“Livetronica” vs. acoustic. Red vs. Blue. The polarization of the jam band scene is starting to feel like the American political scene, and it’s difficult for bands to rise above the cluster. Having played with their current lineup for six years, Philadelphia-based quintet Lotus — drummer Steve Clemens, bassist Jesse Miller, guitarist/keyboardist Luke Miller, programmer/percussionist Chuck Morris, and guitarist Mike Rempel — are already veterans of electronic grooves. Their recent studio release, The Strength of Weak Ties, shows off their maturity throughout its 10 well-furbished tracks. Here are four reasons to check them out:
1. Four out of five band members are Mennonites. “The main things are simple living and pacifism, and there’s a lot of emphasis on service and community,” explains Luke Miller. “And there’s four-part a capella singing, which is the total opposite of what we do.” Peace and love, for real. And if you hate bluegrass, no harmonies.
2. They do more than jam. “Our shows are about 60 percent improvisation — at least as far as not having composed it beforehand,” says Miller. “I see it with a lot of younger bands, they try to go straight to the jam peak. Lotus has a lot of really well thought out pieces of music.” They started as a funk band, they groove hard, and when they want to, they know how to rock out.
3. There’s vocals! Sort of. The Strength of Weak Ties includes some falsetto, repeated verses that a singing friend sat in for in Philly.
4. They have more fans than any other Lotus on Myspace.com. (There are 20 pages of band names including the word “Lotus”). It’s not uncommon for the band to show up in a town to find the local newspaper has Googled a photo of two lounging women and a man, above the caption saying they’re five dudes from Philly. “There’s actually another band in Philadelphia named Lotus,” says Miller. “Their frontman is an African-American dwarf, so there’s been some funny stories of people showing up thinking they were seeing us. And they play hardcore music.”