Philadelphia-based jamtronica band Lotus surprised their fans in December of 2018 when they dropped their first album in nearly three years. Frames Per Second was well worth the wait. The 19-track all instrumental album was recorded live at Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Soundwork and the band set up cameras to capture the live marathon sessions, creating a unique multimedia experience for their fans.
“Frames Per Second is a different project than we've ever made before," bassist and composer Jesse Miller said in a statement. ”I hesitate to even call it an album. I see it more as a documentary of our current composing and playing. The guiding theme was the idea that we would record live in the studio with cameras filming. But, since it is not a concert with an audience, big sound system and flashing lights, the energy is very different. It is more intimate and introspective. We set up in a big circle with the primary camera in the center of the room, putting the viewer or listener directly in the middle of the band.”
Check out the video for Frames Per Second track "Aquamarine" above or scroll down to watch the trailer for the documentary. AXS recently had a chance to chat with Miller about Frames Per Second and their upcoming Red Rocks show with Ghostland Observatory, Jade Cicada and Magic Beans on April 27 (Tickets).
AXS: Let’s talk about Frames Per Second. How did the idea to make a documentary come to fruition?
Jesse Miller: A lot of times in the past we’ve used studio albums as a way to do things that are not as easy to do live, like adding overdubs or building up songs with layers. But the whole idea for this record was to cut it live and compose stuff that would work with that format and it just seemed to make sense to shoot it while we were doing it. It was a fun project to work on. What made it fun was instead of laboring over these tracks and building them up slowly, we labored over the composition and hit it in the studio with just a few takes. And that’s the record.
AXS: I read you guys also left room for improv in the studio. How much was composed and how much did you guys head into uncharted territory?
JM: Most of it’s composed but there’s definitely some improvised solos worked in. It’s not quite the same kind of free form group jamming that we do live, but there’s improvised elements on most tracks on the record.
AXS: When you guys do compose, what does your writing process look like?
JM: Luke [Miller] and I are the main composers for the band. We work on demos in our home studios and send files back and forth and really try to get things dialed in before we bring it to the band. We really work out the arrangements and make sure all the parts are working together so that when it goes to the band everyone can learn their part pretty quickly and make a few slight tweaks from there. So it’s a lot of listening through these things, with Luke and I making critiques as we go, shaving off excess and really trying to get down to the core of what a song is.
AXS: Speaking of getting to the core of a song, how do you name an instrumental track?
JM: Sometimes it is tricky (laughs), you name your ProTools session something and that kind of becomes the default name no matter how it evolves. Sometimes it’s just trying to capture the spirit of the music in the title. We usually name them after they’re written. Sometimes I’ll just browse through the books of my favorite authors to see if a phrase pops out at me that seems to go with the music.
AXS: The album is tight. It doesn’t sound like a live record. How did you achieve that?
JM: Rehearsals (laughs). Even though we’re tracking it live there’s still some editing. If you do make some egregious mistake you can fix that to some degree. But I don’t like to go overboard with that kind of stuff because then you kind of lose what you were going for to begin with. It’s really just a matter of learning the songs and rehearsing them, being ready to go into the studio.
AXS: There are a lot of different influences on Frames Per Second from Herbie Hancock to Jeff Beck. What are some of the other genres or artists that inspired you in making this record?
JM: Some of the tracks have a lot of influence from Norwegian space disco, stuff like Todd Terje and Lindstrøm. Space disco and that sound definitely played a part on some of the tracks.
AXS: Lotus has played a few shows in 2019 since the album came out in December of 2018. What has the reception been so far?
JM: It’s been really good. Even though the album is 19 songs, our fans seem really familiar with the new material. Some of the songs we had been playing live before the record, so fans are more familiar with those. They’re all pretty live friendly and designed that way, bouncy, dancey tracks that go over really well.
AXS: You guys are returning to Red Rocks on April 27. Could you share some of your experiences playing there over the years?
JM: Yeah, it's a renowned spot for a reason. It’s an incredible venue and has a lot of significance for me because I grew up in that area. I had my high school graduation at Red Rocks. So to come back and play shows there is amazing. We played there one time in October, because of the flooding in 2013 we had to move it to a later date, and it was snowing while we were playing. That was pretty rough, but we’ve lucked out the last few years with really beautiful weather. It’s a unique experience because, at a festival the crowd goes out, at Red Rocks it’s like a wall of crowds in front of you. So it definitely has a very unique feel. Looking forward to coming back to Colorado. That’s home to three fifths of our band and I grew up there. It’s definitely our second home outside of Philadelphia so we can’t wait to get back.
Lotus gets back to Red Rocks with Ghostland Observatory, Jade Cicada and Magic Beans on Saturday, April 27. Purchase your tickets here.