We recently sat down with Jesse Miller of Lotus to hear his thoughts on the current state of US marijuana policy, the continued need for sensible reform, the importance of the live music community & youth speaking out plus the start & evolution of one of our longest supporting artists.
Jesse Miller plays Bass & Sampler in Lotus, a five piece electronic rock outfit which has been pioneering their unique sound for over 10 years and inspired countess emerging artists in the live instrumental electronic music scene.
BG: Why do you think the “Drug War” has failed our society, particularly students & youth?
JM: The “drug war” is a massive waste of resources in my opinion. If that money and time went to education and health resources instead I think we would see great benefits.
BG: Why do you think it is important for musicians and those involved in the live music community to speak out against these failed policies?
JM: That is a tough question. Being a musician doesn’t give me the credentials to critique national polices, but it does provide a platform to speak out from. I think sharing political opinions can be good because the music community is not historically very active or organized, but I’m also wary of it because it often comes in the form of platitudes, slogans or worse yet, uninformed statements. I don’t want to preach politics from the stage, but I’ll share my opinions off stage.
BG: How do you think live music & the community around it can get people involved with activism & the political process?
JM: I think the only way people want to get involved is if they feel they have a stake in the process. Many people see the US political process as something completely outside of their influence and subsequently don’t make an effort to be involved. I don’t really know what role the live music community has in this, but groups like Headcount have been working on registering music fans to vote and trying to find out what issues are important to them. That is a good first step. Live music fans and youth in general could certainly be a more powerful political bloc, so finding ways to show people how to become more educated about the process would be a good start.
BG: Two states legalized marijuana this past election, and a recently released poll shows that for the first time since polling on the issue in the past 40 years a majority of people favor legalization. Do you think we’ve reached the tipping point in marijuana reform?
JM: I don’t think we are quite at a tipping point yet. Colorado will really be the proving ground because they have the best system already in place to deal with the regulation and taxation of legal marijuana. Washington doesn’t have the same infrastructure established. If Colorado succeeds in raising significant tax revenue and demonstrates that there is not a social safety concern more states will follow suit.
BG: Do you feel more could and should be done to protect concert goer’s safety at shows/festivals? Such as supplying free water, setting up “Cool Down” booths, performing purity tests of substances on-site and distributing factual drug information?
JM: I think that most festivals are really good about having medical responders on site and making water available. I don’t see how purity testing of substances could be applied practically – people possessing illegal substances will naturally be distrustful of authority. Most importantly friends need to watch out for each other, make sure their crews stay hydrated and safe.
BG: How did Lotus come together?
JM: Luke and I met Mike Rempel when we were in high school at a Colorado camp and played some music together. Luke and Mike went to college together and immediately started up the band. The following year, I transferred to the same school and that is when we started gigging on a regular basis.
BG: How would you say your musical style & approach to live music (improvisation, setlist selection etc.) has developed & changed throughout the years?
JM: I think myself and Luke have really developed as composers and this has led us to emphasizing the compositional side more over the years. Early on, when we didn’t have as much tightly composed music, we would lean more heavily on improvisation. Now, I think we are able to strike more of a balance between music that is composed, completely improvised and the areas in between.
Stylistically we always had the idea of Lotus covering a large range while maintaining a unique musical voice and keeping a groove. The intersection of rock and electronic styles has been our focus, but I think we always look for new angles to approach that intersection. We are never simply one style and then another, it is a constantly evolving project – we don’t want to continually write the same song with different tones, we want to challenge ourselves to do something new with each composition.
BG: You all have been one of our longest running & most supportive AMPLIFY artist over the years. What would you like to say to the hundreds of student activists whom you have inspired and given great opportunities to spread their message?
JM: Thanks for supporting Lotus and for giving your time for a cause you believe in!
Lotus has crafted a unique musical style outside of simple genre limitations. On a given weekend the band could be the only group with guitars at an all electronic music festival and then the next night crash a traditional rock festival with their dance heavy beats, synths and samples. Equal parts instrumental post-rock and electronic dance, the band’s distinguishing feature is the ability to maintain a decidedly unique musical voice and remain current while bucking passing trends.
No matter what the venue, the energetic joy and catharsis of a Lotus show is infectious. The band slowly built a devoted fan base through steady touring and the crowds have grown at an increasing pace. This grassroots growth has made the band in high demand for festivals including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Ultra, and Rothbury and earned the band sold out shows at the country’s premier theatres and clubs.