Lotus Thief: Band Of The Day

By on 16 December 2014

Lotus Thief

As the twilight of 2014 approaches, it is easy to get lost in the endless parade of lists and best-of features and turn your brain off to new music with a release date during the dying months of the year. But as Beastmilk confirmed in 2013, to do so would be the actions of a fool, because good music does appear during the dark maelstrom of November and December. A case-in-point for 2014 is ‘Revrm’ by the duo known as Lotus Thief. This band, who are signed to the reputable Svart Records and boast Botanist iconoclast Otrebor on drums, have released a splendid record, one worthy of your disposable time – provided you can pry yourself away from End Of Year Mania. With an extremely open-ended sound which subsumes many subgenres in and out of metal (most notably black metal and space rock) without really resembling any one band in particular, Lotus Thief are a breath of fresh air to us here at Terrorizer. So, in an effort to learn more, we had to discuss the origins of the band and the interesting concepts that form the thematic basis of ‘Revrum’ with drummer Otrebor and the band’s chief songwriter/singer/lyricist, the learned and extremely talented Bezaelith.

WORDS: Dean Brown

WHO ARE THEY: Lotus Thief
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: San Francisco, CA
FOR FANS OF: Botanist, Oranssi Pazuzu, Menace Ruine
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Revrm’ (Svart, 2014)
WEBSITE: Facebook

How did Lotus Thief come about? Was it a means to step outside what people expect from you given your work with Botanist?
Otrebor: “Lotus Thief owes its start to an excess of drum recordings. The drums on hand to make ‘Botanist III’ were wonderful, but there was a lot (too much) and people that had heard the drums wanted to record to them. So that gave me the idea to ask various musician friends to contribute a track to the album as a sort of bonus/add-on disk that fit in to the larger band concept. The rules: make the song with the drums provided and make the song about plants in some way. Lotus Thief got enough fans from its initial song, ‘Nymphaea Carulea’, that I urged Bezaelith to write a full-length record, because I knew we were onto something great. Now Lotus Thief has become the opportunity for me to be in a band with a fresh sound and a great singer, and in which I can just concentrate on contributing drums to cool songs and not have to run the show.

Can you tell us a bit about the songwriting process for ‘Rervm’? Do you believe that the end product boils down to your chemistry as duo?
Otrebor: “I do. The way ‘Nymphaea Carulea’ was recorded, with drums plotting out the basic song structures through rhythm, worked so well for both of us that we repeated the same process for a full-length record. Most musicians have a hard time writing to drums. I don’t, and Bezaelith doesn’t, either. Rather, this process greatly propels Lotus Thief to its end result. Since we want to mix things up in the future, we’ve been demo-ing songs for albums to come both in our comfortable zone of my writing the drums first, but also going about it the way most everyone else does it, with Bezaelith composing music to a click track and then handing over to me to fill out the rhythmic textures. I can tell you the difference in results is stark, but not in a negative way: we believe that a variety of songs make for great records, and since one of Lotus Thief’s credos is the pursuit of knowledge outside one’s comfort zone, we’re going to be trying different stuff, while still not forgetting where our trusty guns are.”

In what ways does the creative process for Lotus Thief differ from Botanist? Do you feel you’ve more room to experiment in Lotus Thief given the kind of unique black metal Botanist have created over the years?
Otrebor: “Botanist, through six full-length records and about as many EPs, has always been me, writing and recording material. The project expanded to a full band in 2013 due to public demand and my interest in pushing the band as far as it could go, because I believe what the band stands for is important to promote.  As to the experimental freedom the two projects offer, Botanist will forever be my greatest expressive and experimental outlet. It’s my project and I can write and record for it on my own whenever I want to. Lotus Thief is the opportunity to be involved in a creative team, to be a supporter of that team, and to enjoy having far fewer responsibilities. Relatively, I can just kick back and make drum parts and see them propel music and thrive within that context.”

The press release for ‘Rervm’ states that you want people to view Lotus Thief as its “own separate entity”. What’s the reasoning behind this?
Otrebor: “Who wants to live in the shadow of another band? Besides, our respective bands don’t sound at all like one another. We’re happy to milk any popularity of Botanist’s to aid in Lotus Thief’s initial push, but I don’t really get how there are so many established musicians who have side projects, and the side projects basically sound like the main project. For me, if I’m going to commit to another band, it’s not only got to be good, it’s got to be different.  Bezaelith was instrumental in the early stages of Botanist as a full band, as she was our initial bass player for that debut 2013 year as a 5-piece. She played with us for our first 10 or so concerts, including our initial tour, on the West Coast of the USA. She was also the bass player on some practice recordings we made in 2013, out of which one song, ‘Gorechid’, was released to the public. After 2013, Bezaelith left the band to concentrate on other aspects of her life, and was replaced by Balan, who was already noted as being the man behind the musical project Palace Of Worms.”

Bezaelith: “I owe the beginnings of this project to Otrebor’s prolificacy, and to our ability to collaborate and take creative projects seriously.  But Lotus Thief is not Botanist and vice versa.  As soon as ‘Rervm’ was mixed, Lotus Thief began speaking for itself.  Not only is the music totally different, but the concepts behind the bands are also worlds apart.  As a project, Lotus Thief’s purpose is to laud knowledge, to illuminate Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ or ‘De Rerum Natura’ or whatever we’re focusing on in song.  I remember the first time I heard Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’.  It’s an incredibly beautiful thing, and I think to myself, if it had not been about the planets would I have been so intrigued in the nuances of sound Holst designed?  Holst was connecting the dots between our associations with the planets themselves, the symbolism and myths surrounding their names, and he constructed sonic personalities and stories for them.  He animated the myths.  Lotus Thief’s aim is similar.  There is an experience to that, and a connection to the past that is deliberate for us and for the listener.”

There’s a lot going on throughout ‘Rervm’. We’re hearing moments of Hawkwind-esque space rock, shoegaze/goth music (especially vocally), field recordings, and some passages of black metal drumming, all with great emphasis on catchy melodies and propulsive riffs. Where are your inspirations coming from on this record?
Bezaelith: “‘Rervm’ was a challenge to see how far I could take my vocals and instrumentation given a powerful drumline and a powerful text to root lyrics in.  In terms of context, I didn’t want to write these big cathedral-esque songs about how I broke up with my boyfriend one time, or how angry I get at this or that person that I want to smash things, the idea of something so banal with these songs was hilarious.  I needed something as big and wieldy as stone, something I could carve into and see more and more levels of ideas and detail.  The inspiration was the places the text took me.”

According to your Bandcamp, ‘Aeternvm’ is a retelling of a piece by Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius. What inspired you to retell this poem?
Bezaelith: “I love books and have been an English teacher for over a decade. Moreover, I love it when I anything written so far back in time still connects with the present.  History is a great filter for separating out the trendster art versus what’s going to last.  Lucretius’ stuff lasts.  He talks about the psychology of fear and superstition, about how dumb it is to sacrifice a human being to a deity, about basic natural processes, atomism “Substance is eternal”, obsessions, lust, etc.  The big idea I like the most from this thing is his idea about fear and learning, that human beings are designed to learn so that we can overcome the things that frighten us.  Retelling this piece was a way for me to riff musically and mentally on something that’s already been tested by time as definitively not bullshit.  In the future, I’ll probably move in all sorts of thematic directions, but the big ideas will still be there in broad lyrical strokes and based in the text itself or on what we can know about a specific folktale.  This music is specifically meant to colour a storyline or an idea and to connect to the listener who is looking into the depths to have that experience with us.”

Lyrically, where are you coming from on the rest of ‘Rervm’?
Bezaelith: “The lyrics are based directly from a translation of the poem.  They are meant to distil the ideas that are most thematic in each book so that the listener/reader gets the gist of the work in broad strokes. The reason why ‘De Rerum Natura’ exists is because someone discovered it in a German monastery and bothered to have it copied, which was no easy task in the 1400s. I liked the idea of re-amplifying these old and beautiful words in something that people will listen to today, and maybe even go to the source text themselves.”

Will you be performing this music live or is Lotus Thief solely a studio project?
Otrebor: “We’ve got a working, full lineup, featuring one name from a well-established USA metal project, and we’re looking to start playing out in 2015. We’re looking forward to seeing how these newcomers to the project will help colour its musical identity in albums to come.”

So we’ll hear more music from Lotus Thief in the future, then?
Otrebor: “The songs we’ve got demoed already for the future are even better, in my opinion, especially if you like harder hitting numbers with greater vocal hooks, punctuated by very soft, ethereal songs that are structured more like pop tunes.”

Bezaelith: “I think ‘Rervm’ will be what it is and the next one, from what I’m hearing, will be something entirely different and beautiful in its own new way.  The texts sort of dictate the mood, and the next one (without letting the secret out) is definitely not in the realm of philosophy or science.  Really, it is endless where Lotus Thief can go and I suspect there will be a lot more experimentation and taking steps in all different directions, knowing that the way forward is trusting what sounds right to us.”

About Kez Whelan

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