Jesse Miller of Lotus:
The TVD Interview

In 1999, a group of college guys got a band together with the desire to create some groove music. At the beginning, the group was funk-based with vocals, but after realizing their strengths didn’t lie in singing, the band progressed to an instrumental outfit experimenting with dance and electronic styles, creating a new kind of jam band that is known today as Lotus.

Over 12 years later, Lotus is a staple on the worldwide festival circuit and is continuously touring, playing clubs and theats as well. Lotus will be playing at Nashville’s new pride-and-joy venue, Marathon Music Works, on March 2nd.

We recently chatted with Jesse Miller, who’s on Bass and Sampler for Lotus, about everything from festivals and theme shows to his side project and his love for vinyl.

Do you produce your own samples, or do you dig around and borrow?

Produce our own. It’s usually a type of thing that we can’t pull off live. Sometimes we go and record horn parts or live strings, or do different noise manipulation type of things or effects that there’s no other good way to play except triggering the sounds.

How do you feel about people recording your live shows and sharing the audio online?

We’re fine with it. Actually, it’s becoming much more of a rarity. I’d say about five to seven years ago there was more of a culture of people recording. Now that the technology has advanced to the point where we can do our own multi-track recordings every night and release them within a couple of days, that’s really falling off, just because the quality of our recordings are so much better than anything anyone can produce with a pair of microphones in a room. I think that people would rather just pay the ten dollars and get that high quality.

Do you feel Lotus is more at home in a festival setting or local venues?

I think we are comfortable in both. We’re definitely heavy on the festival circuit. That’s what we do all summer long, but it’s definitely special playing in theatres and clubs.

One of the main differences is the production, where we are there all day and can really control it. We design the show and don’t have to work around a bunch of other bands and the craziness of festival schedule; but the other thing is, when it’s your own headlining show, the fans are there specifically for you, and that just changes the nature of the dynamic between the band and crowd.

Since “Festival Season” is coming up, do you have a favorite festival?

I wouldn’t say one particular that’s a favorite. One that was really unique was the Rothbury Festival in Michigan.

You know, it’s funny. In some ways festivals are very unique based on their location and the type of music they tend to book, but they’re also similar, and we see so many of the same people…fans, other bands, and people that are involved with the production. In some ways, they kind of all blend into one big thing. It becomes like…’well, we’ll see you guys next weekend at some other big stage somewhere else in the country.’

Sometimes you guys do theme shows; do you have anything planned that you can share?

Nothing coming up in the near future; usually those are reserved for special shows like Halloween or New Year’s Eve. As you can maybe imagine, they take a hell of a lot of work to put together – mostly coming up with the theme. It’s always a struggle to come up with something that we think is – A. unique, and B., can work well for our instrumentation and kind of sound. The hardest part is coming up with the concept in the first place.

What was your favorite theme show?

I think the David Bowie one. I was familiar with Bowie’s music, but when you have to learn a bunch of music from an artist, it involves really diving into the details of the writing. I was just really getting into the music, and then, the costume designer we worked with killed it for that show; made some detailed Bowie costumes, so that one was pretty fun.

Tell us about your Beard o Bees project.

It’s just my solo project. It’s electronic-based, pretty dance-oriented, but it’s where I can kind of step away from Lotus for a minute and work on my production skills, do remixes, and explore the kind of weird synth music that doesn’t always work for Lotus.

What kind of equipment do you use for production?

My main DAW is ProTools. I use a lot of analog synthesizers; a Roland Juno, a Moog, a Prophet, and some effects pedals, and then I also do some stuff inside the box. My aesthetics kind of lean towards that analog sound; my first choice is always to go with the hardware, rather than the software.

The self-titled album is now available on double vinyl. Why is releasing on vinyl important to you?

For me, it’s ultimately sound quality. I think it’s the best medium for sound quality that’s available to us. It’s kind of a sad world that we live in, when everybody demands that their video be as high definition as possible, but we’ve gone from vinyl to CD to MP3 and at every stage we’re getting worse and worse quality.

So, it’s really frustrating when you put tons of work into going into a studio and really making sure your album sounds great, and the first thing that happens is you get rid of 9/10ths of the information, and then it’s distributed online. I think if people really want to experience the music, the right way to do it is on vinyl. Of course, it’s not very portable, so we have digital version available, but I definitely recommend and push the vinyl.

What can the Nashville crowd expect from the Lotus show coming to town on March 2nd?

The shows are definitely high energy and pretty ‘dancy.’ I’d say wear some comfortable shoes and get ready to get sweaty.

I hear the light show is pretty good too.

Oh yeah, there’ll be a large light show.

Click here to get your tickets for Friday night’s show. For more info on Lotus, visit their website. 

All photos: B Hockensmith Photography

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