Interview: Lettuce guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff talks new music and upcoming Rage Rocks show

The genre-blending, boundary-pushing band, Lettuce, is about to drop their sixth studio album on June 14. Elevate, is the group’s first new original music in three years. On June 15, the band is following it up with their fourth annual Rage Rocks show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.

The funk/jazz/hip-hop/soul/art-rock innovators are doing two sets that night. The first one is a Jerry Garcia Band cover set, which will include longtime JGB member, Melvin Seals. The second set is Pure Lettuce. They’ll be supported by TAUK and The Soul Rebels.

“What a venue to be doing this,” Smirnoff tells AXS, over the phone. “It’s the greatest venue in the whole world. There really is something special about the Rocks.”

Smirnoff, Adam Deitch, Erick “Jesus” Coomes, Ryan Zoidis, Eric “Benny” Bloom, and Nigel Hall have over two decades of musical history between them. “You have to understand that we were college kids,” Smirnoff recalled while discussing how they came up with the name Lettuce. “At that point, we were playing at a lot of house parties. There'd be opportunities if there was another band playing. They’d take a break or something like that, and we'd be like, 'hey man, would you let us sit in.’ A lot of the time, people didn't have their own equipment. We’d ask if they would let us borrow their Bass Amp, and hopefully Jesus wouldn't blow it up, which might have happened maybe once or twice,” Smirnoff said with a laugh.

AXS: You’re now about to release your sixth studio album, Elevate. In the past, there was (Let us) Outta Here, (Let us) Rage!, (Let us) Fly. In continuing with that tradition, how do you plan on elevating us?

Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff: Hopefully through the vibrations of the music, you get elevated when you listen to it. I'm really looking forward to people to hearing some of the sonic soundscapes that painted on this record. I think it's very exploratory for us at times. And then there's going to be stuff there that's really classic Lett. I think we found a really nice balance for this album of keeping true to who we are and being able to be experimental, all at the same time.

AXS: How did you pick this set of songs? What originally were you looking at and how did you narrow it down to what ended up on the album?

AS: We've decided that we are going to probably have multiple releases coming up, so, it might be Elevate volumes two and three. We might give it other names; not sure, it's still in the works. But, we recorded a lot of songs for this session. That's the point; we're not really going to narrow it down. We're just going to release everything.

AXS: This is your first original music in three years. So, what was the push to get this done now?

AS: I think for the sake of creativity for the band.

AXS: You recently released your own version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” What was it that made you want to cover that song, in particular, on the album?

AS: Adam Deitch and Nigel Hall came up with the arrangement years ago. It's been in our repertoire, and it's something that, throughout all of these different projects that everyone does, was never recorded. We just wanted to record it, to make sure that it's part of our history. We really love this particular arrangement of this cover.

AXS: You have such an eclectic vibe to your music. After 25 years, how do you maintain what's at your core, while continuing to create fresh new sounds?

AS: Because all of us have the same core; which is playing rhythmically, playing funk music, using space, having a sort of aggressiveness to our sound. At the same time, also having some sort of beauty and psychedelia to our sound. I think if it covers a lot of those bases, that's us. If it comes out of us at all, then that's us being true to us.

AXS: What do you think is the magic between you guys when you play?

AS: I think the magic is that a lot of us prefer to be tasteful. And we really get enjoyment from each other, from doing that. That less is more, kind of thing. When you have such incredible, talented guys around you, and they're choosing that path, it's very unselfish and very supportive. We all can play these supportive roles for each other, and I think that's really where it comes from.

AXS: I like how leading up to the release of Elevate, you did a behind-the-scenes series called, “The Krewe – A Lettuce Documentary Series.” Why was it important to do that along with everything else that you’re doing?

AS: You know, we're living in an age where we can easily take video and capture the same thing as making a record. It’s really just capturing a piece of history, a piece of time in audio, and then to have video stuff along with it; where we're going to be able to capture where we were, what we were thinking at that moment. I think when we look back years from now, we're really going to enjoy that we did that stuff. 

AXS: What do you think creating music with these guys is going to look like over the next 25 years?

AS: I don't even want to look at it like that because I really want to just live in the now, live in the moment, and understand that our next big thing is Red Rocks. That's what we're going to focus on right now. That's what I'm focused on right now. I think if we're all focused on that one idea, we can really put a wonderful show together and conjure up the spirits of the Rocks.

You can purchase tickets to see Lettuce at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Saturday, June 15, here at AXS. Click here for additional tour dates.