Over coffee and juice on the rooftop deck of Amante Coffee on Baseline Road, with the Flatirons looming and the bright Boulder sun beating down, Watts and guitarist Ryan Jalbert, who has been with the Motet since 2005, talk about capitalizing on notoriety in a heralded cover band while growing an identity as purveyors of original funk music.
Adam Perry: What do you remember about the Motet's early days in Boulder?
Dave Watts: Our first gig was a Mountain Sun Halloween party, just a little warehouse in Boulder. We used to do a lot of acid-jazz kinda things -- jazz tunes with funk beats. Boulder was different twenty years ago; there were a lot of mid-sized venues, way more of a local scene that I think was growing bands. I think a lot of that's moved to Denver. Things always shift and move different ways. We're just lucky that it hasn't faded out.
We wouldn't be nearly as successful if we weren't from Colorado. It's the good life. The audience here supports music any night of the week. Having this really strong home base has allowed us to go out and play shows and tours, even if they aren't financially successful, and come back and build it up again. That's really important. I knew that when I moved out here twenty years ago, and it's only grown since, especially in Denver.
How did you decide early on how much of what the Motet would perform would be covers or originals?
We would do a decent amount of original music from various players, and I would write a decent amount of original music, but my forte is really arranging, and putting together material from other people in the band or from my influences. Fela Kuti is one of my biggest influences. So it wasn't really a defined process of how much we were gonna have of this or that; it was just kind of organic.
Now we're trying to keep things a little more focused with what we're going for, [which is] influenced a lot by old-school funk. Our Halloween shows have been a big influence over the years, so that's sort of osmosed into our songwriting. Earth, Wind & Fire is a huge influence. Parliament-Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder -- all that music's kinda crept into our writing.
What's your relationship with the jam-band scene like?
It's hard to say what a jam band is; there's really a jam audience. We're happy to play for whatever audience embraces us. Certainly being from Colorado, playing music where you improvise and playing music that's dance-oriented -- those three things, you're gonna get a jam audience coming to see you. Which is fine with us -- I mean, we like an active, kinetic experience when we're playing; we're into an audience that dances. But we're pretty open-minded to whatever audience wants to embrace our sound.
You've played Jam Cruise a few times. What's it like being, well, stuck on a boat with all those people on drugs?
Ryan Jalbert: You know, there's places to escape to.
DW: It's a big boat.
RJ: There's lots of places to find some solitude.
DW: It's true. The integration between fan and band is more tightly knit than at any other festival, but we're right there with 'em, partying and having a good time. It's a pretty cool experience, because no one's really making a big deal about it, and I think the audience is a little more professional about their partying.