About Me

Interview with Lotus Thief

Lotus Thief might be a new name to some of you but the band is blooming fast! Their new album “Oresteia” is a masterpiece of progressive metal and it was a good reason for Metal Imperium to talk to the band. Bezaelith shared her long and interesting thoughts with us.  

M.I. - First off, tell us a bit about Lotus Thief’s history. When and where did you get formed? What were your goals then?

We were formed when I was challenged to write some metal songs over drums for Botanist “Allies”, which ended up with my writing music over six surplus tracks initially intended for Botanist albums. The result was “Rervm”. At the time the goals were a recording project only, but as soon as we got signed, I started looking for players to make the live music something realized.  

M.I. - Lotus Thief is a project with a stated purpose of lauding knowledge and illuminating ancient words and art through songs. Supposedly, Lotus Thief is a project that balances black and post metal with space rock and ambient influences. How did this sound mixture come up? By experimentation? How would you define your musical style?

It came out because that was the music sitting in my head, I think. The stylization was a conglomerate of everything I love about heavy music, be it rock, ambient or metal. I don’t ascribe to genre stuff so much, I just play what I’m hearing. Playing by a musical set of rules is, to me, the lazy way of doing things if you are really trying to give yourself all the options. Yes, there are bands who sit right in a genre and people love them and they serve a purpose but, when I think of the bands that made me enjoy the music AND think, it’s the bands that push the boundaries. 

M.I. - "Nothing from nothing ever yet was born" is the line taken from Lucretius' work that Lotus Thief channels the most, serving as the project's raison d'être. Why is this line so important to you?

That’s a hard one. Lucretius’ poetic relay of atomism is the basis of E=mc2. It’s the basis of why we are here as far as we know and stabs at the possibilities of Why we could be here with greater elegance than any religion’s imaginary friends can fantasize. Nothing comes from nothing: the atoms that made you did not suddenly appear - they were already the fabric of this universe, assembled in different form until there was you. Nothing comes from nothing: all of your experiences, your desires, your helping others and building your life’s work - it adds up to you and the people who have been affected by your presence here on this Earth. In the end, we are here, will have been here and always were here somehow. When the cave dwellers battled, the bits that made us were already here. When the dinosaurs were thriving only to be bombarded into extinction, the parts that made us were here. We are a part of something greater than us, whatever it is. We don’t know everything, but we do know somehow innately that we are part of some greater mechanization, swerve or pattern. And the more we know about our universe, the more of the pattern we discover, like the parable of the bug unable to see the pattern of the ornate rug on which it sits, because he is too small, we have the gumption to build rockets and microscopes so that we may look down on the pattern. Nothing comes from nothing means that every person who will find one more clue, every insight that will give us more answers about the nature of existence - the building blocks are already here, waiting to be put together. That little phrase gave me more peace and hope than a decade of being raised in the church, or two decades of public school, or three decades of the age of information. 

M.I. - 2014 was the year your debut album “Rervm” was released. Now Prophecy is re-releasing it again. Only 6 years went by. Why do this re-release?

That’s an easy one. “Rervm” was signed to Svart Records on a 5-year contract. When I signed with Prophecy, the plan was for “Rervm” to revert back to me and then be signed over to Prophecy as part of the collection of our work. Hence the artbook and CD release only. It’s possible that we will reissue it in vinyl at some point, but for now the reissue was a way of getting the record back on the market under Prophecy’s representation. 

M.I. - 2020 kicked off with the right foot for Lotus Thief as the new album came out on the 10thJanuary. What has happened since the release? 

Since the release we’ve been deliberating on whether or not we do a short tour, hit festivals only, or focus on the other releases that are in queue. It’s a 6-person full group with a 4-player live minimum. We played the record release show at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco as a tight 4-piece and that was a blast, but I really want to get a set together that encompasses all 4 releases we have (including the coming one) to build… LOL… a super set of about 60 minutes, with the intended 6-person lineup. So, we are in talks to basically figure out the next move with that as the ultimate goal.

M.I. - So far how’s the reaction of the media and fans been to “Oresteia”?

The publications who have reviewed us have largely enjoyed the record and derived meaning from it as well. We’ve gotten the volume of reviews the predecessors received in a year in only a month since release. A lot of the reviews have also given beautiful detail on the album that we ourselves could not have described better. I think of the three albums, “Oresteia” is the most beloved so far. “Oresteia” is where a lot of our Listeners got to fall in love with something in the story and sound. 

M.I. - The new album shows substantial progress and has been given a huge boost, especially at instrumentation, production, and everything else, since your second full-length “Gramarye”.  What are the main differences between “Oresteia” and the other two albums?

We put the drums and vox forward in the mix and let that chemistry set the stage. We worked as three guitarists instead of one. We experimented with four sets of vocals and more precision on all parts. 

M.I. - “Oresteia” is the longest full-length you’ve released so far and it is based on a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus in the 5thcentury BC. Why have you decided to base an album on this trilogy? 

Initially because it is a text taught in almost every American public high school, that it is focused on violence, and that in our American public schools our students are numb to stuff like school shootings. There’s a normalcy to it. The normalcy of how violence happens in the play is also just weird. When you read the summary of who kills who and how, it’s just a bloodbath. The trilogy also, as far as we know, isn’t a trilogy, there’s at least another part of the play lost to history. With there being a missing link somewhere lost to the ages, there was a part of me that was tempted to fill in the blank. But I think the lyrics do that nicely. 

M.I. - Lotus Thief’s albums focus on words from the past. You often like to think on what the past is telling us. What have you learned so far? Should our society pay more attention to ancient wisdom?

I’ve learned we know so much and nothing at the same time. I’ve learned that we are a species that’s dying, quite literally, to learn from its own past. If you look at the corporate empires of today, the serfdom of low paid exploitation of the masses in so-called developed nations, you start to draw lines of comparison to the bloated empires of the past that grew too top-heavy. You start to see the same greedy animal with the same old tricks. But you also get to see those jewels that are the minds of great thinkers, inventors, people who lived a century ahead of their time. Sometimes it’s almost worth suffering the selectively ignorant consumers just to get that one brilliant person who somehow puts two and two together and we get rockets to the moon, penicillin, “Master of Puppets”, etc.. So, it is a double-edged sword. Looking back means looking at genocide and geniuses alike, and it’s something we have to unpack if we are going to survive. 

M.I. - Have you ever thought about using more recent history as base for the concept for upcoming albums?

I think we want to go back far enough so that we can show a time that isn’t now. We did do Crowley which is 20th century but still, to me, I like to use stuff that is so far off in history that it is almost alien to us. But then, in spite of its strange nature, we end up seeing ourselves. 

M.I. - Bezaelith’s vocals are extremely powerful and intense and stand out even more on the new album… how can one voice alone create such intense moments? Did you use any vocal techniques?

I just go by what feels right and what is the amount of power and number of vocal lines I need to express what is there. For “Oresteia”, part of it is me talking as Clytemnestra. That’s a mother who watched her kid get sacrificed so her husband could win and war and bring a new girlfriend home to show off. Needless to say, she’s pissed. That’s track 1. Libation Bearers is Electra discovering her brother’s deeds and intentions. It’s becoming a willing accomplice to violence, it’s giving in and falling into your rage. The Furies, pure revenge. I have to be those characters, or embody that mask of human emotion. Any song, love song or otherwise is a character portrayed. I listen to the best women vocalists of all time and I try to hear what makes them powerful. Each of them is different, they have a different inflection and strength. I seek that strength in myself.   

M.I. - Tal R’eb, Romthulus, and Ascalaphus sing in this album… why did you choose to include all their voices?

To be fair with the text - which is male and female speakers, and also, because we have 5 people now: why not? Why not flex the broad scope of those different vocal resonances? If done well, it can only help us. It's also a way of being pegged in some small-minded genre-hole. So much of today's genre-isms with the "female-fronted" and "males vs. females in metal" just grosses me out. Sometimes I want to remind people that empowerment is about everyone being empowered, inspiring and working together to become the species our holy curiosity has the potential to be. I saw one review of a band where the reviewer was WARNING the audience that the singer was female, as if that aspect alone disqualified her band from being "metal". I've seen girls also play that game where they exclude other women, or men in efforts to stay in their genre, or to have the right kind of lineup at the cost of excluding good musicians that make the whole thing more incredible and diverse. And the end result is their music gets fucking boring. Exclusion and gatekeeper culture are gross. It takes away from the possibility of what a record could be. Romthulus' low droning vocals lend an eerie darkness to "Libation Bearers" - there he is, underneath those guitars, mute his tracks and you have a thinner sound. Tal R'eb's creepy whispers, his directness and strange innocence (particularly in the next records) break my heart, and Ascalaphus - his vocal insanity is unbridled, and once you remove his vox from the mix, it becomes less. Males and females will be on the records as long as we have them in the band to contribute, which I hope will be forever. It adds to the colours of our sound so immensely and I am so grateful for it. 

M.I. - Musically and vocally, the band has absolutely blossomed as “Oresteia” is a collaboration of five composers, unlike its predecessors which were the work of only 2 composers. How much did this change affect the final result?

It changes everything. We have 5 sets of eyes (technically 6 counting the incoming female vocalist who is on the bonus tracks with me), doing quality control. Bands where one person runs the ship like some child dictator (we all can name 10 probably in under a minute) always end in the same place: the place of being same-y, gimmicky or just sad. This is true for many bands where one person makes all the decisions and everyone else is just playing parts. How utterly boring. Don’t get me wrong I’ve totally done the get paid sideman thing, but if I don’t contribute any originality, it’s just watching one person masturbating their ego to increasingly boring iterations of what they were doing two albums before that. A team of players I respect, who can call me on a part that needs editing and vice versa is worth a thousand sycophants or sidemen. 

M.I. - The release party took place on the 17thJanuary and you played the new album in its entirety. How did it go?

It went awesomely. We played with two local bands, Brume and Older Sun. Brume was joined by Jackie Perez Gratz from Grayceon and Giant Squid, who I enjoyed seeing play when we shared a bill back in the day with Botanist. Older Sun really did a great job bringing the heavy, and Brume was also incredibly inspiring and dark. It made for a perfect bill, and in some ways was hugely lucky for us. Usually you don't get as much choice in the entirety of the lineup. Considering the amount of merch sold that night alone, it was great, but the biggest reward was the bands. Brume just released a killer doom record in 2019 as well, so that is worth checking out for sure.  

M.I. - The newest album was thought out even before its predecessor was released. Do you usually plan ahead? Do you already have any plans/ideas regarding the upcoming album(s)?

We plan ahead extensively. The next three releases are already planned. Two of which are preliminarily recorded, the third is just in the idea stage, but the general content and concept is locked in. 

M.I. - What can fans expect of Lotus Thief in the near future? Are you thinking about touring to promote the album? Is Europe in your plans?

The number one thing I can tell fans is to expect a consistent product in the records. Tours are a complicated thing, and I've arrived at some conclusions about them with respect to Lotus Thief. While I wish we could be some jetsetting touring band like Maiden with their plane, I'm both realistic and selfish. I'm a realist because the reality of a tour in Europe for the 99% of American band means going city to city trying to essentially make back what one spent to get there, ground transportation and lodging - not to mention the wholesale cost of the merch. So, if we get offered a decent fest or two over the pond, sure, we'll go and gladly make back what we spent in plane tickets. But we are all one mind in that life is to be truly lived - not in some kind of slave service to the art we create. I can't tell you how many touring musicians I've met backstage or just before / after their shows who have said one thing on repeat to me over and over: "I just want to get home to my x" (x = insert, family, kids, pets, husband/wife, normal life). If so many of them feel that way, if so many of them want the tour to be a memory instead of a beautiful "now", living and enjoying the present, I'm not convinced. Lotus Thief also isn't some three-piece that plays whatever the house gear is, wish as I might sometimes that it could have been. Expanded out, we are a full production, music plus stage show with visuals, and three front-people, two females and one male - all with instruments dialed in for the performance, IEM's, personal mixers, etc... The idea of getting six people and all that gear on a tiny dive bar stage is hilarity, stressful, and not worth the squeeze. Give us a big stage, we will hold the audience captive as we did at Prophecy Fest. But we're not the project to drag from dive bar to dive bar, and our time is best spent invested in improving and upping our game on the quality of the recordings we generate. Ultimately, a lot of bands get hooked on the idea of touring - they think it will make them famous - I know at least 20 old dudes who toured extensively in the 60's,70's,80's, 90's who still have their day jobs and don't have records in circulation. The one benefit of the age of digital media is the music quite frankly gets out there on its own steam if it's good music. We don't have to play the game of depleting our health and sanity to look like every other band out there because we're not every other band out there, and that's precisely what people like about us.  

M.I. - What are Lotus Thief’s plans for the long-term future? What are your goals now?

The plan for the long-term future is to build a library of beautiful works that celebrate, re-examine, and unpack the words from our past, and to be a band that provokes thought rather than blind consumerism. 

M.I. - Any last words?

Thank you so much for your thought-provoking questions. Most importantly, we appreciate that writers give our music another voice. Thanks also to our Listeners who have reached out to us this year, it has given us so much inspiration to continue doing what we do. 

For Portuguese version, click here

Interview by Sónia Fonseca