For more than two decades, The Motet have been a sonic force with their fusion of jazz, funk and soul. The quintet of guitarist Ryan Galbert, drummer Dave Watts, keyboardist Joey Porter, bassist Garrett Sayers and his brother Drew on saxophone harness grooves that have a knack for making people dance. It’s what makes them one of the top live bands within the jam band circuit and it’s also evident in their 10th studio album All Day which came out in January.
Folks will get to hear some of the music off of the new release at Fairfield Theatre Company’s music venue, The Warehouse, on Thursday.
New Haven experimental funk-rock act The Mushroom Cloud will be kicking off the show at 8 p.m.
Drew Sayers and I had a chance to talk ahead of the gig about how the band’s first instrumental album in quite a while, about self-releasing music rather than working with a record label, having a special show happening every Halloween and intertwining the new music with an established setlist.
RD: All Day is The Motet’s first fully instrumental album in nearly 15 years, so how did this aspect affect the songwriting and arrangements without having to include any vocals?
DS: Honestly, I don’t see a big difference because the melody is still important whether you have a singer or not. The ability to tell a story and send a message is still there in the music regardless if there’s lyrical content, so for me I try to approach it the same way. You want people to connect with the music in the same way they would if you had a singer or not, so that’s how I see it.
RD: Did you guys produce the album yourselves in your own studio? Where was the album recorded at and did you have anyone assist in the engineering, mixing and mastering?
DS: We did self-produce the album and we do all of our recordings where we’re based out in Colorado. We recorded most of All Day at Scanhope Sound in Littleton, which actually recently closed but we loved the place because they had an analog tape machine and a really nice console. We still like to record our bass tracks in analog with all the cool gear, so that’s how we did it. We had our friend Josh Fairman from the band SunSquabi involved, he’s a great engineer and he’s always in the studio with us whenever we’re recording so he was a big help for us. We recorded some of the album at Colorado Sound too, which is a pretty famous studio where Lettuce recorded their last album along with lots of other bands.
We also did a lot of it at home. I think a lot of bands these days when you’re overdubbing, you’re layering synths or stuff like that, you do all of it at home now because the technology is good enough that we can get as good of sounds with our home rigs as we get in a studio.
RD: This is also the sixth release where you guys didn’t do it through a record label, so do you feel that it gives an advantage by not having to deal with any middlemen where you feel like you’re in debt to a label or you have to go through a contract to put a record out? Do you feel a little more freedom without having a label or is it kind of the other way around?
DS: It sort of depends but I can speak from my experience. I used to tour with this reggae band called John Brown’s Body, we were on a label called Easy Star Records and it was an ideal situation because they had established themselves in the American reggae community early on with some albums that were very successful and they were able to sustain that. They’re a label that helps more with just distribution, they also help with the reputation so that situation was a little bit different. For a band like The Motet, I think it makes a lot more sense to release it ourselves because we’ve been around for so long, we do a lot of the promotion ourselves and we rely upon returning fans, fans who have loved us for 20 years, to come back to our shows. It’s more of an organic thing and The Motet has always been kind of a grassroots band in how we operate, so for us it makes more sense but I don’t think that’s the case for everybody so it’s really a genre thing and a case by case basis.
RD: Yeah, I totally get what you’re saying. When it comes to the songwriting and recording process for All Day, was there any sort of vision going into it? Was there any sort of goal that you and the rest of the band were looking to accomplish?
DS: It was a unique time, we were just coming out of the pandemic after not playing any live shows for a while. We were just really inspired to write music at the time, we were rehearsing a lot as an instrumental group and doing a lot of that stuff just led to the songs on the album. Like I said before, it all came about in an organic way and we’re all really passionate musicians so we’re constantly writing music and coming up with ideas.
RD: Since 2001, you guys have gained a reputation for your Halloween shows by covering the music of a particular band or era while dressing for the part. Who had the idea for these shows and how have you gone about choosing which band or era to cover along with getting the appropriate outfits?
DS: I can speak for the music side and I think that just comes from the bands we’re inspired by. I think about Earth, Wind & Fire, that’s some of the music we grew up on. My dad was playing their music on 45s around the house when I was a kid. Tower of Power is another one and it comes from what inspires us as musicians and bands like these are the reasons why we still play music today. We’ve been taking these Halloween shows across the country, we’ve done them around Colorado for many years but more recently we did one in the Pacific Northwest and we’re trying to bring it around to other areas. Whenever we do this covers set, we want people who live outside of Colorado to be able to experience it.
RD: That’s great. How have you guys gone about including the music from the new album into your current setlist?
DS: We’ve been playing the songs off of All Day for a while now and it’s been really fun mixing up the setlist. I really like it and I think for the fans it’s a good experience because we get to do an instrumental thing where we can be more atmospheric or more experimental or more improvisational. Then we can kind of mix it up by having a vocal song and letting the crowd connect with the singer that way. I think it’s really cool and it’s worked really well for us with being able to have the two sides of the band with two different colors and two different sounds that we like to do. A lot of us started out as jazz musicians but we also love playing funk music, so it’s the perfect balance of our two different sides and our two different sounds.