Just last month on August 21st, the long-running instrumental-electronic quintet Lotus released their newest studio album “Free Swim.”
Written and produced by the group’s Jesse and Luke Miller and recorded earlier this year at Spice House Sound in Philadelphia, “Free Swim” marks the follow-up to Lotus’s 2018 audio and video album experience “Frames Per Second” and the band’s 10th full-length independent studio album overall, not including their multiple live, EP and remix collections. The new 10-track album pays homage to the greats of music’s past, built on the bones of what the five members of Lotus listen to and have absorbed over time. “Free Swim” is an eclectic and groovy instrumental mix of funk, disco, jazz and psychedelia, looking to bring happiness and joy to listeners. From the jazzy-house of lead single and album opener “Catacombs,” which was inspired by Daft Punk and St. Germain and has been hailed “infectious” by BrooklynVegan, to the vintage funk of “Sepia Rainbow” and “Earl of Grey” and the head-bopping cosmic disco tune “Bjorn Gets A Haircut,” Free Swim will make you want to move. The chorus on title track “Free Swim,” whose groove is built on a galloping piano riff and a syncopated guitar melody, is full of summer brightness with the guitar and synth repeating against a bass line that bounces like bare feet on a hot pavement.
Regarding the album’s title, Jesse Miller (bass, modular synth) explains, “Luke named the track ‘Free Swim’ and I thought it also made a great album name. Free swim can be read a couple of different ways, but I think both can apply to Lotus’s music. The first brings me back to childhood when my mom would drive myself and four brothers to the public pool. The free swim time was pure, unrestrained joy as we soared off the diving boards and burned off excess energy swimming for hours in the summers. The second reading is becoming free while swimming. I picture the feeling of weightlessness in open water in some beautiful, remote location. When we write for Lotus, we try to use the energy of a live show to guide our arrangements. I always hope it can take people to a place that feels joyous, energized and free.”
Over the years, Lotus’ unique musical blend helped forge a new path in the jamband landscape, influencing many younger bands in the scene. Albums such as their debut studio release, “Nomad” (2006) have become a touchstone for how to organically fuse elements of electronica with jam music, and the band continues to evolve through each tour and album bringing in new sounds and writing styles. Since their formation two decades ago, Lotus – Mike Greenfield (drums), Jesse Miller (bass, modular synth), Luke Miller (keyboards, guitar), Mike Rempel (guitar) and Chuck Morris (percussion) – has toured actively throughout the US working their way up from dingy basement clubs to world-class venues such as Red Rocks. They’ve become festival favorites, playing everything from Bonnaroo, Camp Bisco and Outside Lands to Ultra Music Festival and Electric Forest, building a hyper-loyal following along the way. Lotus also hosts their annual SummerDance Festival in Garrettsville, Ohio. A Lotus live show is an experience, a uniquely crafted and improvised set taking everyone, the crowd and band, on a journey.
Connect With Lotus Online Here:
Learn more about Lotus in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time, guys. Given everything that is going on in the world today, how are you staying sane and continuing with your music?
I’m staying sane by trying to stay busy and not fall into the trap of lethargy. Music wise we basically wrote a new album during lockdown. I also was working on a solo album that is nearing completion with my DJ/producer project Luke the Knife.
How has this pandemic changed your day to day life? Is your city in starting to open up more now? Have you been able to get out and work on your music much?
It’s been a big change not being able to be out there playing concerts. I’m in Denver and luckily the infection rates here have stayed pretty low. Things are opening a little bit. I did a DJ gig in the park a few weeks ago. I have a little home studio and my brother Jesse has an analog-based studio in Philadelphia, so we each are able to continue working on music.
Do you feel like social media has become even more important these days? How are you trying to stay connected to your fans?
I think people are seeing that social media is fairly surface or petty connection. The pandemic has shown how much we need person to person contact and not just social media distortion.
How did you finally settle on your band name? Was it hard finding something that you could all agree on?
We wanted something simple that had deeper connotations. We came up with it early, and it was easy to agree on.
Let’s talk about your new album, “Free Swim.” How did this collection come together? How would you say that it compares to anything else you have released? Did anything surprise you about the overall process of putting this album together?
Jesse and I wrote the songs over the last year and a half. The process was similar to our last album, Frames Per Second. We had the songs written, and then went into the studio and all set up and recorded the songs live. One thing that surprised me was the guest flute part that Sam Greenfield recorded. It was a bit off a toss-off solo at the end of the day, but I thought it turned out great.
How does your latest track, “Bjorn Gets A Haircut” prepare listeners for more music from this group? Where did the inspiration for the animated video for it come from? How exactly was it created?
“Bjorn Gets A Haircut” is the tip of iceberg. We explore a lot of different styles on Free Swim, and Bjorn is definitely in the Space Disco realm. Other songs lean into funk, drum ’n bass, jazz, afrobeat. We put all that into the Lotus stew on this release. The animation comes from an interactive video system that Jesse has been creating. It will be able to instantly react to us improvising live without having to be locked into pre-programmed material. Since we couldn’t use it live in person, we incorporated part of it into the video.
Since we are all desperately missing live music, what has been a favorite show of yours from the past and a favorite show that you attended? What about some of your favorite venues from around the world?
One of my favorite shows was at Red Rocks. We did one set of “deconstructed” Talking Heads songs and one set of originals. A favorite show I attended was Underworld at the Hollywood Bowl. It was awesome seeing all the older 90’s electronic music lovers out at that beautiful setting.
What can you tell our readers about your upcoming drive-in show in Philadelphia on September 4th outside of Citizens Bank Park? What will this performance be like? Have you had any of these drive-in type shows yet?
This is our first drive-in show, so I’m not totally sure. We are going to try and make the performance as much like a regular concert as we can while staying safe.
Have you started rescheduling shows for 2021 yet?
We have, yes. But without a vaccine available, it’s really hard to know what that schedule will be.
How have you been affected by this incredibly necessary and overdue Black Lives Matter movement? How do you think it will affect future music?
I’ve been affected by trying to view my own life and choices through the lens of systemic racism. I’m not sure how it will affect music. Cultural appropriation can be problematic, but music has always been a cross-breed of cultures.
If you could get into the studio with absolutely any artist today, who would it be and why them? What artists have continued to inspire you two and the kind of music that you make?
Anderson.Paak. Such a joyful person, I would love to make music with him.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Check out Free Swim out now! I know people think of music as a free thing on Spotify, but consider buying it from us. It’s less than the price of beer at a concert. www.lotusvibes.com