Pioneering jamtronica outfit Lotus is set to release their 10th studio album, Free Swim, an energizing plunge into uplifting jams and soulful funk to refresh our summer playlists. Due to world-wide concert cancellations, the Philadelphia-bred group—comprised of brothers Jesse Miller and Luke Miller, Mike Rempel, Chuck Morris, and Mike Greenfield—used their extra time off the road to fine tune their latest studio project, due out on August 21st. The 10-track LP showcases the band’s growth over the course of 15 years since their 2005 debut album, Nomad, and affirms their standing as one of the most influential bands in the jam scene.
Lotus – Free Swim – Full Album
Free Swim presents an eclectic palette of groovy psychedelia and funk with an overall summery vibe. While each track on the album stands out on its own, listeners will find a refreshing, tropical island theme through the album’s various tracks and titles.
As Jesse Miller explained in a recent conversation with Live For Live Music, “[Free Swim] is the name of one of the tracks and Luke, who’s our keyboardist/guitarist and writes all the music with me, titled that song. After we put the record together, it stood out to me as just one of the titles that captured the spirit of the record. There’s definitely these water themes that just popped up in some of the titles. But just this vibe of a summery, energized, uplifting energy is something that went through the whole album. And I thought Free Swim captured that in a pretty succinct way.”
After a year of songwriting and exploring these “summery” vibes, Luke and Jesse joined up with the band to record Free Swim at Spice House Sound in Philadelphia in early 2020. What started as a batch of 20 demos by Jesse and Luke was whittled down to the strong, 10-track set that makes up Free Swim.
One of those 10 tracks to make the cut was “Catacombs”, whose title is a reference to the underground Parisian ossuaries that bring in countless people from around the world. The jazz-funk groove opens the gates and welcomes listeners to descend into the depths of Free Swim. With the help of uplifting flute harmonies by featured guest Sam Greenfield, the track sets the tone for the rest of the album. From the vintage funk of “Sepia Rainbow” to the party-rock grooves of “Free Swim” to the mesmerizing soundscapes of “Land Of The Lush”, the album bursts with vibrant beats and crisp melodies.
“Bjorn Gets a Haircut”, in particular, captures the “free” nature of the album. The main hook, centered around a “Mellotron vocal ‘Oh’ patch” from Luke, leads listeners on the type of instrumental joyride for which Lotus is revered in the jam world. The track, initially released as a single alongside an in-studio video, is a cosmic disco dance party that shimmers like audio chrome.
“The video was shot while we tracked live at Spice House Sound. The animation was created using the same live-reactive system I have been building for Lotus’ live show. I used triggers from the drums and other music elements while tweaking parameters live on a MIDI controller and all of these data interact with randomized and evolving calculations in the custom video generation program. There’s a full, in-studio video for every song on the album,” Miller added.
Even before diving into Free Swim, listeners are greeted with colorful, aquatic album art designed by Jesse Miller himself. “I did the art for this record,” Miller explained. “We’ve always been involved, even in the last record, Frames Per Second, that was actually a piece of art that Luke commissioned from an artist in Detroit. And then he took the original piece and cut it up and made it into this mini diorama. Then we had photos taken of that to give it this extra depth. For Eat The Light, that’s actually a photo of a sculpture that Luke made. [The Free Swim cover art] was really fun to work on. I like doing graphic design, so I’ve done a few for my other group, Octave Cat. If I feel like I’m able to come up with something that works, then it makes the whole thing more of a singular vision.”
Lotus – Free Swim – Album Art
While the mass cancellation of traditional shows continues, drive-in shows are becoming the popular alternative to ensure live music continues. After months without a live show, fans will be able to see Lotus perform some of the new material live at Live Nation’s Live-In/Drive-In concert on September 4th at Philadelphia, PA’s Citizens Bank Park.
“I think it’s something that I don’t think anybody would pick as their ideal concert in normal times,” noted Miller. “It’s undeniable that energy of packing in a crowd in front of a stage and feeling the music on a big PA system. But at least now you have something to work toward and something for fans to get out and see. It’s really hard to imagine coming back to anything like we did before. I mean, a concert checks all the boxes of things that make sickness easy to spread.”
“But if people spend half of what they normally would on concert tickets on buying albums or supporting bands in other ways,” Miller muses, “I think that’s what is best for everyone right now. We’re in this new reality of all music being super accessible through streaming, and most of the income for all bands is really dependent on live shows. If you take that away without having some kind of other rise in income, it’s easy to see how bands just drop off.”
The new Lotus album, Free Swim, is currently available to pre-order ahead of its August 21st release. To order yours or choose from a variety of packages including a shirt and a Bandcamp download code, head here.