Interview | Luke Miller of Lotus

Luke Miller spills the beans on the band’s new album Monks (album art included!), what it’s like playing one of the biggest festivals in Japan, how much the fan base really means to him and so much more…

Interview: Michael Urban

Photos: Michael Urban & Zach Teator

Camp Bisco 12 – 07.13.2013

On a humid and sunny Friday afternoon at Camp Bisco 12, I prepared for my interview with Luke Miller of Lotus. Luke and I have met and hung out on a number of occasions over the years as friends, but sitting down and quizzing someone, really anyone for that matter, who is an artist, whether you know them a little or a lot, can be a bit nerve wracking. I arrived to the Media Tent early to greet both Jesse and Luke. Both had multiple interviews setup for themselves. After deciding the Media Tent, placed smack-dab in the middle of the concert field, was far too noisy to conduct any kind of formal interview, we walked over to the Guest & Artist Lounge to kick back, relax, and talk some Lotus.

Michael Urban (MU): While I realize it’s been asked before, I still wonder what really goes into the process of writing a setlist. Do you actually look back at previous sets played at that particular venue, or is it more based on what you’re feeling and what the band is playing at the time?

Luke Miller (LM): Yeah absolutely! When we are on tour I will look back and see what was played in that market last time, and I will also look at what we played the last three or four days. In terms of a festival I will certainly look back at the last time we played that particular festival, and also what was played while on tour, if we happen to have done a show nearby. If its East Coast/ West Coast, it does not really matter so much, but, for example, Electric Forest being a couple weeks ago, we know some people go to both, so definitely try and take that into consideration, because we know some people are doing both. We try to give people some different songs. Sometimes, I think I care more about it then other people because, when I go see a band, sometimes I’m like, “Oh shit, they didn’t play that one song.” You know, the one that everyone wants to hear and that’s fine to me. It’s a good precedent to set that we try and be a little different every time.

MU: Speaking on that, any surprises for Camp Bisco tonight? Is the setlist already written?

LM: Ahh, I got it mostly written, yeah. You know, for a set that goes from say, 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., that’s a little bit different, then a set say, at dusk, or something earlier like that.

As of late, in general, we have been trying to make our festival appearances more similar to our club shows, nowadays, where we try relax into it a bit more, not rush into our jams, let things breathe. It’s easier said than done, though, because you have all these people screaming at you and you’d like to have the pedal to the metal the whole time, but I think it’s better if you lay back and let it build and I feel that’s where one of the talents lie in, so we have been trying to bring that to the festival gigs a bit more.

MU: Let’s talk about Japan a little. Must be excited to head back there?

LM: Yeah absolutely! From the first time we went to Japan, our goal was kind of to play Fuji Rock Festival, so we are super excited having finally been booked to play there. It’s a long trek to go all that way to Japan to play one set, but this is what we have always wanted to do, and to be able to play in front of such a massive crowd, in Japan, is an opportunity we have been looking forward to.

This will be our 5th trip over, I think, and every time to be able to travel all that way and play to our fans there, is really something we consider special.

MU: Moving on from tour life, let’s talk about the new album Monks. Little to no information is available, other than the album exists and it will be made up of hip- hop/remix tracks. Do you care to speak any more about it? Is the track listing done? How about a release date?

LM: Monks, I know…. I know… [laughs]. August 20 is what I have heard and the album is done. We have been sitting on it for almost a year now, but with last year’s touring schedule, it just didn’t work out. We are putting it out now though, and I think we are just going to put it out for free, with the option to purchase a vinyl copy because it’s kind of a different sound for Lotus. I think it turned out really good and I think people will like it, so long as you don’t go in expecting Nomad or something, because that’s not what it is - it’s a hip-hop album, and I think the fans will really enjoy the new record…it turned out great and the vinyl is really bumping, so August 20th, check it out.

MU: How many songs are on the new album?

LM: 16 tracks.

MU: So, there will be a number of unheard tracks?

LM: Yeah, some of the tracks are totally new. It’s a mix of remixes and totally new stuff. It sort of switches between tracks with the MC’s and more like experimental hip-hop instrumentals, and those are the new ones.

Jesse and I did the writing for the new ones, and then we went into the studio with the band, like we always do, and recorded it live.

MU: Officially, it’s you and your brother Jesse who are credited with most, if not all, of the Lotus songs. Referring to Build, specifically, how does that work exactly? Are you writing out the musical parts for each member to play?

LM: Yeah, on the last album, Build, I think I am credited for seven of those, in which I am writing the parts for each of them to play. Obviously once live and improvising, things change and they are free to do as they wish, but really it’s just easier for me to write out the parts for them. For example, a song like “Neon Tubes,” one that has a lot of intricate parts, I just spent a lot of time writing all that out and it’s really just more efficient for me to make changes and try out a million different things, versus sitting in a room with the band and coming up with one thing that each of us has to learn, and then wind up not using, anyways. So, all that time was just wasted. We have a well-oiled system.

MU: I have been going to Lotus shows for almost seven years now, and the expansion of the fan base, especially the past, say three years, to me is very noticeable and must be exciting for you to watch grow. The “Lotus Family” is more than just fans seeing lots of shows - it’s people building lifelong friendships. A perfect example is this weekend. I am at my campsite with about eight other people, all of whom I met though Lotus, and/or at a Lotus show. How does that feel?

LM: Yeah, that is awesome. It’s something we had always envisioned and wanted to encourage, and it’s so cool that it has come to fruition, so many friendships have been made through our music, like you said, and that makes me feel really good. It brings people together.

We try to be as connected with the fans, especially the hardcore ones, as much as possible, you know. I mean, I am not sure what the cell phone reception is like at The Ledges (Summerdance Festival), but something I just thought of today, which would be cool, would be something similar to the App they had for Electric Forest (although it was hard to use), but something so that everyone can be connected in a way, and we could have “flash meet ups” and what not. I think that would be really cool moving forward.

MU: Is the noise curfew still in place at The Ledges for Lotus’ Summerdance Festival? < LM: (In a low voice): Yeah...about 11:30 or 12:00 a.m.…

MU: So, everyone is playing during the day pretty much?

LM: Yeah, they used to have this thing where they would turn it way down, but it was so low to the point where people were just talking over it [laughs]. A silent disco is really something they should bring out there, but being an audiophile, I am not sure it would be the type of quality I would want.

MU: Speaking about audio quality, I am curious, how many people actually buy the FLAC (Lossless) downloads?

LM: More people should. It’s so worth it. I don’t know exactly why. I mean, all you need to do is convert it, but I think it’s that extra step people are scared of. However, people I have gotten to try it are sold instantly, because it really does sound so much better, be it on headphones, or regular computer speakers. We record at a rate that is above CD quality, but the FLAC, by itself, is much better and noticeable.

In all honesty, not that many people buy it. Say a hundred people buy a show, three of them will buy the FLAC. It’s a very low percentage. Overall, we have been trying to make those recordings better. Jesse has a great mixing setup at home, and especially shows like, say New Years, where we know a lot of people are going to download them, we really dial in to make sure it sounds as good as it can. The real challenge is mixing them on the road, with headphones, on the bus.

MU: Downloading and listening to a lot of live recordings (Lotus) myself, I notice that some are better quality than others. Does that have to do with the quality of the equipment at that particular venue or…?

LM: Not so much. It more has to do with venue acoustics. The closer we have to stand together the more bleed there is and that with effect the recording a lot.

MU: And what was it like coming from Electric Forest?

LM: Ahh man, really good. That was awesome. When we finished the set, I walked to the back of the stage and Michael Travis of String Cheese and EOTO was back there, and he had this look on his face of just “wow that was magical.” The following day Jesse did a beer thing with Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese and he kept saying that Travis, who I guess did not know much about us, was going on and on about how great we sounded, and I thought that was pretty cool, coming from him. Nice to get a compliment like that from a fellow musician.

MU: Wow that’s awesome! Well, good for you guys, and congratulations. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Here’s to Lotus!


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