Lotus Returns to Morgantown
Interview with Jesse Miller
Words & Photos by: Nicholas Hess
Nicholas Hess, photographer and multimedia producer, had the opportunity to talk with Jesse Miller, bassist for Lotus. The interview took place before their sold-out show at Mainstage Morgantown before doors opened on Tuesday, February 16.
Jesse was open and receptive to all questions, and we appreciate him taking the time to talk with us. I arrived before the music started up to speak with Jesse. We covered their latest projects, touring and life on the road.
After a stellar opening act by Michal Menert & the Pretty Fantastics, Lotus took the stage at Mainstage Morgantown with vigor, opening the show with a crowd favorite, ‘Harps’ which quickly set the mood for a dance party.
Mainstage Morgantown, opened it’s doors in 2015 and has wasted no time in bringing big names, such as Lotus, to Morgantown, West Virginia. Bringing a sold-out show, the house was packed Tuesday night with an intimate setting and the energy that ensued throughout was enough to turn any bad day into a magical evening. Leaving all worries behind, fans were cheering with a deafening sound and smiling as they moved to the beat of the music.
Jesse Miller, Bassist for Lotus
Your latest single eats the light features Gabe Otto of Pan Astral. Can you discuss how the recording session went?
It was a song that I was working on for a while. Even though its pretty simplified, I think that we worked up a bunch of different ideas for it, and then kind of started stripping it back to the core elements. Some of the basic things, were ya know. I just wanted this really driving competitive groove. So we worked out the music first.
It’s mostly a drum-based guitar groove, but there’s a few synth things I did with my modular in their. Once I had the music going, I was recording some vocal parts as demos. I hadn’t had a singer picked out, but I thought Gabe would be good at it. He’s got his own recording setup, so basically I just sent him my scratch recordings.
His range is a bit higher than mine so he shifted some things around and we went back and forth with it for a few times to like get it where we wanted it. I think he understood the vibe of the song and was able to get their pretty quick.
Was there a good vibe in the recording studio with Gabe?
We were working remotely because I work out of Philadelphia and he’s in Colorado. We typically record the band in a full studio in Philly to tape, but then some of the extra stuff, like some of the synth stuff, I’ll just do it at home in my own time, like the vocals, Gabe did those on his own time.
I’m just piecing them into our recordings, checking them out, having him make certain adjustments, re-recording, and send them back. Same thing for the back up vocals. I think I did my part at home, and we had Chuck do another part in the studio, but it all came together pretty quick after that. We were working on it for probably about two years I’d say.
So you guys are performing in Morgantown tonight. Do you have any fond or not so fond memories of ever being in Morgantown?
Well, we’ve played here twice before and its always been interesting shows over at the Met (Metropolitan Theatre), which both those shows were sold out, but you can’t drink there, so it was a little different vibe than a normal Lotus show.
I think both other times it was freezing cold but we’ve had some fun times here. We did a Halloween show here the last time we were through and did some like funk covers and actually our tour manager came out and sang ‘She Blinded Me With Silence’, by Thomas Dolby. That was pretty funny, but yeah we’ve been through Morgantown a few times.
With it being an election year and with many of the younger generations having reservations about voting could you give us a little insight on why you think you should or should not vote?
Yeah, I definitely think you should (vote).
I mean if you just look at the pure numbers, the young people are missing a huge opportunity to have their voice heard in elections. It’s something that’s frustrating to me. I think some people look at it and they say “oh everything’s to establishment” and they don’t want to pick a side one way or the other and then complain horribly when things go more conservatively or civil liberties are taken away.
The numbers show that if a hundred percent of young people that could vote did, it would sway every election. So, I’m all for people getting out there and making their voice heard whatever that vote is. Among young people it’s overwhelmingly shown to be more on the liberal end, so yeah definitely get out there and vote.
I’d say especially in local elections and smaller elections too, people get all hyped up about presidential elections, and then forget that so many things in your personal life are effected by who controls the school board, who your local representative is, so I think that’s just as important.
The Okeechobee Music Festival is coming up in a month. Lotus recently took over their Instagram account. Did you have any part in that takeover and what did that consist of?
Yeah, I had a few things on there, I was involved. It was just one day while we were in New York just showing a little bit behind the scenes of tour. Even in New York tour isn’t that glamorous, a lot of it most of the day is spent inside a dark cold place or setting up for the show and getting ready.
We had a good time in New York and a cool venue but that’s kind of the reality of tour.
People often think life on the road, traveling and seeing the world is glamorous, but how much time do you actually get to spend exploring the areas your in?
It definitely depends on the schedule as far as how much we get to do other stuff. Sometimes as much as getting to go to a good restaurant after sound check before the show is good or if we have a day off we try to have a spot where we can do some cool stuff in. During a typical show day there’s maybe a couple hours before the load in starts and a few hours after sound check. We stay pretty busy working on the day-to-day stuff.
With a packed summer tour are you guys going to have any time to record in the studio?
Yeah, definitely. I’m sure it’ll even fill in a little bit more but we have some pretty big chunks of time off between when this tour ends and when any real significant other touring starts so yeah Ill definitely be writing and recording this year as always.
Lotus’ music is already groundbreaking as it stands. How do you keep the edge when planning a new album?
I think it’s definitely in composition. Writing things that kind of take music to a new spot. Even if it’s drawing on other things we’ve done or somewhat related, and just pushing them forward a little bit trying out different ideas. There’s a lot of different styles or ways of writing that I’m interested in and different instruments.
Even though we’ve obviously written a lot of music and record a lot of music it feels like there’s still many things we haven’t explored so I don’t feel like I’m running out of spaces to move into to experiment in.
I’ve always grown up hearing about this special bond that is shared between twins. Being a twin yourself, do you feel as if that claim is true? Do you feel as if it adds chemistry being in a band with your twin brother?
I think to some degree. I don’t know if it’s necessarily the product of being a twin or just growing up together.
Luke and I have some similar tastes on things, some similar ideas. We’ve been writing and working on music together for a long time, so there’s definitely certain things that I’m more drawn to, or he’s more drawn to, other things aesthetically.
Whenever were are working on something or if I’m writing something I always make sure that Luke’s involved at the end with arrangement to make sure we get on the same page. To make sure that he thinks it’s working before we take it to the group. I think one thing it really allows, is that we’re pretty free to criticize each other on a composition until we both think it’s really working.
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing instrumental heavy songs as opposed to lyrical and how do you then assign a title or a name to such song?
I think that the challenge, for writing instrumentals, is thinking about it as a song. I think it’s pretty easy to get to a certain vibe or groove, and not have a really catchy melody or a form to the song that makes sense. I kind of think of if you turn on any of these satellite radio stations that are oriented toward down tempo hip hop, or like more new agey stuff, it all kind of just floats by, and you don’t remember any of it.
Whenever we’re writing whether its instrumental, or something lyrical, we want there to be hooks, things that people can’t get out of their head, things that are like structuring the song. That’s something we always think about when we are writing.
As far as naming, sometimes it’s easier than others. Sometimes when you’re starting a Pro Tools session, you have to just put a name on it just to save it. So before you’ve even written a note, you put something on it, and that can kind of stick.
Other times I’m trying to evoke something with the name that I think is approaching something that the song is doing. I think words are always going to fall a bit short of describing music so that’s not what a title should be. I think it should just kind of evoke something that gets in the similar realm of the music if that makes sense.
What do you find to be the most rewarding when it comes to your career as a musician and touring like you do?
Just being able to work on art as a career. Most of that is writing and recording music, but I work on things like graphics/visuals for the band and videos. All kinds of things. I’m just interested in art in general. For me, the music and the composing is the highest form of that. Just being able to do that as a career is the best part for sure.
How do you think the Internet has revolutionized the music industry and do you think it makes it easier or harder for the artist and the band?
I think it makes it both easier and harder, because we can reach everyone through the Internet, but so can some dude in his basement.
Now you’re not only competing with things that are new, you’re competing with the entire history of recorded music as far as someone going online and saying ‘what should I listen to right now.’ So, it becomes more difficult to get attention, but you can also spread in ways you maybe couldn’t have before.
The one thing to me that is disheartening about it is that when people are only listening to music via streams or mp3s. They’re really missing a huge portion of the quality of a recording. It’s cool to see the vinyl thing coming back and a little more push back toward more quality sounds. Stuff has just become so digital especially in the EDM world. Being able to just connect with fans directly through social media platforms is pretty awesome. We weren’t able to do that pre-Internet. I think it’s definitely a double-edged sword.
What excites you most about the upcoming spring/summer is it the weather, future shows, collaborations or covers to bust out?
For me, after this tour ends well have one of the largest chunks of time, with nothing scheduled, that we’ve had in awhile. I haven’t booked any solo shows. Sometimes I start filling us up with solo shows or like other projects and right now it’s pretty open. That gives me the chance to kind of choose some projects to work on and do some different things so I’m excited about that.
Is there anything you would like to add before we wrap up?
We talked about ‘Eats the Light’ and that’s leading toward a new album that should be out some time later this spring that were really excited about.
We’ve also been debuting some new songs over tour that are unrelated to the album. We just put out a new recording, of a song called ‘Cold Facts’ that people can check out on our Soundcloud.
Were are always working on new stuff. Sometimes the albums you finish them and it’s a while before they come out so we have almost two albums worth of music recorded that no ones ever heard yet. There might be another single before the album, but we’re not going to play any of the stuff from the album until it comes out because we want them to hear those versions first. We usually alter them up a little bit live…..or a lot. We’ve got a lot of new things in the works so just keep an ear to the ground on the Lotus front.
Stream Lotus live from Morgantown 02/16/16 via archive.org
Lotus – Setlist 02/16/16 | Morgantown, West Virginia
02. Lead Pipe >
03. Golden Ghost
05. In An Outline >
06. Space In Between
07. Age Of Inexperience
08. Break Build Burn
09. Cold Facts
10. Contagion >
11. Ghost N Stuff >
12. Thru The Mirror >
14. Jump Off
15. 72 Hours Awake
Lotus on the Road
Feb 20 – Lifestyle Communities Pavilion – Columbus, OH – Tickets
Feb 27 – House Of Blues – Cleveland, OH – Tickets
Mar 04-06 – Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival – Okeechobee, FL – Tickets / Lineup / Info
May 27-29 – Summer Camp Music Festival – Chillicothe, Illinois – Tickets
June 03-04 – Mountain Music Fest – Minden, West Virginia – Tickets / Info