Lotus Flowers with Mike Rempel
Photo by Jaime Butler
Lotus lead guitarist Michael Rempel has an easy going personality that belies some of the intense music he delivers on stage. Engage him in conversation and yoga will probably come up at some point, most likely because he’s about to run off and stretch before the night’s show. He’s dedicated toward his performance as an artist but doesn’t take himself too seriously. Rempel, one of the founding members of Lotus, continues to explore new sounds with the group and on his own. In the following conversation he touches on where he’s headed and the band’s current direction as well.
This past spring you toured in Japan — from what I’ve heard you have quite a fan base over there. What are the shows like in comparison to shows here?
The crowds in Japan are really different in my experience, and our recent tour there was my favorite yet. I feel that the Japanese audience has a reverence for the music that feels very pure. I never had the impression that people were coming out to our shows just to party or get high, which really changes the mood in the room. At several of the shows in Japan, the attention and focus of the audience was so strong you could almost hear a pin drop. It’s kind of intense to experience dead silence in a room with hundreds of people. That’s not to say the fans aren’t expressive – because sometimes they’d just go wild. The energetic relationship between the band and audience was more palpable for me. The people’s attention on the music never seemed distracted….and in my perception that really had an impact on how we as a band played together.
Can you describe a most memorable tour experience?
It’s impossible for me to pick a single experience as most memorable. When I look back at the 10 years we’ve been touring, it’s almost disturbing how much it all feels like some kind of vague whirlwind. Since I’m so often on the go, it’s hard to keep hold of any particular memory… it’s just this endless, ever-changing experience and I get this feeling when I look back at it like, “what was that ?” I have really fond memories of touring the west coast back when we were traveling in a van. We used to camp in the Redwoods when we were out there, and we had more liberty to explore different places than we do now, since these days we travel on a bus and the production schedule doesn’t allow as much free time. At that point in my life, it felt like the ultimate adventure, and there was this youthful spirit of the freedom of the road.
You’ve said your musical tastes are primarily electronica. Would you say that you prefer Lotus’ older/‘jammier’ sound or the direction you’ve been going in lately?
Stylistically, I tend to prefer our earlier sound. Even though our new material tends to have more electronic elements, I think our style of playing in the early years was more akin to the sort of electronic music that I enjoy today. I think there was a certain innocence or even naiveté in our approach during our early years of touring that created a much different mood than our current sound does. When I listen to music, it’s the mood of the music that matters most because I don’t tend to listen to music in an analytical way. The early material may not have been as cohesive or as tight, and it certainly wasn’t as structured, but the “loose” compositions and the patient, minimalistic approach to improvisation allowed for a more casual listening experience. For me it was more about the vibe than having some kind of intentional musical statement or particular focus.