Interview: Jesse Miller of Lotus at the Peach Music Festival
It was Saturday, August 17 and the Peach Music Festival was in full swing. As Bob Weir and RatDog played their second set of the weekend, I snuck away and ventured to the woods behind the artists’ area to find a quiet spot to sit down and chat with Jesse Miller, bassist and sampler player of the five-piece instrumental titan of the festival circuit, Lotus. Here’s what Jesse had to say about Lotus’ travels, their festival appearances, and their new album Monks.
Ali Kramen: How are you doing today Jesse? [smiles]
Jesse Miller: [smiles] Alright.
AK: So I guess we’ll just start into it. You’ve been all over the place this summer. Festival-wise, you’ve been to Washington, you’ve been to New York for Camp Bisco, you’ve been to Michigan for Electric Forest, you’ve been to Japan [smiles]…
AK: …for Fuji Rock. It’s been a wide variety of music genres, and you’ve been playing to divergent crowds in terms of culture as well as music tastes. How does it feel to go into all of these different kinds of festivals and have one of the biggest crowds at every single one?
JM: You know, the crowds seem…a lot of the stuff in the States is like a fairly similar kind of demographic, a lot of younger people. Especially, we’ve been doing a lot of festivals that are pretty electronic-oriented, so a lot of young people at those, people who are dance fans or electronic fans. We are kind of the rock band at those. But then something like Peach Fest is fun because we are definitely the most electronic and dancey band here. So, it’s fun to represent the far ends of whatever musical spectrum is at a festival. I think it makes your band stand out a little bit more.
AK: For sure. Do you have a particularly unforgettable moment from one of the U.S. festivals you’ve done so far?
JM: Well, I think Electric Forest was just really incredible. That venue is amazing, and I think just the Lotus set at Electric Forest was, you know, one of the peaks. There was a great crowd, and I really like going out to that venue, so I had a good time there.
AK: Definitely one of my favorite of your sets this summer as well. And Japan, you went there as well, to do the Fuji Festival…
JM: Yes, Fuji Rock.
AK: Right. And you guys had wanted to do that festival for awhile, right?
JM: Yeah, it’s one of the big festivals, or probably the biggest rock festival in Japan, so, you know, that was always on our radar, and this is the fifth time we’ve gone over to Japan. So it was a long way to go to play ninety minutes of music, but it was great to go and see it. Hopefully we can get back there sometime in the next couple years.
AK: Was it great to finally get to play the festival after wanting to for so long?
JM: Yeah, and the crowd was great. Sometimes…the Japanese crowds are usually really attentive, but sometimes they can be just a little tepid. But the fans were going crazy during our set, there was…I think people were moshing, and there was some crowd surfing – it was getting wild! Security didn’t even know how they should respond; I don’t think I saw anything like that the rest of the time we were there. So, that was really cool to see, people just really feeling it.
AK: [Laughs] That’s great! And you had some time off while you were in Japan too – did you do anything fun or go anywhere special?
JM: I just basically ended up having a day in Tokyo, so I was cruising the city for the day. And then I had one day at the Fuji Rock Festival before we played. So I checked out a few bands, I saw…who was playing….Foals, Bjork, and the Savages, so saw some music and just cruised around and checked it out.
AK: Nice. How was the beer scene there?
JM: Umm, it’s not very good [laughs]…it’s getting better, but you kind of really have to seek out the good beers. Fuji Rock was sponsored I think by Heineken, so that was… [laughs]
JM: that was mostly what was available there, which is not really my favorite [smiles].
AK: That’s a shame [laughs]. So you guys have been on the road a ton. Obviously, you just went to Japan, but also you had your biggest nationwide tour earlier this year…
AK: And now you’ve been hitting festival after festival all over the place. It seems like you’ve hardly had a chance to breathe, let alone to enjoy being at home. Do you miss Philly when you are all over the place like this?
JM: Yeah. But actually, over the summer I’ve had a decent amount of time back at home. I mean, we are out a lot of weekends for festivals, but during the week I’m normally there. You know, I really enjoy Philly, and luckily it hasn’t seemed like I’ve been gone too much this summer.
AK: That’s good to hear. Let’s talk about Peach for a second. Some of the bands playing have been around since we were little kids – the Allman Brothers since before we were born. Did you listen to them growing up? And how does it feel to share a stage with them now?
JM: Yeah, definitely listened to quite a bit of Allman Brothers. I just always loved their…I mean, obviously their guitar hooks are great, but they always just have really great grooves and it always felt really natural the way they played. We’ve played with the Allman Brothers a number of times before, I’d say probably four or five times at various festivals, and the last time I saw them they sounded great, so they’re still doing it.
AK: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing to see. So you have played some really unique festivals as well, and a major one coming up that comes to mind is Jam Cruise. I know you guys have played that festival before, are you looking forward to going back?
JM: Yeah, it’s fun. It’s always a little bit weird because it lasts for six days and we usually only play two of those, and I get really antsy about not being able to do studio work when I’m not playing, so…
AK: You need to get back to business? [laughs]
JM: [laughs] yeah. But it’s always a really fun time, and I have a lot of friends that do it every year, so yeah, it’s unlike anything else.
AK: And coming up in two weeks you guys are returning to Nelson Ledges for SummerDance…
JM: [smiles] Yes.
AK: And you were there for four years, but last year you weren’t there, so your fans are really excited you are coming back [smiles]…
JM: [smiles] Oh, I know.
AK: …How do you feel about it?
JM: Umm, it will be fun. It’s always nice to do two nights in a row somewhere, and that place is definitely a pretty unique spot, so yeah, I think it should be fun. It’s in the middle of a five-show run, so we’ve got a pretty busy weekend, but just being able to play two sets each night and really kind of stretch it out and delve into the catalogue a little bit further is always a lot of fun.
AK: So we should look forward to, umm, maybe something a little bit special?
JM: Yeah, we always try to bring something to the table for SummerDance [smiles].
AK: [smiles]. And your new album is coming out, I think Luke (Miller, guitarist/keys player) said August 20th during an interview at Camp Bisco – is there anything you’d like to say about it?
JM: So, the release has actually been pushed to September 10th, there is going to be a full press release about it this Monday I believe, and I think there’s going to be a track downloadable through vibe right when that comes out and that will definitely explain it, but yeah, it’s a little bit different kind of a style, it’s like an all hip-hop album. It’s been kind of in the works for I’d say…well, we finished it last year, but even before that we were working on it for I’d say at least a year and a half, just here and there. I just listened to it, just got the vinyl and got to check that out, and it still sounds good, so I’d definitely recommend people look forward to that.
AK: Definitely excited about its release on vinyl. And there are some new songs that we haven’t heard that are going to be on the album as well, right?
JM: Oh yeah, quite a few. I’d say we’ve probably played out about half of the tracks at various points.
AK: Excellent. Well, I am looking forward to hearing the whole thing!
AK: And thanks for taking the time to talk to me [smiles].
JM: No problem [smiles].
Jesse wasn’t kidding about the surprises in store for fans at Summer Dance VI either. Read all about the band’s performances at this one-of-a-kind festival, and the uniquely close relationship between the band and its fans here.