Interview | Lotus Readies Talking Heads Deconstructed For Vibes

Written By: Chad Berndtson

:: Interview: Lotus Readies 'Talking Heads Deconstructed' For Vibes ::

On paper at least, one of the most interesting lineup announcements from the upcoming Gathering of the Vibes is Lotus: Talking Heads Deconstructed, which takes place late in the evening of Friday, Aug. 1.

A lot of bands cover Talking Heads, but as one of the more nuanced ensembles to emerge from the electronica wing of the jam scene, there’s little doubt Lotus will do right by the iconic music while keeping its own style firmly intact.

We spoke with Lotus bassist Jesse Miller ahead of the Vibes to get a sense of how it will all go down, and he also obliged us with some tasty details about what’s ahead for Lotus in 2015. Read on:

JAMBASE: So Talking Heads Deconstructed. What’s this going to sound like?

JESSE MILLER: Well, we haven’t quite finished rehearsals yet. But the festival promoters were interested in us doing something different. We tossed a few things around. A lot of people cover the Talking Heads, and even though they’re one of my favorite bands, I just didn’t want to do the exact same thing. But I think we also wanted to do something that a lot of people would know and get into.

My initial idea was actually to do a set of post-Roxy Music Brian Eno music, but the vote was that was too obscure, which is fine. I think we can give our own vibe to these Talking Heads songs, and find the room between their stuff and Lotus’ stuff. We’ll probably do some things to make the songs dance-y. I’m drawn to the more groove-oriented songs, but instead of just cracking open the Talking Heads songs we’ll work in our stuff and try and make it flow.

JAMBASE: So the set will be a mix of Talking Heads material and Lotus material?

JM: Yeah, I don’t know what percentage it will be, but it’ll be a little bit of Lotus, and Talking Heads songs re-imagined in a different style with our instrumentation.

JAMBASE: Will you incorporate Talking Heads songs from all over the catalog?

JM: Our focus is going to mostly be on Remain in Light, Speaking in Tongues and maybe a little bit of Fear of Music. We’ve looked at some things and not everything we thought would work well is working well. We do have a guest singer coming, but I also didn’t want to do anything with multi-layered singing parts that would require backup singers, and we didn’t want to do songs with really important horn parts. But there are plenty of things that I think would groove well and that we can up the dance factor to a level where it’s verging on house beats. We want to amp this up a little for a late-night festival crowd.

JAMBASE: Can you give an example of a Talking Heads song that fits that goal? JM: One of the ones we’re doing is “Pull Up the Roots.” That’s a sort of swinging song that we can take into an early ‘90s house kind of style. And we will.

JAMBASE: Who is your guest vocalist?

JM: It’s Gabriel Otto, he plays in [Colorado band] Pan Astral. There will probably be some additional guests but I won’t spoil the surprise.

JAMBASE: A lot of these “cover a classic artist” type shows tend to go well and warrant some further exploration. I imagine it’s too early to tell, but is this a concept you’d take to other festivals or even on tour?

JM: I would say maybe we take one or two of our favorite songs and work them in later, but I don’t imagine it’s something we’d do much more of. There are so many bands doing Talking Heads regularly. It would be cool if we incorporated some songs into Lotus sets at some point, though doing more than that would mean having a singer out with us.

JAMBASE: This month marks the arrival of Gilded Age, your new studio album. For in particular Lotus fans who have been with you guys for a while, what do you want people to know about the album?

JM: It’s definitely rock-focused. The year prior we had worked on the album Build, which is very electronic and synthy. We’d had these tunes for a while – the title track, “Gilded Age,” was one we’d played live before – and we just wanted to do something that was a little more straight rock instrumentation, these simpler rock songs. It’s funny, because people have told me it’s like a return to old Lotus, and others have said it sounds like something totally different. It’s a fun one to work on - I enjoyed how stripped-down it was.

JAMBASE: Do you think it’s much different than previous Lotus albums?

JM: The Hammerstrike album is kind of a rock album, too. Not all the way through – there’s definitely electronic stuff on that – but the two-guitar thing was definitely a theme and is something we’ve been holding on to. Some of the new songs are a bit slower. They’re not like big closing numbers, but they can definitely be a lot of fun live to use in flex spots and change the mood.

JAMBASE: Do you spend a lot of time on your setlist before a show?

JM: It’s pretty planned out prior to the show, and that’s Luke’s department. He has a full system he’s worked out for how he likes sets to go. We definitely do make some game-time decisions but it’s usually pretty planned out to give our shows a solid structure.

JAMBASE: What’s coming over the next six months? I know you guys have announced dates through September.

JM: So we’re taking a bit of time off the road. What’s announced is it for the rest of the year. We’re actually deep into the work that’s going on for our next album, which we hope to have out next year and then put a large tour behind in 2015. The focus for the next few months will be a lot on studio work.

JAMBASE: Interesting. Was it the plan to record two albums so close together?

JM: We actually finished the mix for Gilded Age in December. We were getting it mastered and into vinyl production, and those things take time, but we’ve had it in the bag for a while, and been writing some stuff for this new one for a while already. It is kind of weird, though. We’re putting out Gilded Age, but not going on a big tour because we have something else coming up.

JAMBASE: Do you stick with the more straight-ahead rock thing on this next album or is it something else?

JM: It’s something else. It definitely has more of a funk and dance thing, which is funny timing with this Talking Heads show. We’d been working on this music before we confirmed the Talking Heads but it’s almost like it was by design.

JAMBASE: When does it come out?

JM: I’m hoping early next year. We’ve definitely done some solid studio sessions and more are booked, so we’re hoping early 2015.

The 2014 installment of Gathering Of The Vibes runs from July 31 - August 3 at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT. Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, The Disco Biscuits with Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann, Lotus: Talking Heads Deconstructed, Ziggy Marley, Slightly Stoopid, Maceo Parker, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Dumpstaphunk are among the 60+ acts set to play Vibes this year. For more info, the full lineup and to buy tickets, head to the festival's website.

[Published on: 7/15/14]

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