Since the band’s inception, view Lotus has explored the musical grounds, valeologist taking a little bit from here and a little from there, until they eventually moved off the map and created their own sound.  Most notably known as a multi-genre jam band, they incorporate a wide range of styles including elements of rock, electronic music, jazz, funk, and more.

Because of their style and stage presence, they’re a must-see live band.  Not every jam band has the ability to master improvisation the way Lotus does, which is why the crowd is always dancing the night away.  Not only do they have a knack for keeping their fans on their feet, but they also keep them on their toes since their sound is constantly evolving.  Their latest self-titled album, for instance, has a heavier electronic influence than their previous releases.

To coincide with their upcoming performance at Catskill Chill Music Festival, had the chance to talk with Lotus’ bassist Jesse Miller about the progression of their music, band dynamics, their album’s cover art, and more.

Viral Fashion: Lotus has really mastered fusing different elements of sound and genres, creating a wide-ranging style but still maintaining your musical integrity. How would you explain the progress of your sound?

Jesse Miller: I think the biggest change from the earliest years to now is a much more focused composition.  I think some of our earlier stuff tended to be a little more open ended, I guess that’s partly describing the style but I think that’s an element that has kind of led toward us doing things a little bit differently, just really focusing on the composition allowed us to put more focus on the importance of the composition and not just something that sets up some kind of extended propagation.


VF: When did you start working with the sampler and other electronic effects? And where do you pull the samples from?

Jesse Miller: I think I may have first brought a sampler on the stage in maybe 2005, and it was something that’s increased in importance over the years.  I think with a lot of when we start to try out different equipment, at first its kind of a novelty and there’s this one sound that we can add in, and then more and more we start to write to what we can do with that.  For instance, Luke started off playing only guitar and then playing a little bit of synthesizer and started doing that more and more, and now he plays way more keyboard than guitar and I think it’s similar with the sampler.  At first we used to have it for some affects, and then we started writing things like the things we were doing in the studio where we’d bring in string parts or horn parts or do affects work that is pretty impossible to recreate live, so we would use a sampler to do that.  In one way it is electronic in the sense that it’s a way to get different sounds, but it doesn’t always lead to a very electronic sound.  We’ll use that [the sampler] for parts that are instruments we don’t play, or voices or singers that we can’t bring on tour.


VF: Your music really resonates with every emotion, bringing about deeper levels of thought. Since you guys are infamous for improvisation, what role does spontaneity have on a song‘s overall vibe?

Jesse Miller: I think in the live setting it’s a way to kind of be able to take more chances as a band and do more things, and surprise ourselves and hopefully take the audience along with us, but I think that the real connection of that emotional element in music is something that’s more in the composition than the improvisation.  We always place a lot of importance on melody as opposed to just solely groove.  We want something that’s gonna make people dance, but we want these melodic elements and other elements of the composition that I think really bring everything together in this package that doesn’t just make you want to dance but moves you in other ways.


VF: What are the band dynamics like during song writing and recording?

Jesse Miller: Myself and Luke are the primary writers and we actually we have pretty much all the duty of work as well, so it’s a lot of us just going back and forth on things that we’ve written, refining them then bringing it to the band to bring it to life in the practice room and then on stage and in the studio.

VF: You have interesting artwork for your album covers. Who are the artists?

Jesse Miller: There have been a bunch of different artists.  I think one thing we’ve done for the last few releases is look for something that’s not just graphic in nature, but something that was real at some point and didn’t just exist on a computer screen,  so the last album (the self-titled album) was a series of Polaroids that I found that I just really liked the overall vibe of.  These Polaroid pictures were frayed at the edges and you can see where some of the Polaroid chemicals kind of bled out at the edges and I thought that gave it a really cool look.  For Oil On Glass / Feather On Wood we had Andy Gilmore,  most people in the design world will be familiar with that name, he’s known for his geometric graphic design, but we got these images, one was like oil psychedelic projections type of look and the other one was an illustration of a crow on wood.  This guy is a really amazing well known designer, but we picked some pieces that were a little bit outside of his normal range.  Another one, Hammerstrike, was an embroidery piece.  It’s kind of hard to see on the CD but if you get the vinyl you can really tell it’s an actual piece that we kind of worked with the designer to come up with the idea, and then had her do all the embroidery and put together these fabrics, and that texture was definitely important to us.  It’s a pretty obvious metaphor for what Lotus tries to do as far as bringing together your normal rock instruments with this electronic sound.


VF: What’s the most difficult part about being on tour?

Jesse Miller: Traveling can be exhausting, but I think the hardest part is sometimes just those long stretches when you just have to wait for something, waiting in an airport to catch a plane or waiting on the bus before sound check.  Sometimes that’s when you don’t have access to do the things that you would normally do, like those areas where it’s really hard to get any work done, but there’s not much you can really do.  I think that’s a lot harder than the exhaustion of travel and going to a different place everyday that part’s kind of exciting.


VF: The best part about being on tour?

Jesse Miller: Playing music as much as I do.  If I’m off the road, it’s right back into the studio and working on things there. When we’re on tour 5-6 nights a week and we’re getting on stage and being able to put on a show, that’s a pretty amazing thing


VF: What has been the strangest encounter you’ve had while on tour?

Jesse Miller: I meet a lot of interesting people back in the day when we were still touring in a van, and we weren’t making any money and crashing on people’s floors.  We would meet a lot of interesting characters.  There was this guy somewhere in humble county who lived in this little place maybe 200 yards away from the beach, I don’t think he had been to the beach in a couple years, and he would just grow his marijuana in this room and made these weird videos that compared George Bush to Satan.  I don’t know… whenever you run into characters like that, that are in a very patheditcally sealed world, I think it’s pretty interesting and I feel like I don’t have much in common with them.


VF: Do u meet a lot of characters when you’re on tour?

Jesse Miller: Oh yeah.


VF: What do you like to do when you’re not working on your music?

Jesse Miller: I like to read… I like to cook…. I lived in Philly and I really liked to bike around there.  The biggest thing I’m really into is American craft beer. It’s nice to travel and taste a lot of the local beers.


VF: What’s your favorite beer?

Jesse Miller: I don’t’ know if I have one favorite… but I’m really into west coast style IPAs, so maybe I’ll pick… there’s one called IPA from Ballast Point called Sculpin that blew my mind a few weeks ago.


VF: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

Jesse Miller: You have to be in it for the love of the art.  Following art as your career is a really difficult thing for anybody, so it’s not a good way to make money, and only a select few really do make good money from it, but if you truly love whatever art that you’re doing, then you should be able to do that as much as you can, and if you can make that into a career, that’s great and if not as long as you can keep art in your life I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that either.


VF: What’s on the horizon for Lotus fans?

Jesse Miller: Shows in September… a couple that we’re really excited about, Return to Red Rock and the the big philly show, September 15 at FDR Park in Philly, a few more tour dates following that we have a lot of studio projects in the works too.  I’m not sure when peole will be able to hear those, but we’re definitely going to honor a lot of our new music.


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by Allie Gangi