Smile Politely

Lotus blooms in The Gilded Age

Lotus, a band that combines the rhythmic harmony of foot tapping beats and head banging rifts, has stopped into town and they’re bringing the party with them. With a combination of fast paced songs with electronic undertones; mellow jams with heavy drums that leave the crowd swaying; Lotus’s upcoming show ton Wednesday (though not their first Canopy Club appearence) is sure to leave the audience with lasting remarks. I got a chance to talk to Jesse Miller, the bassist of the band, to give us a preview of what to expect for The Gilded Age Tour.

Smile Politely: Can you tell readers a little bit about how Lotus started as a band?

Jesse Miller: I guess it all started when we were in college in northern Indiana and were trying to figure out how to just put together a band, play in a band and write music and all those things we were trying to figure out. We just kept doing it after we finished school and we relocated to Philadelphia and that’s when we started pretty much touring on a much more regular basis and doing it full time.

SP: Did you each know how to play different instruments or did you have to learn new instruments?

Miller: Yeah, we had to learn a lot of new things. Luke originally played guitar in the band, but when we started to get more into the idea of adding in keyboard, he started playing more and more keyboard and now probably more than 50% of the show he’s playing keyboard instead of guitar. I play bass, but in the last 10 years or so we’ve been incorporating some live snippets into the show and I also handle the live triggering of things that we can’t do live.  So, electronic elements or vocal elements that we can’t do live but have recorded beforehand, that’s some of the things we’ve been incorporating since we got started.


Post by Lotus.

SP: Your music is a mixture of alternative rock and electronic. Did you all originally start playing with this type of sound or did it develop more so as the band grew through the years?

Miller: We definitely have always been evolving things. We were always built in the idea of incorporating a lot of different influences, but the electronic influences were something that evolved quite a bit. But I’d say even the rock part, I think of it less as a linear evolution and more like of something that has expanded to include other things and sounds. When we got started I knew zero about analogs and what that is and the recording process and different ways of sculpting sounds. Those were all something that we’ve learned and really used in studio work.

SP: How long did it take you to hone in those skills?

Miller: I feel like I’m still learning them. There’s so much to learn, it’s just an ongoing thing and when we’re not on the road I’m spending much more time doing those kinds of things than trying to learn new bass techniques.

SP: So, when Lotus was originally formed did you all have the mindset that you’d make it professionally as a band, or did you just want to play music for fun?

Miller: I think we were pretty serious about it, even from the beginning. The reason we were doing it was for fun. I think it’s really tough for a small band to understand what the challenges are of making music a career. There’s really no way to know about that world unless you’ve done it or if your family is involved with it. We were just really excited about playing music and wanted to take every step we could to play in front of more people and do it more often. That was definitely a lot in the earlier years. [We would] travel around the country, sleep on other people’s floors and in broken down vans and every other problem any small band has to deal with.

SP: What did experiences like having to sleep on people’s floors or being in broken down vans teach you as a musician and even together as a group?

Miller: I think for some people it can be too much, so if the music isn’t that much to you that all these little things become unworthy then it’s better to go away and do something else. If it’s enough or the good parts triumph all of the inconveniences, then it’s something that you can keep working and people will want to stick with you.

SP: What was your first performance as a band like?

Miller: One of the first ones we did was at this kind of like city type festival in Denver where there were a lot of different local bands playing and I think playing your own music is something that’s a bit more of an experience than playing someone else’s. It felt good to do. It was quite a long time ago, though, so it’s hard to remember.

SP: What do you wish you would have known when you were first formed as a band that you know now?

Miller: That’s kind of tough because I don’t really see a lot of shortcuts. There’s advice I can give a lot of groups. My main [advice] is to not have that many people in your band. We have five people in our band, and sometimes we wonder how did we even get that done earlier on. I think these days you see a lot of groups coming out with only two to three people in the band and that makes it a lot easier for touring and finances, and things like that like that, but we really developed our sound around our group and we write specifically for that. So, there’s not necessarily anything I would change. I think it’s kind of one of those things were you have to circle the world and end up back where you were to realize where you started.

SP: Were there any other artists that influenced you all in your growth as a band?

Miller: I’d say there’s quite a lot. I think when we’re trying to expand into different sounds, we’ll kind of look around at different artists we like and think what are they doing musically that’s something that we want to learn how to do whether it’s a type of groove or a way a certain composition is put together. I’d say some of the big ones early on for the electronic sound were The Orb and Underworld. Classic bands that have interesting songs and good grooves are Talking Heads, they’re most definitely up there, and for me personally there’s a lot of rock and electronic music that really capitalizes on what I think is kind of classic minimalism in a way. So, in the rock world [bands like] Spoon and Television are groups that we take inspiration from.

SP: What should fans coming to your show this Wednesday expect?

Miller: We like to get a dance party going. I like to look out in the crowd and see everyone getting down.

SP: Is there a certain song that you think will really get the crowd going?

Miller: I think it differs from night to night. We always do just our set and over the course of the tour we’ve already played over 100+ songs, so it really depends on when a song falls in the night. If just everything is clicking and working well, there’s certain songs that if you get it in the right place in the set, it can take people in the audience to a different place. So, I really like, not just a specific song, but when it feels like everyone in the room is on the same page and we’re kind of just guiding the ship.

SP: What do you hope people watching your show will leave thinking or feeling after the set?

Miller: We always want to have people be stunned. I want people to say it’s the best show they’ve ever seen.

SP: What’s next for Lotus?

Miller: We’re almost done working on our next album. We’ve got a lot of tour dates still even after this US tour ends, but that’s the next big studio project. I’m excited to get it out. We’ve put a bunch of work into this year and last year.

SP: Any last words for readers?

Miller: We only get through to Urbana once every few years, so don’t miss the chance to see us live.

Catch Lotus at the Canopy Club on Wednesday with Turbo Suit.

More Articles