Lotus has always been difficult to define musically. An instrumental jamband that stayed away from the goofy and gimmicky, they have favored groove-based improvisation instead of gaudy solos and noodling. Influences of classic electronic dance music, funk, post-rock and dance-rock have all made their way into the Lotus sound. Over the years, their unique musical blend of electronica with jam music has helped forge a new path in the jamband landscape, influencing many younger bands in the scene.
The long-running quintet have returned in 2020 with Free Swim, their new studio album out independently August 21st, which 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. In similar fashion to the old-school way of making mixtapes on cassette, where the best always managed to surprise with each new song while still sharing a similar DNA, the 10 songs on Free Swim are not boxed in by any genre or tonal palette, but the shared molecular grid is joy and wonder. It’s an eclectic and groovy instrumental mix of funk, disco, jazz and psychedelia, packed with catchy melodies and killer grooves looking to bring happiness to listeners.
“Luke named the track ‘Free Swim’ and I thought it also made a great album name,” explains Jesse. “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.”
Free Swim mines dance grooves from soulful funk to dirty disco to build instrumental songs with a signature Lotus sound. The album, the follow-up to the band’s 2018 audio and video album experience Frames Per Second and 10th full-length studio album overall, not including their multiple live, EP and remix collections, was written and produced by the group’s Jesse and Luke Miller and recorded in early 2020 at Spice House Sound in Philadelphia. Free Swim opens with lead single “Catacombs,” inviting listeners to descend into the depths of groovy-funky jazz. From “Catacombs” 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 first incarnation of Lotus (including Luke Miller and Mike Rempel) came together for a music showcase in 1998 at Goshen College in Indiana. In the summer of 1999, Jesse Miller joined, and the band began writing and performing on a regular basis. Albums such as their debut studio release, Nomad (2006) have become a touchstone for how to organically fuse elements of electronica with jam music. Now two decades together, Lotus 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. The band also hosts their own 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.