From the basement below the Leaf Raker to on stage in Japan, the band Lotus has emerged from humble beginnings to achieve great success. The instrumental electronic jam band, which splits time between Philadelphia, Pa. and Denver, Colo., continues to garner attention as they have released nine albums and have toured across the United States and Japan. It all began at Goshen College for two of Lotus’ founding members.
Before the Music Center was built, the space below the Leaf Raker had practice rooms. So that’s where Luke Miller ’02, who plays keyboard and guitar in the band, and his twin brother, Jesse ’02, who plays the bass and sampler, practiced during the early days of Lotus. “We started right away when I was here as a freshman,” said Luke. “We all just got together because we loved playing music.”
“Vibes” (2002) self-released (out of print)
“Germination” (live) (2003) Harmonized Records
“Nomad” (2004) Harmonized Records
“The Strength of Weak Ties” (2006) Harmonized Records
“Escaping Sargasso Sea” (live) (2007) Sci Fidelity
“Copy/Paste/Repeat” (remixes) (2007) Lotus Vibes Music
“Hammerstrike” (2008) Sci Fidelity
“Oil on Glass/Feather on Wood” EPs (2009) Sci Fidelity
“Lotus” (2011) Sci Fidelity
Back then, the band consisted of a slightly different group of guys than it does now. In addition to Luke and Jesse, Lotus in its current form consists of guitarist Mike Rempel, who went to Goshen College for a semester, percussionist Chuck Morris, who lived in town at the time but didn’t go to the college, and drummer Mike Greenfield, of Nissequogue, N.Y. The original drummer for the band was Steve Clemens ’01, who played with Lotus until the summer of 2009.
As a music performance major specializing in classical guitar, Luke was required to take music theory and aural skills classes. In addition to remembering that he got sent out of the classroom for laughing at his brother’s attempt to sing during an ear training exercise, Luke also remembers the basic foundation of music composition that he learned in that class. “Having that music theory foundation helped me to be more flexible and try out different things when I’m writing music,” he said. He and Jesse are the primary composers for the band.
Through trial and error, Luke and Jesse have found a unique sound. As they expand upon a wide range of styles and sounds, Lotus is considered a multi-genre band, incorporating elements of rock, electronica, jazz, jam, funk and other influences.
Through the years Luke said he has learned a lot. “The music has changed a lot. I think it’s more focused down now, and a little less noodle-y than it used to be. Maybe a little bit more aggressive,” he said. “I feel like I learn something new every day about space and rhythm.”
During their constant touring – including gigs at Red Rocks amphitheater in Denver, Colo. and various music festivals with crowds of over 20,000 people – Lotus has acquired quite a following. The band’s Facebook page has more than 87,000 fans.
Known best for their live shows, each accompanied with a specially designed light show, Lotus has built much of their following through word of mouth, encouraging the recording and trading of their live shows. Their concerts often are recorded by amateur engineers and posted online for others to listen to. “We do a lot of group improv on stage that requires listening to all the parts at once. It’s kind of like problem solving,” said Luke. “But as the music builds and builds it’s a great feeling seeing the energy ripple through the crowd.”
A 2005 review of the band in Glide Magazine said, “Combining a sometimes explosive, sometimes delicate balance of electronic textures, from deep house to drum and bass, with more traditional, jam-oriented jazz, funk and world music, Lotus appeals to a diverse crowd of club goers and jam band supporters.”
In addition to their live shows, their albums also have received praise. Their 2004 album “Nomad” went to the top of the Home Grown Music Network charts and by the end of the year was the HGMN Best Seller. “Nomad” also was nominated for a New Groove of the Year Jammy award.(The Jammys is an awards show for jam bands and other artists associated with live, improvisational music.)
Their 2007 album “Escaping Sargasso Sea” was nominated for a Jammy award by Guitar Player magazine for Best Live Album of 2007. The album was described by Relix magazine as “sexy and sophisticated dance music, mature enough to be played in the club or the living room.” Their 2007 album “Copy/Paste/Repeat” was positively received by PopMatters webzine, who said that the album “reinvents the jam band’s music as dance floor jams, with hip hop and trance-influenced beats and mind-warping electronic synth burbles.”
After several years of building success, Lotus was featured on the cover of concert tour industry’s leading trade publication Pollstar magazine in 2008. While Lotus has come a long way, Luke said he’s still looking forward. He sees the band’s sound continuing to evolve. And there are still many venues that he wants to perform in, including The Warfield Theater in San Francisco.
Even though it’s been years since he spent his time practicing under the Leaf Raker, Luke still carries vivid memories of Goshen College. “That was a really pivotal time in my life… just kind of the general attitude that Goshen teaches of being accepting of new and other people, I think that’s helped me out on the road. Being able to interact with all of these people in an affable manor and dealing with different people – you’re dealing with different local crews everyday and different musicians – and that Goshen attitude rubbed off on me in that regard.”
In February, Lotus checked the Goshen Theater off their list of venues they’ve played in, much to the delight of many students and alumni who were amidst the packed crowd. “It felt good to be back in Goshen and to remember how it all started,” he said.
– By Alysha Landis ’11, in the Summer 2012 Bulletin