A talk with Beard-o-Bees mastermind Jesse Miller of Lotus… | 05.2012

 

 

 

A Talk with Beard-o-Bees mastermind Jesse Miller…. (of Lotus fame)

J.Miller talks Beard o Bees, Lotus, the future of both and where we might see his talented group go next…

Interview Date: 05.11.2012

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*This interview was scheduled to run on Jambase.com back in May, but unfortunately what happens with a website of their size is things get pushed aside and forgotten. I think its a great interview and Jesse gave good answers to some questions I think fans of Lotus will still be interested to know…Enjoy!

Interview and Questions by: Michael Urban

Interview Photos by: Debra Bettencourt

Feature Photo by: Andrew Scott Blackstein

 

Using horn sounds, hip hop beats, couple Lotus samples and just about every other sound one could image Beard o Bees the alter ego of Lotus bassist Jesse Miller took the stage Friday May 11, 2012 at the Irving Plaza in New York City. A rare occurrence Beard o Bees was opening for Lotus and did not disappoint playing about an hour of nonstop dance friendly numbers that had the the whole crowd moving. Jesse Miller, founding member of Lotus and co-writer of many tunes still finds the time to do a side project and generously gave up some of that time between meetings and before his Lotus sound check to sit down and talk shop with me back stage at the Irving Plaza about his passion project Beard o Bees and what the future looks like for his main gig Lotus.

 

Michael Urban(MU): Where did the name Beard o Bees come from?

Jesse Miller(JM):  haha ummm, I don’t remember exactly, but I came up with the idea of the name before I even had a solo project and it was kind of this ongoing joke that I would be this solo persona, and it would be this ridiculous DJ stuff and everything would be way over the top, then I actually started to put together this idea of doing a solo set and I just ran with Beard o Bees as a name and the ideas flowed.JM2

 

MU: You use some Lotus samples, did the project stem from Lotus ideas that didn’t work or were you always thinking, “Hey I going do my own DJ thing at some point….” ? You are a bass player and live musician at heart so I wonder where the idea to do your own thing came from.

JM: I guess it started when I would do remixes of Lotus stuff to kind of test out different production techniques and learn more about some of the different software that I was using, and that was kind of my first steps into that sort of stuff and it expanded from there. I then started to do remixes for other people which lead to writing things that were more electronic then say more geared towards a band and just expanded on that (electronic specific ideas). I look at it as a good thing though to have an outlet that’s not Lotus that I can kind of test out things that wouldn’t work for Lotus and learn about different sounds and different styles of performing and sometimes I can bring those ideas back to Lotus but it’s also freeing myself up creatively and that lets me think about things in different ways.

 

MU: Getting into Lotus a bit, any plans of a European tour?

JM: Yea we would love to, but really we are not known over there. Obviously we would like to change that because I think our music would make a great fit there, but we haven’t found a good way to break into that market yet. There are a lot of indie bands over there and I feel like they usually follow their albums, basically go over to tour in support of an album and in our world I feel that’s a little flip flopped and that the live show comes first then the album(s). I think that’s one of the more tricky things (touring in support of an album which Lotus does not really do). The other thing about Europe that we learned when we toured with some groups that were from Europe was that we would be out playing different sets every night and while here that is totally normal over there it was like “holy shit we don’t know anyone that does that”. In Europe they have no style of, what we think of as this jam culture, long shows stretched out and people traveling to see many different shows.

 

MU: How was the response in Amsterdam for the Jam in the Dam Festival which ran March 14, 15 and 16 2012 with Lotus performing all 3 nights?

JM:  Well there was a lot of Americans and I kind of felt that we were a little bit of the odd ball out, being the youngest band there compared to the others which were a bit older it definitely changed the crowd some, but I think we definitely turned people on and overall were well received.

 

MU: These shows (Irving Plaza, NYC |May 10-11, 2012) are your last club dates before festival season, when will Lotus be back on tour?

JM: They are going to be our last club shows for while. Won’t be inside really until Fall and even then it won’t be a big club tour on the bus or anything. We are doing some special events though, we announced Red Rocks and FDR Park in Philly which is going to be huge and something really special I think the fans will enjoy.

 

MU: I am sure you were aware that many of the fans were bummed to hear Summerdance (Lotus’ own 2 day festival) was not happening this year. Do you think it’s in the cards for the future?

 JM: Well The Ledges in Ohio where it’s held are actually doing it this year and calling it Summerdance still but we won’t be playing.  It’s not to say however that we wouldn’t go back there, but we just couldn’t connect with them this summer.

 

MU: Was it the All Good contract that really put a stop to it? Many of the Lotus online groups started petitions to have the radius and/or time frame clause removed from the contract.

JM:  (laughs)  It was not totally related to All Good there were many factors that contributed.

 

MU: Well I remember when we spoke at Summerdance 2011 you said that while it was a Lotus festival it was really The Ledges that set it up and you guys just showed up to play, without getting into a whole lot of the actual festival planning itself which many maybe did not understand.

JM: Yea I mean we had no control whatsoever of who was on the bill and what the schedules were or anything like that. I could not even get Beard o Bees a set.

 

MU: What are chances of Lotus hosting a real festival of their own?

JM:  Yeah you know we might, I guess we kind of think of, and I know it’s different because it might not be a whole weekend “event”, but I kind of think of Red Rocks and like a FDR Park as kind of that, you know events that are built around Lotus.

 

MU: I know you guys were excited about playing Red Rocks last year, and coming back this year you really are true headliners, compared to last year where you co-headlined with Glitch Mob and in fact many were disappointed that Lotus did not close the show. How exciting is it to go back this year headlining and having a feel for the place?

JM:  We are all super pumped to get back to Red Rocks it’s great to go back as headliners as well. In terms of last year…I mean I thought it was a good pairing and a lot of people said we stole the show, but you know it’s really just very different performances having a band followed by laptop performers, but I am sure there was a lot of people there that were on the Glitch Mod side that could have cared less about our set, so you know it’s kind of the nature of these things. This year however will be a bit different in that sense that it’s more of a live vibe with Emancipator and EOTO, so all the groups while they might have electronic influences focus more on the live side of things.

 

MU: Changing subjects a bit, when do you see yourselves (Lotus) playing till, you are all young guys, have you given much thought to it?

JM:  Things are full steam ahead, we have taken it a long way so far and I think that there is still a lot of room to grow and reach new ears, we are not planning on slowing down at all in fact we have a lot of musical ideas about kind of expanding the sound and reaching new people though different ways, but I also feel like we are hitting some kind of creative peak, we are writing some of the best music we have ever written. Sometimes some people look at it and have their own things like “oh I wish Lotus played a little bit more like certain years, or this style” but to me it’s like if the band was not constantly pushing ahead then it would become stale not only to us but to the fans as well. It’s kind of like we have to be creative or the project dies.

 

MU: I could not agree with you more, and I feel like it’s the same with everything. I always hate when people are constantly saying that everything of the past is always better, like no bands later albums or music could ever be as good as the first.

JM:  I think a lot of that is rose tinted glass for sure and it’s hardly ever the case.

 

MU: There’s no doubt you guys (Lotus) are killing it right now, but back to Beard o Bee’s, what else is going on there?

JM:  Well you know I am pretty busy with Lotus, but when I have downtime I get back into Beard o Bees and I am hoping to release an album later this year of all original stuff. Actually what I’m thinking is maybe first doing an album of all remixes of other artists and then an album of all original stuff, maybe even paired together, if all works out hopefully that will be out later this year.

*Imperfect Grid the debut EP consisting of 6 original tracks was released on November 12, 2012 and is available here on iTunes.*

 

 

MU: That’s really great, good for you. It will be Beard o Bees first album, that’s awesome.

JM: Thanks you know, the other thing with it is I am trying to push the boundaries of what you can do live with electronic music. For example actually last month I spent some time developing my own software that I now use. I have this whole original system set up where I can actually play the music that is happening.

 

MU: Really, What it is called?

JM:  Well it is all run through Ableton and this program called MAX and I use what are called these grid controllers which is basically grids of buttons, one is called the launch pad and one called the monome and the monome is really an open source program (people share it) so then you can dig in and write your own programs for it basically and that’s one of the things I have been working on you know. I have seen enough dudes literally press play and wave their hands around and to me that’s pretty uninteresting, but maybe I spend too much time trying to come up with this stuff, but for me it’s just not interesting to do that. I want to try and challenge myself.

*Ableton is designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing and arranging, it can also be used by DJs for mixing tracks.

 

MU: hahaha, there’s no doubt that many of these “artists” are just hitting play. I mean I have only seen Beard o Bees once before tonight (12/30/11 | The Blockley – Philly, PA) and you were busy, I was engaged and it was not only a pleasure to hear, but interesting to watch you work not like half the people you and I have both seen at festivals everywhere and it’s becoming stale at this point.

The little board/grids we were talking about that you program yourself, how hard is that to do?

JM: Well I mean it takes a little while, usually I will write a track then after I think it’s in a pretty good spot, basically I’m breaking it down into its four elements. The drum parts, the bass parts, the leads parts and maybe the vocal parts or something else. So once that’s all broken out, I can be playing certain things whole or in parts while others might be already going, so it’s a lot of that…kind of deconstructing my own material then putting it back together live.

 

MU: That’s great, I think it’s those exact reasons many find you to be so entertaining. You were just out in LA for the “Low End Theory” events, how did that go? Different crowd?

JM: It was really fun, “The Low End Theory” was a bit of a different crowd and really it’s a whole scene that has kind of developed around that weekly or whatever Low End Theory event because people already know that it’s going to be this awesome night,  it was packed I mean people could not even dance it was that kind of thing. I mean I feel a lot of their stuff is based a little more in instrumental hip hop, like Flying Lotus actually did a set right after me, so you know my stuff being a little more on the house side, I did a few slower kind of things that I have which I thought fit in really well and the crowd was digging it.

 

MU: Do you think people were there for you, being Lotus, or just out to see live music?

JM: A couple people were there because they knew me or who Lotus was, but I think in general the majority of people were out to just see music and forward thinking artists doing some type of electronic set because like I said every Wednesday it’s just known that there will be 5 or 6 artists playing that night.

 

MU: Any plans for a Beard o Bees tour once you get an album out?

JM: Yea I would like to if Lotus has some downtime. I mean I try and plug in shows here and there when we have some time off. I really enjoy Beard o Bees because it’s a totally difference experience playing solo then with the band.

 

MU: How taxing will tonight be with Beard o Bees then Lotus right after?

JM: It’s going to be tough, haha, I have done it one time before, I mean I will do about an hour of Beard o Bees then three hours of Lotus, so it will be a long one for sure. The one other time I think the opener cancelled or something, it was a last minute thing, does not happen very often that’s for sure.

 

MU: Thank You very much for your time, it was a pleasure talking with you.

 

 

 

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