“The idea was just more of leaning into these modular synth ideas and these sort of minimalist inspired dance tracks.”
Back in the late ’90s, Philly’s Lotus set themselves apart by combining electronica with jam music during a time when no one else was doing so. Their influence is still being felt with a lot of bands on the festival circuit incorporating electronic elements into their sound.
These days, the quintet of Tim Palmieri on guitar, Mike Greenfield on drums, Chuck Morris on percussion, Jesse Miller on bass, sampler, and modular synths, and his brother Luke on guitar and keyboards are at their most prolific with numerous studio albums and a ton of live albums in their discography.
Folks will be able to see their wide array of tunes performed live in person when Lotus takes the stage at the Paradise Rock Club on Jan. 26. Miller and I spoke ahead of the show about the band releasing two albums last year, performing in a cave in Tennessee, uploading a ton of live performances online, and plans for the coming months.
In 2022, Lotus released two albums, Live Underground a little over a year ago and Bloom & Recede the following August. Live Underground was recorded at the Caverns in Pelham, Tennessee a couple years before its release so what was the experience like performing in such a unique venue that’s literally underground?
It’s a super unique place. The sound is a little weird, but luckily with their recording we were kind of able to take care of that since it’s a lot of direct and close miked instruments. It’s pretty wild to see a show in a cave and also in Tennessee. I think when we played there it was 95 degrees in July outside but when you go into the cave it gets in the low sixties no matter what time of year it is. It’s wild to experience that temperature change while walking into it.
It must have made the show a lot better with playing in a cool atmosphere rather than having it be sweltering.
Pertaining to live albums, Lotus has a bunch of them on their Bandcamp page with the most recent one from back-to-back performances at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado to close out last year. How do you guys go about choosing which performances you want to post online? Do you record every set you perform or do you pick and choose which ones you want to record in advance?
We record everything, we do full multitrack recordings at every show, and all of our shows are released on nugz.net. When there are certain shows I feel are worth highlighting or that there’s extra interest in or kind of at my whim, I’ll add them onto Bandcamp as well. I thought the Boulder shows were really good and musically I thought the first show had some of the best improv we’ve ever done so I really wanted to have that out there and have people be able to check it out even if they didn’t have a Nugz account.
You co-wrote the songs on Bloom & Recede with your brother Luke with the music being inspired by a special set of music Lotus performed at your annual Summerdance Festival in Ohio back in 2019. What was the experience like making the album and how did you guys go about capturing the essence of that performance to put it towards the album?
Our two albums prior to Bloom & Recede were done in this ’70s style set up in a room with live takes from the floor with minimal overdubs, but this was more meticulously crafted. The idea was just more of leaning into these modular synth ideas and these sort of minimalist inspired dance tracks. It’s very sampling and synth focused, it’s pretty layered and kind of slow-building but it’s something that was pieced together at different studios. I was doing a lot of it at my home studio, I mixed it there. It was pretty much a modern style of studio creation.
I definitely get that modern vibe from listening to it. Does it ever get stressful for you guys to put together the Summerdance Festival every year or do you have people helping you guys out to ease the responsibility?
The main thing for us is that we’re performing six sets over three days. Plus, I often have one of my side projects there or sometimes two so I’m personally looking at eight or nine sets, which adds up to 15 hours of music over the course of a weekend. Trying to keep all that present in your mind, making sure you know the arrangements, the sounds and the parts I think is the most challenging thing.
When it comes to rounding out the bill for the festival, is it always a joint decision among the band of who you want to get to perform with you guys? Does someone else handle that?
I make suggestions but it’s mostly our management and the venue that are putting that together.
I get that. What are some goals or accomplishments that Lotus is looking to obtain in 2023? Last year you guys put out two records, so can we expect some more recordings this year either in the studio or via a live performance?
Luke and I have been doing a bunch of writing and tracking with some of the other guys on what will be our new record so there’s already been a lot of work done on that over this past year. We’ll continue to do that when we’re not on the road but I don’t have an exact timeline of when we’ll wrap it up. Sometimes in the process of making an album we’ll write nearly two albums worth of material, but then as we start to put everything together and feel out the full sequence we’ll find songs that sound kind of similar and we might need something that’s a little more upbeat, something that brings the energy a little more down or something better in the vein of the original songs. It’s this slow process of really developing these tracks for a long time and then coming in to write some more in that direction to end up with an album.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.