When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver, 303-837-1482
Even with 12 years of music in its catalog, and four full-length records with Boulder’s SCI Fidelity, electronic jam band Lotus can keep fans guessing.
In one moment they sound like pure progressive rock, and in the next they’re pumping out synth-y dance beats. It’s not an accident. The Indiana-based band has very clear ideas about what its music should be and puts it together carefully. Not exactly what you would expect from a group that’s so often called a jam band, and that’s essentially how they avoid all the negative connotations that come with that genre.
“One thing we pride ourselves on is constantly evolving,” bassist Jesse Miller said. “Our last studio project, which really ended up being a couple albums, really came out of a couple years working in a certain mode.”
That mode was prog rock — heavy on instrumentals and featuring mostly the standard guitar, bass, and drums. Now they’ve started incorporating more keys, synths, and “heavy-hitting bass.” The vocals are still minimal, though. On Lotus’ latest, self-titled album, only the song “The Surf” prominently features any singing.
The result of the shift in gears is that Lotus appeals to a wider audience, and fans get some diversity at the live shows. Emphasizing electronics complicates the performance, but Miller said it doesn’t dull it down.
“We’ve had a system in place for how we kind of approach that stuff live, as far as triggering samples or playing stuff on keyboards,” he said. “But we didn’t make any shift. It’s not us standing in front of computers. We’re still a rock band.”
Miller does most of the writing with his twin brother, Luke, and it’s a very careful process of trial and error. Every song is “put through a critical wringer” before they even present them to the rest of the band, then they make adjustments after trying out the new material live.
“We try to start with a very precise idea of what we want to do,” Miller said. “We write pretty much on our own, and once we’re pretty far into the process then we kind of have a back and forth where we’re trading stuff on the arrangements.”
They’re in work mode now, doing shows here and there while they plot the next album. Some studio dates are set up for the next few months, but there’s no concrete release date yet.
“In some ways, it’s a continuation of what we were doing with the last album. We’ve written quite a lot of stuff and it does cover a pretty wide range,” Miller said. “I think one thing we’ve been moving toward is making our compositions really tight and trimming down the fat.”
Despite all the precision behind the scenes, Lotus is known for exciting, somewhat unpredictable live shows with complex light displays and group improvisation. In short, it’s a little bit of everything Boulder loves.