Lotus hits Boston for two nights at the Paradise

BMS talks with bassist Jesse Miller

, Staff Writer

Now in their tenth year together, Philadelphia-based outfit Lotus have really hit their stride. After meandering through genres including rock, post-rock, jam and electronica, the group has hit a stylistic stride, amalgamating all of these influences into a cohesive and interesting sound, the results of which become plain when you see them perform: songs flow organically from one section to another, weaving through differing soundscapes seamlessly, all the while maintaining a sound that still fundamentally sounds like Lotus.

“Me and my brother Luke,” explains bassist Jesse Miller, “we do most of the writing, and we just always keep trying out different sounds, changing the methods we work with, [both in] recording and composing. One big change was that a couple years ago, the members [of the band] moved to different cities…we used to compose with less detail – we’d get a sketch and try to put it together in rehearsal, but when we all moved to different cities, we made really detailed demos that effectively sound like finished recordings.”

It makes sense that being apart from each other would allow for more detailed compositions. With less time in the studio, more can be put into each piece, so that the brothers can compose everything “right down to the drum fills,” which makes it easier to learn them in rehearsal. “It really changed the nature of the compositions in some way, and we got to really focus on the songwriting itself.”

Last month, Lotus released a pair of EPs, Oil on Glass and Feather on Wood. The two discs differ quite a bit from each other, Feather being more post-rock oriented, focusing on  texture and an organic build to each song, Oil being more groove-based. As far as where that sound is coming from, Miller says a lot of the material dates back to two or three years ago. “Back then, I’d say Explosions In The Sky was a pretty big influence,” he says. “Four Tet is always there, Built To Spill too, even though I don’t think we sound anything like Built To Spill.”

But why two EPs instead of one full album? “As we’re sequencing it, I think of sides of LPs, and how [the music] would break down on vinyl,” explains Miller. “The material just broke down into two categories, and they seemed to work well as separate EPs…as we were putting it together, we thought it would be kind of a waste of material just to print two separate CDs, so really the only medium that they’re completely separated in is the LP format.”

The band is experimenting in more ways than just within the studio. On the west coast leg of their current tour, the band instituted a pay-what-you-want ticket pricing scheme for a number of shows. Basically, fans could pay as little as a dollar, and as much as twenty, for a ticket. Paying fifteen dollars or more would net you a digital copy of the new EPs. “It took some pitching on our agent’s end to get them on-board,” Miller says of the venues whose bottom line may have been affected by such an idea. “We got everyone on-board, and at the end of the day, in a lot of ways it’s a promotional move.”

The result was a win-win for everyone as the band sold out their San Francisco show, and played to an audience of nearly 1,300 in Portland. Because it’s harder for the east coast band to play out west as often, the band thought it would be nice to offer them such a unique treat while they were there. Miller does point out, however, that “it’s not really a sustainable method of touring”, which makes sense, since it would be pretty tough to put together an entirely profitable tour if every show across the country was offering dollar tickets. On the other hand, “for Lotus, the live show is definitely an experience that you have to witness, and a lot more people were able to check us out versus if it had been a normal fifteen or twenty-five dollar ticket.”

Known more as a kind of jam band more than anything else, Lotus is now finding ways to mix their old sound with the newer post-rock material. “I think every show we’ll usually play two or three of those tracks, but we definitely keep it pretty dance-y at the shows.” The new tunes do allow for some extended improvisation, but Miller explains that “for the most part they tend to be a little shorter in nature. If we do any really extended improv, like over five minutes, it usually comes from some kind of dance beat. And a lot of the new more post-rock stuff is pretty highly-composed. Quite a number of those tracks we play with no improvisation at all.”

Lotus will be performing at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club tonight and tomorrow. Fans heading to both shows can expect to hear two completely different sets. “Luke usually designs the setlists,” explains Milller. “So some might lean a little more in one direction, but usually we like to mix it up throughout the show, move between dance-y stuff and more post-rock and rock-influenced songs. We always work in a nice mixture.”

Whatever the setlists, Lotus’ two-night stint at the Dise is certain to be a great show. “It’s been a while since we’ve played there, so we’re excited to be there.”

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