Interview

Jesse Miller, Lotus

By Kevin Alan Lamb

The next time you’re gearing up to jump around to some jamtronica courtesy of Lotus, you may want to leave your rage stick (totem) behind.

“If I made a totem it would be so small that it didn’t block anyone’s view. Totems are like leaning your chair back on the plane, it’s the worse,” Jesse Miller of Lotus revealed in our recent interview at Summer Set.

While I will carry my Good Sign totem for life, there is something to be said about being a conscious-concert-goer. No matter the journey behind you, distance driven, or sacrifice made to experience the music you love, try your best not to let your good time infringe upon another’s. Few places on this earth rival the richness of healing and community found in the live music scene; do not let your ego or perceived need to rage bring ruin to our sacred temple.

“The crowd makes all the difference; you feel it on the stage. When people are invested in the music, it makes or breaks a fest. Some weekends can be life changing. Such a strong sense of community through music.”

There is a fine line between the music and those dancing to it; a mutual dependence and energy exchange which produces a pulse powerful enough to move mountains, if we so choose to believe it could.

“I’ve listened to Talking Heads since I was young, and still enjoy them. It’s funny going through periods, early on in college, Miles Davis, ‘Fusion’, Bitches Brew, Dark Magnus… the energy and creativity in that music, it’s not super approachable, the melody, a lot of improv, but it’s real and nothing subtle.”

Many find home in the music they love because it is there for them when they need it most. At a young age the Counting Crows instilled in me the simple reality that we all want to believe in something, even if we don’t know what.

“Believe in me, help me believe in anything, ‘cuz I want to be someone who believes.”

Often regarded as an electronic jam band, Lotus’ sound cannot be defined and confined; it must be absorbed and tangoed with. A multi-genre band, Lotus vibes are delivered with a dash of rock, electronica, jazz, hip-hop, and funk. While their origins leaned heavily on funk, rock, and jazz with improvisational styles comparable to Phish, The Allman Brothers, and The Dead, Miller believes Lotus’ sound comes from the roots of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with electronic beats.

“I don’t understand the idea of ‘Jam Bands’, and why Lotus is grouped with Yonder Mountain String Band.”

Their latest album (2014), Gilded Age, the fellas wanted to occupy the powerful and pervasive place in the human mind that can see erosion and cracks, yet envision a palace. With a focus on simple organic instruments: drum, bass, guitar, piano, percussion, played in a live room, the album shares reflective happiness and the joy of the impermanent.

“There is an incredible wealth inequality in our economy. The Gilded Age is more about something hiding under another layer, beyond questions, and policy moves.”

Since their conception at Goshen College in 1999 Lotus has recorded 12 albums, toured Japan four times, and played a plethora of themed shows including “The Nelson Way,” where all band members dressed up as Willie Nelson.

“We’ve never played the Gorge, and I’d love to play the Hollywood Bowl,” Miller offered as the venues remaining on his Bucket List.

He may not be a sports fan, but given the chance, Miller would love to spend a day with “The Greatest”.

“I don’t follow many sports, but I’d love to meet Mohammed Ali. I’m not even a boxing fan, but he walked in some crazy circles, and had crazy good energy.”

When he’s not funking up festival and concert stages under the lights, Miller enjoys breaking a mental sweat as well.

“I read a lot. Currently on a mid century authors kick. I appreciate their styles. Norman Mailer, Graham Greene, Jonathan Franzen. Musically, I look up to people who have done it for a long time, like Tortoise.”

Typically when superpowers enter the conversation, teleportation, flight, and invisibility come to mind, but Lotus fans should be encouraged with Miller’s desired power.

“If I could have a superpower, it would be to never make a wrong choice writing music.”

Lotus has found a home headlining Summer Dance Music Festival at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, OH for six out of the festival’s seven years, with number eight just around the bend.

“At Summerdance everyone is really familiar with our music so it gives us opportunities to break out old things we don’t play much.”

The next time you find yourself bathing in Lotus vibes, try to ensure it’s not at another’s expense. We all came to dance.

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