Lotus: Strength of Weak Ties (Five Years On)
Lotus a bit later in 2007
JH- I want to talk about the Strength of Weak Ties and how it might have changed the way you approach music in a live setting. Have you found yourself incorporating those studio elements into the live setting?
LM- This is only our second studio album. The major difference was that the songs for Strength of Weak Ties were almost entirely written for the studio and the songs for Nomad were played out live and then we brought them into the studio setting. You think about composing a lot differently when you’re not thinking, “Well how are we gonna play this or how is this gonna happen live?” So it really opened up a lot of new ideas for me as far as producing. And after we completed the songs, then we said, “Well how are we gonna pull this off live?” And then figuring out using all the different samples between me triggering them, Luke triggering them, or Chuck triggering things. Or should it be on the drum pad?
Now that I’m writing specifically for live performance I can say, “Well here’s where we can use this little loop or sample here,” and make it all work. We’re using a lot more vocal samples and samples in general. Part of it is getting better and being able to trigger the stuff but also being able to monitor it. If we’re playing with a little bit that adds a kind of riff or implication then we need to be playing exactly with it.
JH- Where is your favorite location to play?
LM- My favorite club to play is the Fox in Boulder. The sound in there is incredible. Wakarusa is always a good festival. I’m sure that will be another fun one this coming year. But you know, High Sierra was really fun too.
JH- More keyboards are being added between yourself and Luke. Do you feel it takes away from your core/roots?
LM- Even before that album Luke was playing a lot more keyboards. We were able to diversify our sound a lot more. Lately I have been going back to just writing for two guitars. I really like that sound. I don’t think that’s anything we’re going away from. I think having the keyboards just gives us more opportunities to try different stuff. A popular new song that we’ve been playing, “Hammerstrike,” uses a keyboard for the bass parts and that’s gone over really well. We’re just not trying to limit ourselves. If we have the option and can write a composition that works for me and Luke playing keyboards or just strictly guitar or whatever kind of combination of those things, we will try it out.
JH- Normally it takes electronic/jazz/jambands a little more time to move up in venue size but you guys are doing it rather rapidly. To what do you attribute this growth?
LM- From the outside it seems like it’s going a lot faster. It’s sort of like you’re living with a child and you don’t see the growth. But if you leave for a month or two and come back. you see your kid has gotten a lot bigger. You’re like, “What the hell happened?!” We’ve been working our asses off for this for the past six years and we’ve been touring for the past four years and it has always been our goal to get into these theaters and have this following that starts to pick up all around the country. It’s the next step.
JH- Now how does your songwriting process work? Who writes most of the songs?
LM- Luke and myself write all the songs. We work in different ways. He does a lot of stuff where he starts on his keyboard. We changed it a little bit. Our drummer moved to Pittsburgh around six months ago so we don’t have as much practice time as we used to. So, I think it actually enables us to write a little more intricately because we have been writing very detailed like down to the fill. Then everyone learns their parts, then we get together and refine the whole thing and make it work.
JH- What is guitarist Mike Rempel’s role in coming up with the melodies?
LM- We write pretty much all the main melodies but of course there is a lot of improvisation. We write the compositions but Mike just has a natural ear for melodies it’s his strongest suit. So when we’re improvising you hear a lot of melodies that almost sound composed but aren’t. He’s all self taught.
JH- What would you say are your main influences?
LM- All kinds of stuff! Lately I’ve been trying to bring both our rock sound and our really electronic influences into the same composition. From both sides of that there’s everything from Boards of Canada, Air and Underworld on the electronic side to MMJ and any other of the modern rock bands. And there are other bands that are doing similar stuff like TV on the Radio and bringing in electronic things into what are very much rock sounds. And then there’s of course Tortoise, they have always been a huge influence.
I think our sound takes from both sides. People come to our shows and say, “This isn’t quite a rock show and not strictly a dance or electronic show.” It’s somewhere in between. I think when you put two guitars and a drum kit on the stage there’s always going to be some element of rock.
JH- You have a big southern tour coming up. Any big plans for it? How do you approach a tour?
LM- We usually try to debut new songs every tour. I’m sure we will break out a couple new songs that we’ve finished off in the past couple months. I think it changes show to show, but we always have different things that we are trying to work on or different aspects of our sound that we are trying to develop.
JH- What makes a good show for you guys?
LM- It’s pretty much all energy. All those things play a part. If something is off, if it sounds weird, if the venues lacking equipment it makes it harder. But sometimes you come into a show at some small crappy venue and the audience and energy is unreal. So those shows are even more fun than a great venue where for some reason the energy isn’t happening.
JH- As musicians, where do you see Lotus in five years?
LM- You know there’s a lot of sounds we have been developing with a new batch of compositions that we did over the past six months and I have a lot of ideas and how I want to take those sounds and develop them in a studio recording. It’s kind of a vision to continue this idea that we set up with Strength of Weak Ties with putting rock and electronic music in a kind of symbiotic relationship. I think with every composition we’re finding new ways to do it. I’m kind of trying to hone that down and look at the next album as the place to really complete that.