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The Motet improve the groove

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'Every night you get to learn a little bit more about each other's playing and where the songs want to go.' - EMILY SEVIN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Emily Sevin Photography
  • 'Every night you get to learn a little bit more about each other's playing and where the songs want to go.'

There was a time, not all that long ago, when Lyle Divinsky had his future all mapped out. He'd just released his late-2015 solo album, Uneven Floors, and was getting ready to hit the road to promote the new music.

And then everything changed, when Divinsky was contacted by Denver funk band The Motet, who'd suddenly found itself in need of a new lead vocalist. While Uneven Floors was starting to make some noise thanks to a Top 5 soul single in England, it took little convincing for Divinsky to take the leap.

"It was pretty funny timing," says the singer. "I had actually started to get some love from over in the U.K. and Japan about Uneven Floors. I was just about to click 'send,' trying to book a bunch of stuff, and then the Motet opportunity came around."

The only real issue for Divinsky was whether he could continue to do solo and side projects if he were to become The Motet's new singer. And that concern was alleviated immediately.

"It was kind of a no-brainer to me," he says. "I know a lot of the guys in the band also have little side projects that they do, and solo projects that they pursue. I talked to them, making sure I would still be able to do something like that as well. I definitely want to keep that going."

With career considerations out of the way, the next challenge was a musical one. The Motet — whose current lineup also includes new saxophonist Drew Sayers, as well as holdovers Dave Watts on drums, keyboardist Joey Porter, bassist Garrett Sayers, guitarist Ryan Jalbert, and trumpeter Gabe Mervine — had largely completed the groove-driven basic tracks for their seventh studio album, Totem, which was released last July. But there were still a number of songs that lacked vocal melodies and lyrics, as well as others that could stand improvement.

So to test the waters, the group sent him the instrumental tracks for "The Truth," a song that looked destined for the scrap heap in its lyric-less form. Divinsky transformed the song and was soon meeting up with the rest of the band for rehearsals. Other tracks followed and, after a string of 2016 dates, the singer became an official member of The Motet.

It makes sense that Divinsky would be a good fit for the funk-centric band. He grew up in Portland, Maine, as a fan of funk and soul music, thanks to his musician father. After attending Skidmore College near Saratoga Springs, New York, he moved to New York City, playing band gigs at night while frequently busking in the subway tunnels during the day. He was making more money playing solo for the commuter crowd than at club gigs, and would sometimes use tip money to pay his band members.

That's been far from the case with The Motet, who will be celebrating their 20th anniversary next year while continuing to tour extensively. "Every night you get to learn a little bit more about each other's playing and where the songs want to go," says Divinsky. "When you're able to just be in the moment with each other, then that's when the special moments happen."

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