The seven piece funk ensemble The Motet have dubbed their sold out New Year’s Eve party as Funklandia and will be hosting the celebration at Portland Oregon’s Crystal Ballroom to ring in 2015. They are bringing their talented friends The Polyrhythmics, DJ Weather, and special guest Jennifer Hartswick to bolster the bounce of the non-stop dance party.
The Motet has made a name for themselves by playing infectious dance-driven music for nearly 15 years. The current incarnation is led by the world-class rhythm section of Dave Watts on drums, Garrett Sayers on bass, as well as the versatile keyboardist Joey Porter and Guitarist Ryan Jalbert adding rhythm and leads. This core four have played together for over ten years and make up the rhythmic heartbeat of the band. Adding a wide variety of music flavors to the mix is vocalist/percussionist Jans Ingber and the super smooth horn section of Matt Pitts and Gabe Mervine. Together, The Motet, which is actually a septet, creates a funk, Afrobeat and soul fueled groove with hints of rock and Latin styles that pay homage to dance-infused genres throughout the musical spectrum.
Glide had an opportunity to discuss The Motet’s upcoming Funklandia N.Y.E. celebration with bandleader and drummer extraordinaire Dave Watts.
On New Year’s Eve The Motet will be playing a Funklandia themed celebration at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom. Where did the idea for Funklandia come from?
It was a playful way to look at what we do. We thought it would be a fun twist on Portland, the TV show Portlandia, and the funk music that we love to play. Portland is a unique environment and folks there always treat us great. It’s one of our favorite places to play. There is a great spirit in Portland, and the people there seem to share a love of dance and improvisational music. There is a great connection between Colorado and Oregon. That connection is clear even in the band, being that our lead singer Jans is from Eugene and lives in Portland.
Any surprises or hints of what we can expect?
We’ll definitely be bringing in some surprises. We just did Mixtape 1975 on Halloween in Colorado and we will be bringing some of that material to the New Year’s Eve show. There are so many funk jams from that year we can’t resist including some of that in the set list. We are also bringing up Portland’s own amazing vocalist Paul Creighton, as well as the incredibly talented trumpeter and singer Jen Hartswick.
I saw that The Motet’s Facebook page announced that Jennifer Hartswick would be joining in on New Year’s Eve. How did that combination come together?
We go way back in the music scene and have played a lot of gigs and side projects together. There has developed a community of musicians who end up playing about 20 national festivals every year such as: Jam Cruise, High Sierra, Wakarusa, Bear Creek. We love getting together at these events and being able see and play with our friends on occasion. Matt Butler’s Everyone Orchestra has also brought a lot different musicians together and we’ve played with Jen in that group as well. We love her playing and her singing, plus she is an incredible sweetheart, so ultimately we know this New Year’s Eve is going to be a special night.
N.Y.E. has always been an incredibly special musical holiday for the fans out there. What does the holiday mean to you?
There is a real magic in the air and the vibe at the shows is always high. It’s kind of like Halloween. Those are the two most energetic nights of the year. I don’t think The Motet has missed a N.Y.E. since 1998, and personally I’ve played every New Year’s since 1988. With the anticipation of the countdown that builds up the energy in the room, we can feel a real charge of energy between the fans and the band. And of course we play better with that energy and excitement in the room.
You guys are known to put on incredible covers of both musicians and mixtape shows related to specific years of music. What is the process for choosing and rehearsing the music?
We throw a whole bunch of ideas on the table and see what gets us excited. Tower of Power for example was such a great opportunity to learn those incredible grooves and arrangements. It was a dream to be able to cover T.O.P. for an entire night. We like to use these sets as an opportunity to grow as musicians and at the same time throw a great party for our fans. At these Halloween shows our fans are always super energetic and receptive to what we bring to the stage.
For one particular Halloween we took the full 12 months to learn and tighten up our Parliament-Funkadelic set. We also really loved playing our Earth, Wind, and Fire shows. Their music is some of the most creative and challenging material we’ve ever performed. Playing Earth, Wind, and Fire may have been the greatest musical experience of my life.
You guys just released your self-titled album The Motet, yet this is you seventh album release and you have been together as a band for nearly 15 years. Does this naming reflect where the band is right now?
To us it reflects new beginnings. I started the band 14 years ago with a rotating lineup that played shifting genres of music. Most of the songs on our previous albums are arrangements and compositions of my own, but we’ve now settled on players who have been with the band for 4 or 5 years and we’ve spent countless hours together writing the music for this new record. This is a 100% collaborative effort, and we look at the name as a statement that this group of musicians truly is The Motet. This is the band we always wanted to be.
Do you have any musical resolutions or goals as we venture into 2015?
Yeah, to kick as much ass as possible. All our ducks are in a row and we’re ready!