positive review, writing "Motet gets off to an impressive start as the opening salvo of tunes darts between funk, Afro-beat, Latin and world sounds with a slight underpinning of electronic touches, all driven by a nimble yet fiery attack." Allmusic praised the production and audio quality as well, stating "Many of the tracks blend into each other, creating a near seamless whole."[9] Allmusic criticized the slower pace in the latter half of the disc, stating the album "loses some of the imagination, if not steam, of the early tunes, becoming a solid yet rather conventional work from a jazz-funk fusion outfit." However, "Scott Messersmith's bubbling percussion and drummer Dave Watts' elastic beats keep the heat turned up even when the tracks tend to extend longer than needed."

2009: Dig Deep

Around half of The Motet's self-released 2009 album Dig Deep[10] features compositions written and arranged by Watts,[11] with the drummer turned producer utilizing Ableton Live to add an electronica sound to various tracks.[5] Allmusic gave Dig Deep 3/5 stars, stating "Covers of three Fela Kuti tunes show that this funk-world ensemble's heart lies in the tough, often horn-driven Afro-beat that dominates this set." The review acknowledges the new touches of techno, stating that Watts expands the band's sound, "in particular toward Kraftwerk-styled techno at times, also pushing into spacy areas that will likely be a bit alienating to some longtime fans." Much of the album also relies on "percussive Afro-funk" and Allmusic pointed out elements of prog rock on tracks such as "Guru." [12]

2014: The Motet

The Motet 
The Motet 

They released their seventh studio album, The Motet, in February 2014. Each member of the band contributed to the writing process, with hundreds of hours spent in the studio creating vintage funk sounds.[6] The group came up with the basic ideas for the album's original nine tracks in Watts's home studio, then recorded and mixed the album at Immersive Studios in Boulder, Colorado and Scanhope Sound in Littleton, Colorado.[13] About The Motet, Watts says "The album is really like a new era for us. Writing our own music as a band, a 100 percent collaborative effort, it’s a real stepping stone to a sound we’re going to be bringing consistently”[14] Writes Dave Kirby of the Boulder Weekly, “utterly flawless production...and not a throwaway in the bunch...ambitious, airtight and built to travel.” Upstate Live says that The Motet’s “55 glorious minutes showcase their growth as individuals and as an unstoppable funk machine.”

2016: Totem

The Motet's newest record will be released July 8th, 2016. The album was recorded at The Parlor Recording Studio in New Orleans, Scanhope Sound, Colorado Sound, Notably Fine Audio, and Halo Studios. Eric Krasno of Soullive produced the record and contributed two songs "So High" and "Know It Too Well".

Live performances

The band has toured annually since its founding, primarily performing in the United States with six or seven live members[14] and Dave Watts serving as bandleader.[6]

They periodically bring special guests on stage; in January 2014, for example, they were joined on stage by drummer Jason Hann of the String Cheese Incident, trumpeter Jen Hartswick, and vocalist and jazz trombonist Natalie Cressman.[15]

In 2013 they played as far north as Chicago, Illinois,[16] and that year also performed at Wakarusa.[3] The following year the band toured the United States in support of their album The Motet,[10][14] performing at festivals such as Summer Camp Festival.[4]

Halloween concerts

Since 2001 The Motet has performed a series of concerts on Halloween weekend, typically in Colorado, covering the music of one particular band and dressing the part.[17] Examples have included Earth, Wind, and Fire,[10] Parliament Funkadelic, Tower of Power, Jamiroquai, Stevie Wonder, and Prince.[6]

The following is a list of their annual Halloween concerts:


  • Dave Watts - drums, bandleader (1998–present)
  • Ryan Jalbert - guitar (2005–present)
  • Joey Porter - keys (2006–present)
  • Garrett Sayers - bass (2002–present)
  • Gabe Mervine - trumpet (2009–present)
  • Drew Sayers - tenor sax (2016–present)
  • Lyle Divinsky - vocalist (2016–present)
  • Jans Ingber - vocalist, percussion (2000–2015)
  • Matt Pitts - tenor sax (2010–2015)
  • Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic - saxophone (2003-2006, also regular contributor)
  • Scott Messersmith - percussion (1998-2011)
  • Gregoire Raymond - keys (2002-2004)
  • Adam Revell - keys (2005-2008)
  • Mark Donovan - guitar (2003-2005)
  • Mike Tiernen - guitar (2000-2003)
  • Steve Vidiac - organist/keyboardist (2000-2002)
  • Paul McDaniel - bass (2001-2002)
  • Kurt Reeber - bass (2000-2001)
  • Matt Spencer – bass (1998-1999)



Albums by The Motet
YearAlbum titleRelease details
  • Released: April 30, 2002
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: CD
  • Released: April 10, 2001
  • Label: aNOnym reCOrds
  • Format: CD
2004Music for Life
  • Released: July 21, 2004
  • Label: Harmonized Records
  • Format: CD, digital
  • Released: Sept 12, 2006
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: CD, digital
2009Dig Deep
  • Released: Aug 25, 2009
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: CD, digital
2014The Motet
  • Released: Feb 11, 2014
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: CD, digital
  • Released: July 8, 2016
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: CD, digital

Live albums

Albums by The Motet
YearAlbum titleRelease details
2005The Motet (Live)
  • Released: May 17, 2005
  • Label: Harmonized Records
  • Format: digital


DVDs by The Motet
YearAlbum titleRelease details
2004Shine DVD
  • Released: 2005
  • Label: Home Grown Music
  • Format: DVD
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Created: July 31, 2016, 5:29 a.m.
Last Modified: Jan. 26, 2017, 3:58 a.m.