Interview: Jesse Miller of Lotus October 07, 2015 15:17

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We couldn't be more pleased to parter in promotion with our friends at Creatures of the Night Music & Art Festival, which occurs this weekend in Adams, TN.  The first year festival boasts a stellar lineup, headlined by the likes of Lotus, Keller Williams, Papadosio, Dopapod, Emancipator Ensemble, Zoogma, and Wax Tailor.  We caught up with Jesse Miller  (guitar/keyboards) of Lotus earlier today for a little extra insight on the band, as well as the band's thoughts on the upcoming festival.
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Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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Lotus was born Indiana, while attending Goshen College.  What led to the formation of the band?  When did you guys start to realize this would become much more than a college band?
 
Jesse:  Luke (Miller) and I met Mike Rempel (guitar) and our original drummer Steve Clemens at a camp in Colorado before college. We had similar music interests and played together on acoustic guitars and hand drums. The idea to start a band was born there, and when Luke and Mike started at Goshen College (where Steve was already attending), they put a band together. The following summer the band moved out to Colorado and I joined on bass. At that point we started writing, rehearsing and playing shows on a regular basis.
 
We were very serious about the band from the beginning. We would rehearse 4-5 times a week and played tons shows while Luke and I were working on our music degrees at Goshen College.
 
The sound of Lotus is extremely diverse, constantly incorporating elements of rock, electronica, jazz, jam, hip-hop, funk and other influences. Who were some of your biggest influences that helped shape your style of play?
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Jesse:  Yes, we draw influence from many places. Some of the biggest are probably Talking Heads, Herbie Hancock (70s fusion era), Underworld and The Orb. Great music isn't limited to genre, good composition and interesting music come from many places so we pull from anything that moves us. I'd even expand beyond music to include film, art, design and literature as influences.
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It's been just over a year since the release of your most recent album, Gilded Age.  Have you guys had a different approach towards each studio release?    How do you ultimately decide on the tracks and their placement within each album?
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Luke:  Every album has a different tone. For Gilded Age we kept the instrumentation mostly in the rock realm. Almost no synths. We want an album to be cohesive and have a natural sequencing. Some strong tracks can be left off an album because they don't fit in well with the other tracks, but often that ends up spurring another EP or album. 
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That happened with Monks. We had Mr. Lif on a couple tracks while we were recording Build. They didn't seem to work for that album, but we just kept expanding the hip-hop collaboration idea and eventually ended up with the full album Monks.
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I'm always interested to hear how the songwriting process works within the bands I follow.  How is the songwriting balanced within the band?  Can you share an example from a song in the current catalog?
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Luke and I write all the music. Usually one of us works an idea and then there is a lot of back and forth between us about arrangement. Most often the main writer of a song is following the whole process including producing in the studio through the end, but occasionally both of us will write parts for one song. After the initial demo is solidified it goes out to the band to learn parts and we'll start rehearsing or recording. 
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I usually prefer to write by playing all the parts myself. I figure if I can pull off a part on a keyboard or guitar Luke and Mike will be able to play it.
 
There is no doubt that Lotus is a premier act in the world of live music. You've been playing in many of the most prestigious venues around the country for several years.  How does the band balance out the rigorous tour schedule?
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We don't want to burn ourselves out on the road so we limit the amount of big tours. Touring can be physically exhausting and we want to have time off the road to write and record so the band can progress musically. 
 
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Lotus scheduled to headline Creatures of the Night in Adams, TN on Friday night.  Every band seems to have their own unique way of planning a set.  How do you guys go about the process?
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Jesse:  Luke writes our set lists. It is a combination of anticipating what kind of crowd it will be, looking at what we've played recently or previously in the market and creating a flow to the show. Drawing the crowd in early and finishing strong are always key. Knowing when to work in a more obscure song from deep in the catalog or a cover to keep the crowd listening close can make a set more memorable.
 
Creatures of the Night is one of the many new music festivals to surface in 2015.  The lineup is stacked with many of the jam scenes biggest acts.  While many new festivals surface each year, we seem to lose several as well.  How do you feel that Creatures can solidify itself as a mainstay in the festival circuit?
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The artists booked are the initial draw for any new festival. But, the experience created on site - the grounds, staging, sound and crowd - those are the things that make festival goers loyal to a festival.
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