Interview: Jesse Miller of Lotus

You might not associate live electronic music with NPR, or think that Harper's is standard tour reading. But if you've ever crossed paths with Lotus' Jesse Miller, it probably comes as no surprise that those are his two main sources of news. Well-spoken, even-keeled and not caught up in any of the trappings of success, Miller spoke to  HeadLiners Radio with the maturity and intellect that is also starting to define Lotus' evolving music. The entire interview can be heard on HeadLiners, or check out the highlights below.


Your new self-titled album. Everyone says that it's so different, it's so much more electronic, not as organic, yada yada - but I didn't get that impression at all. To me it still sounds like trusty old, feel- good Lotus. Is there an intentional sort of optimistic, feel-good quality to your music when you guys are writing it?

I think so. One thing that's always been important to us is melody and I think that's maybe of the unique features about Lotus. Even though we're really influenced by electronic music, we still take a lot from pop structures and we want this, even if they're instrumental, to be a song. A lot of times when you're writing melodies a good way to think about it is to sing it and have that vocal approach, because you'll approach something differently if you're singing it instead of playing it on a guitar or a keyboard or something.

I think it is a good point, about the music. The whole thing about the new album being more electronic is a little funny because I feel like people are usually just quoting me from a press release that I wrote when the album came out. In a lot of ways the album was approached in a less electronic fashion than some of our previous albums - even though it definitely heavily focuses on synthesizer and has really dance-oriented beats pretty much throughout the album - it was recorded mostly live to tape using pretty old school methods. Actually our older albums, which some people describe as less electronic,  were definitely produced in a more cut-and-paste computer approach. It's interesting how all those things take, but yeah - I think ultimately starts from this press release that I wrote. Which is pretty hilarious.

What are some of your all time favorite songs to play live?

I think definitely just tracks that I've written. I really appreciate Luke's stuff too but something about tracks that I've written, playing live, maybe its a little more personal. Some of my top favorites to play are "Behind Midwest Storefronts," "128," and then really anything that's really new. I always like working on our newest stuff and pretty much think that's our best stuff. So I always like putting the new stuff out and either progress it to another level that we didn't think of when we were writing it or just really feeling out the grooves and getting into it as we play these tracks more and more.

How do you find and follow the issues that you care about, especially as busy as you guys are.

I have some of my favorite sources. I read The Times, the New Yorker, and Harper's, and some online new sources. I have some podcasts that I follow - I especially like "On the Media," which is really great for current news. I'm an NPR junkie at home. I just have it on all day. I think radio is an amazing medium. Even just the stories of radio -  "This American Life" is great, "RadioLab" is awesome. Those are ones that I really try to stay on top of, I feel like that's where I'm getting my news. With those types of podcasts and NPR, I think that's a way to go a lot further than just a headline. With news online I think there's a tendency to just read the headline, and even the stories are built for that get out/get in really quick. With an hour long radio program you can really delve into an issue further.

It's an election year, so do you have any parting words? Is there anything you'd like to tell the listeners on HeadLiners?

There's so many issues right now. I think the main thing is people need to be informed - whatever conclusions you come to - the important thing is to get the facts. In this day and age it seems like it would be easy, but it's almost more difficult as the amount of information has gone up, the noise has also increased. I think that's the main thing if you're making up your mind about these issues. Just stay informed and also realize that you have a voice and that's what's important. I know that's what HeadCount works on, making sure people are registered to vote, but also informed. There's so many things to be involved in and get informed about. Using different sources and not just trusting it to little 30 second clips that a candidate or news organization puts out there.

To hear the entire Jesse Miller interview, and some great LIVE music, listen to HeadLiners Radio now.