the Lotus Fire
Gig Seeker Pro

the Lotus Fire

Sarasota, Florida, United States | INDIE

Sarasota, Florida, United States | INDIE
Band World Acoustic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Meet The Lotus Fire!"

The Lotus Fire is a Sarasota, Florida-based Nuevo Flamenco, Gypsy Swing and Blues group.

They draw inspiration from the influences of Piazzolla, Grappelli, de Lucia, Ojos de Brujo, Yasmin Levy, and Etta James. They have played to wildly enthusiastic crowds throughout Europe, Latin and North America in clubs, festivals, casinos, resorts, including the President of the United States.

In addition to performing around Florida, The Lotus Fire did a recent European tour playing cafes and festivals in France, Spain, Holland and England.

Incredible lead vocals and outstanding musicianship are the trademarks of The Lotus Fire.

Check em’ online: - Unskinny Pop

"The Lotus Fire"

The Lotus Fire

Posted on February 23, 2013

The Sarasota, Florida based Flamenco band The Lotus Fire is full of surprises – just witness their live performance. During any particular live show, it may be tough for even the most seasoned music lover to identify what exactly influences the players behind The Lotus Fire (Arielleh McManus, Keven Aland, Nicolaas Kraster, Christopher Austin, Jon McLaughlin). One tune would lead a listener to believe they’re a jazz band, while another sounds like something out of a rock outfit. Kraster puts it best:”It’s about playing great music. There is a wonderful freedom in that, not many Flamenco bands can say ‘Hey, let’s kick into Whipping Post’ or Blues bands that can cover Jobim.”

They draw their actual influence from the likes of Piazzolla, Grappelli, de Lucia, Ojos de Brujo, Yasmin Levy, and Etta James; evident on their latest release, Come Out Swinging. Kraster says “It’s diverse, Swing, Blues, Rumba, Nuevo Tango, English, Spanish, Gibberish, it’s a great example of who we are as a band…I would call it ‘world music’ in its broadest sense. My playing and composing is a mix of all of the music I have heard in my life. Whenever a technique or phrase moves me I try to figure it out and incorporate it in to what I create.” Check out Come Out Swinging and learn more about The Lotus Fire at The band will be touring extensively in support, so catch a live show as soon as you can. There’s much to get into below, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQs.

XXQs: The Lotus Fire (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes it stand out over others in your genre?

Nicolaas Kraster (NK): I would call it “world music” in its broadest sense. My playing and composing is a mix of all of the music I have heard in my life. Whenever a technique or phrase moves me I try to figure it out and incorporate it in to what I create. It could be a chorus from an Arabic Pop tune or an old Delta Blues rhythm.

Arielleh McManus (AM): Describing our music as one genre would be limiting because of how diverse the influences, but I’ll have to agree with Nicolaas, calling it world music is extremely appropriate considering the array of style. What would set us apart from other world beat indie bands would have to be the way we substitute traditional music for an interwoven new sound full of soul.

Christopher Austin (CLA): We infuse a little western groove, elements of jazz, and blues into rumba flamenco, what is commonly referred to as gypsy swing, and the occasional tango. Even in our genre of World Music (where musical experimentation is common), this fusion of styles is unique in and of itself. But I would say that it is us, the musicians, that sets the band apart: this particular combination of people; our respective musical skills and influences; the way that each of us interprets and renders the music. It is rare to find a group of musicians that each thinks so differently about music, yet is able to fuse their different approaches into a cohesive, accessible, and energetic sound. I find that to be truly amazing.

Keven Aland (KA): It’s amazing we can have such an energetic sound with acoustic instruments and it’s very sensual. What makes us stand out? We’re a bunch of white people playing world music.

Jon McLaughlin (JM): Music that is inspired by Flamenco, Tango, and Gypsy Swing but expressed through members who were enculturated in the US. It gives us a different point of departure. We aren’t necessarily trying to conform to the genres that we are inspired by but they do influence us and coalesce with our own cultural background to form what you hear on the CD.

PEV: Calling Sarasota, Florida home, what kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

NK: My mother was a dance teacher in the small town of Fredonia, NY so I grew up listening to a lot of classical and show tunes. To this day Jesus Christ Superstar is my favorite work of all time but as a guitarist, I wanted to be Slash (Guns N’ Roses). First concert, The Dead Milkmen at the local college, I met them and hung out with them all day, great guys.

AM: My family taught me early on that it was good to listen to all kinds of music. My Mom liked older styles, country western, 20’s 30’s and Elvis, my Dad liked Blues and Rock, and my brother heavily doused me in Reggae and Ska. My first real concert was Ben Harper at Ruth Eckerd Hall when he was promoting “Diamonds on the Inside”.

CLA: As a child, my parents had an album collection that was extraordinarily diverse. I grew up hearing everything from Bach to Santana to Mahavishnu Orchestra to Sergio Mendez to Jimmy Cliff. As a teenager I rebelled and started listening to punk rock, new wave, and metal. As I grew into adulthood, though, the foundations that my parents started with all the different styles of music would remain. So, everything that I listen to is examined and liked or disliked based less on style or genre and more on fundamental qualities of music that speak to me. My first concert was when I was 5 years old. My father took me to the State Fair to see The Beach Boys.

KA: Classical, Bartok, Ravel, Stephane Grappelli and 80's Punk. First Concert, Nutcracker Ballet, I was seven and saw a violin for the first time and knew I wanted to be a violinist from that moment on.

JM: I was, in my teenage years, very much into what I supposed would be called alternative rock, i.e. Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and particularly Tool. As I matured I became fascinated with Flamenco guitar. Consequently, this lead to a passionate interest in other indigenous music particularly, but not limited to, Arabic and Indian forms. My first concert was a Korn and Rob Zombie concert.

PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together?

NK: The band is full of previously established musicians in the local scene. When I first started playing in Sarasota it was a much different time, there was so much jamming going on and everyone would sit in with everyone else’s bands. Once you got a project together it wasn’t that difficult to set up a gig because the owners of the venues had already heard you play.

AM: I sort of fell into it. I worked at a restaurant that has live music 7 nights a week. I always sang along and occasionally would get pushed up on stage to sit it. Eventually I got asked to sing for a band there and shortly after was asked to sing with The Lotus Fire. Our first show as a band was nerve racking for me because I had rapidly transitioned from waitress to singing covers once a week, to full time original band, although even with all of my stage fright, it still felt right.

CLA: This is a tricky question to answer because The Lotus Fire has gone through many evolutions across 13 years. I think a brief history of the band is necessary to understand the answers. Nic and Keven started the original band. Jon-Robert came along and began working with them years later. Nic and I met and started a band called Cabal with Jon-Robert and a bass player. We were playing much of the music written by The Lotus Fire. Ari joined us and we expanded musically under the Cabal moniker. Finally, the band brought Keven back into the fold and decided (for several reasons) that returning to the name The Lotus Fire was best. So, as far as breaking the scene originally, Nic or Keven can best answer that. The most recent change (returning to The Lotus Fire) was difficult for only one reason: after 3 years of Cabal, it was confusing to fans when we changed the name.

Our first show as the band (I define that as when Ari first joined Cabal) was interesting. I and Jon-Robert had not met Ari yet. Nic had met her and worked with her on a few tunes and introduced her to us on stage. We made our way through the tunes and all-in-all it went pretty well. On a side note, this “trial by fire” approach to writing music has become somewhat of a regular thing for us. It is not uncommon for Nic and Ari to develop a tune, show the rest of us the chords and changes on a set break at a show, and then we perform the tune live. Sometimes not knowing how we’re going to start or end. It keeps us on our toes and makes life interesting.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Lotus Fire show?

NK: Our shows are interesting in that there are two kinds of audience members; people there to listen and people there to dance. We aim to satisfy both. We have a very high energy fun show filled with challenging arrangements and lots of room to improvise.

AM: Excellent musicianship with some crazy blonde hopping around on stage, shakin’ and a movin’ and a groovin’.

CLA: From a visual perspective, we have a kind “elegant bohemian” look between Ari’s brightly colored gowns, Nic’s refined suits and ties, Keven’s straw fedora and “Cuba Vera” styled shirts, and my and Jon-Robert’s more relaxed jeans and stylish button downs. Add to that the beautiful acoustic guitars, my strange percussion contraption, a violin, and a blond girl singing in Spanish, all weaving an in-your-face world-blues-groove. It’s rhythmic, organic, high energy, and musically diverse.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

NK: Depends on the stage, locally I am usually making sure we sound good and that all the levels are right. When we’re in front of thousands of people and the hands start shaking I just remind myself that I live for this. I know I’m surrounded by some of the most talented people on the planet, if I fall they will catch me and vice versa.

AM: Wow.

CLA: That depends on the stage. If it is one of our regular, local shows performing for the people we have been playing in front of for 3 years, it’s like coming home. It’s relaxed, comfortable, and intimate, so I can think, “do I have my drink?”, or “should I use the restroom before we start?”. If it is a larger show on a big stage in front of a big crowd, there’s a completely different set of variables. As an artist, I always want to perform well, create great music and big energy. To do this I have to hear the other instruments, see the other players, and vice versa. So, my thoughts will meander from technical issues of sound and positioning to “I hope I don’t screw up in front of all these people.” Regardless of the venue and crowd, shortly after I start playing, there is little thought (unless something goes wrong . The music just flows and we respond to each other and the feelings and energy the audience and dancers give back to us.

KA: I look for the people in the crowd that are really into it so I can focus on them, after that my tone. Then breathing, I try to be relaxed and in the moment.

PEV: How has playing in The Lotus Fire different than working with other artists or projects in the past?

NK: The thing I love about TLF is that it’s about being ourselves and not trying to be a “Jazz Band” or a “Rock Band” it’s about playing great music. There is a wonderful freedom in that, not many Flamenco bands can say “Hey lets kick into Whipping Post” or Blues bands that can cover Jobim.

AM: The music from The Lotus Fire is a direct expression of who I am and what I live for. This isn’t just my job it’s my way of life. In other bands I’ve sang with, it’s a matter of trying to duplicate the original versions of songs, this band encourages originality in every sense of the word.

CLA: The biggest difference for me would have to be working within the more strict structure of songs with lyrics. My musical roots and tendencies lean towards instrumental, progressive world-jazz with a focus on percussion, rhythm, and meter…..(think: Mahavishnu Orchestra). This band focuses more on high energy, dense rhythm, interesting chord progressions, and lyrics…(think: Paul Simon meets The Gypsy Kings). We solo and improvise and let the music breath, but this is typically done well within the confines of the specific arrangement. While this has been new to me, I love it.

KA: With Nic and I we have been playing together so long that we understand each other and communicate musically very easily, recently I have found that with the rest of the band as well. It allows us to stretch out and take chances in our live performance.

PEV: What is the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

NK: Emotion! Music moves me and it’s my goal to inspire others the way I have been inspired. On the album our medley of the Gotan Projects “Diferente” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Liber Tango” was very special to me. Piazzolla is my favorite composer and I’m a huge Gotan fan. When I was recording my solo at the end of that tune I actually cried. The reason was that I can never say in words what his music means to me but with my guitar I could finally express that emotion.

AM: Love and Fear. My ideas for songs are usually stories of my life through the experiences I’ve had.

CLA: Most of the songs are originally composed by Nic and Ari (music and lyrics respectively). My job, as I see it, is to drop a fat beat, suggest moments of interesting rhythmic and metric changes (as in the song “Amor” on our new album) and supply different ideas for arrangement. So, my part in the creation of songs is inspired by the music that Nic and Ari bring to the table, modified by the weird drummy-jazzy-worldy sh*t that I listen to. Things like Indian classical music or the band Ronin.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

NK: Once my Mother saw that I was serious about being a musician she taught me some things that have gotten me to where I am. 1. It’s a job, treat it like one. 2. There are always going to be a long line of people who want your gig so be on time, look good and kissing ass doesn’t hurt. 3. “If anyone offers you a contract let me read it”. The women danced on Carson, did a special with Ed Sullivan and raised two kids on her own with art being her only income so I heeded her advice.

AM: Of course. I’m very grateful for every opportunity I’ve had. Each one has been a stepping stone for what was to come. I feel overjoyed and excited for how far we’ve come together and where we are now.

CLA: Yes. I think it’s important to do so. Examining our past and our progression helps inform where we will go next as artists.

JM: I never had starry-eyed notions of being a musician when I first started playing guitar. I never foresaw myself joining a group like the Lotus Fire when I was dedicated to practicing. What’s the saying, “life is what happens while you’re making plans.” That’s an accurate sentiment. I owe a lot to my brother Nic for seeking me out years ago and giving me the opportunity to play music with him and his friendship.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Lotus Fire?

NK: Only one of us is fluent in Spanish.

AM: I traveled to Montreal for a Sufi retreat on my 18th birthday and on our road trip I picked up lice and had to shave my dreadlocks off. It was a very sad day.

CLA: We’re all aliens and we love polka. I bet you’d be surprised to hear that!

JM: That some of us don’t have tattoos and some of us don’t drink (laughing). All in all, we are a band full of consummate professionals that have each others backs inside and outside of work. I can say that I love and appreciate everyone in this band and even if they are moments of frustration, between us, we step back from that and are appreciative for the group that we have.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, Come Out Swinging. What can fans expect from this work?

NK: It’s diverse, Swing, Blues, Rumba, Nuevo Tango, English, Spanish, Gibberish, it’s a great example of who we are as a band.

AM: We had an outstanding album release. At our release party we were surrounded by just a few hundred friends and fans all out to support us. This album really shows our musical capability, you can expect high energy and fun music.

KA: It might take you somewhere; images of other countries and other times.

PEV: What is the feeling you get after an album like this is complete and you can sit back and listen to it in full?

NK: After engineering and mixing the album I really didn’t want to hear it for a while. Now that some time has passed and I’m not in constant critique mode It feels good to relax and enjoy it.

AM: Proud.

CLA: I always feel like I could have done better. But I don’t tend to listen to my music too much. I have to let it go, let it be what it is and move on.

PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?

NK: When a performance is nailed it is a great feeling, five people giving their all to one idea is a powerful experience. Capturing it on tape is even better.

AM: Surreal.

CLA: For me, the vision of a song comes after everyone has had their input. So, even if we start with one person’s idea or structure, as it moves through each member, the tune changes. We can make suggestions to our mates about what we would like to hear, but even then, that person has to interpret it. So, the song is goes through a process of becoming its own vision. When that is done, there is great satisfaction in experiencing the final product.

PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

NK: I would love to play in Argentina and Brazil. I love Tango and Brazilian Music and whenever we travel we seem to pick up styles and ideas to add to our collection.

CLA: No…not really. I just like to perform. Once the details are worked out, it’s just music.

KA: Morocco; anywhere with good surf.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?

NK: Oddly I’ve never played in my hometown (Fredonia), not a very big World Music scene up there. As far as family goes my Mom understands because she was an entertainer, the rest of my family learned to deal with my Mom before I came along so they were already open to the idea of me being a musician.

CLA: In this regard I am truly blessed. In three years and hundreds of shows, my wife has been at almost every show, save 3 or 4. She is my greatest fan and best friend. My parents are artists and audiophiles and are proud of my musical skill and accomplishments. I couldn’t ask for greater support. I have not yet been able to perform with The Lotus Fire in my home town. I hope to in the future.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

NK: The highlight of my week is spending time with my son; he is the kindest most loving child on the planet. Outside of that, golf. I’m a workaholic and having a four hour break from thinking about music is heaven.

AM: Playing with my kids and crocheting.

CLA: I am a visual artist and web developer. I spend most of my free time with my wife watching The West Wing, going out to dinner, or just talking.

KA: Playing golf, surfing and traveling.

JM: Reading all the time. Reading psychology, philosophy, anthropology, et cetera, and anything within the cognitive sciences or humanities. I am also very much in to reading politics, not watching MSNBC and FOX News but seeking actual investigative journalists and intellectuals to get a better understanding of the world. I think the rest of the band thinks I’m a fanatic, but the world is for more fascinating than any fiction that I’ve come across.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

NK: I don’t have the sight reading chops to play with Piazzolla so I would have to say Slash. He is obviously into Flamenco yet from a Rock and Blues background; I think we would have a blast.

AM: Andrew Bird, because he genre jumps as well and doesn’t seem to hold back.

CLA: Currently, Swedish pianist Nik Bartsch with Ronin would be a dream collaboration. His approach to rhythm, arrangement, and musical development is very patient and almost Zen-like.

KA: Imhad Jamal, his rhythm section is unbelievable and I like to surround myself with players that I look up to.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

NK: Sarasota has a bunch of really talented cats trying to break through right now, most notably Ben Hammond, Thorson Moore and the group “Come Back Alice” who just got signed to a label in Germany.

AM: Orlando Napier. It takes a lot to impress me but this kid has got “it”.

CLA: The Lotus Fire.

KA: Ben Prestage; Cigar Box player.

PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal) what do you think each of you would be doing for your career?

NK: Probably a Therapist/Healer of some sort. I’m a Master Nuero-Linguistic Programmer (NLP) and a Reiki Master. At one point I tried making a career out of it but found that most people don’t want to feel better.

AM: I would always try to pursue a career in some form of art, dance, or acting. I love entertainment and I’m just too passionate to be behind a desk somewhere.

CLA: I think I might have become an Historian focusing on the ancient Greek, Roman, and Arabic cultures.

KA: Surgeon – I would have studied medicine if I hadn’t studied music.

PEV: So, what is next for The Lotus Fire?

NK: Touring, we have some big shows lined up in early 2013 but it’s time to get on the road. Our Agent Gene Foley is currently scouting Booking Agents that would be a good fit.

CLA: I think we will be focusing on developing more music in the coming year. I would like to see us continue to mix the very accessible elements of song writing and dance-able music with more “heady”, intricate rhythmic, melodic, and chordal elements. Of course more live performances in front of different audiences is desirable. We all love to perform.

KA: Playing Festivals, Music can change people’s lives and I want to be out there providing that service, it’s the most rewarding thing in the world.

JM: It would definitely be in one of those fields that I mentioned above. I could see myself traveling to do a dissertation on different cultures. I think music isn’t mutually exclusive to this either. Music might be the sphere in life that actually has the most chance at bringing disparate cultures together. Doesn’t always happen, as there are musical biases, but it has far more of a chance than other cultural aspects.

"The Lotus Fire, Come Out Swinging"

Drawing on exotic and sophisticated influences, The Lotus Fire lives up to their new album Come Out Swinging. That the musicians are classically trained is no surprise; The Lotus Fire provides a continuous stream of supreme sonic craftsmanship. They have performed across the western world at festivals, resorts, and casinos. Personally, I would say that a festival is the most appropriate Lotus Fire venue.

“Crazy Lady” has a slightly frantic pace, giving credence to the “crazy” factor. The vocals alternate between English and a language that I suspect is French. It soon becomes apparent that the band is neck deep in its own musical virtuosity. Arielleh McManus has a voice that can range across nations and centuries.

Bringing an exotic flair, “The Dance of the Wicked” sounds like some gypsy magic one might encounter on a Venetian gondola. Acoustic instruments are played at a pace and skill that would be difficult even for an electric instrument (people with even a moderate amount of experience will understand how impressive this is).

In “For Sephora,” both music and lyrics gyrate in verve and swagger.

“Bon Appetite” has more of a brooding, rock n’ roll edge. I suspect I even heard an electric guitar – with distortion! The speaker knows what she wants, and lays down the rules accordingly:

“Now, baby, I won’t treat you mean / But I assure you I don’t cook or clean / in my boudoir is where I’m supreme.”

Fair enough, young lady.

The vocals can become highly emphatic, but they are so harmonically precise, that the speaker always seems to retain the utmost control.

“But when I’m hungry…it’s you I want to eat.”

And now I understand why the song’s called “Bon Appetite.” Very decadent. Very Valentine’s Day.

The song “Sing for Me” is more haunting than sultry.

“Release” gets off to a quick start. Shivering, quivering, shaking, quaking…indeed the speaker is seeking “release.”

“So Tired” is a title that caught me by surprise. The album has been so kinetic and passionate. Perhaps all the ardor and revelry finally caught up with everyone.

“And the only show left to see / Will be / My ass walkin’ out that door.”

The instrumental component then embarks on an orgiastic journey. Four minutes in, there arrives this Carlos Santana type guitar solo. A delectable morsel.

Clocking in at over 10 minutes, “Diferente / Libertango” may not be radio-friendly, but it’s a quasi-opera. The final part is especially recommended.

“Amor” might best display the varied and eloquent layers of Ms. McManus’ voice.

Aside from showcasing obvious talent, The Lotus Fire can stir up quite the carnival atmosphere.

Bear witness at:!music/c4fg

Ray Cavanaugh –
- Skope Magazine

"The Lotus Fire"

The Lotus Fire is a Sarasota, Florida based group that mixes Salsa, Flamenco and Gypsy sounds to produce beautiful music. Their energetic style and strong vocals make them a memorable live band that will bring you to the dance floor.

You can learn more about The Lotus Fire on their website and you can watch one of their videos below the interview.
How did the Lotus Fire first get started? Does the band name have a special meaning?

Kev: The Lotus Fire started as a guitar/ violin duet with Nicolaas Kraster and I. We met at a Jam night in Sarasota and two weeks later we moved to Costa Rica. With only knowing a few songs together we landed a prestigious house gig at the Los Sueños Marriott. In about one week we put together enough songs to play a 3 hour show. Half were originals and half were random selections from an old beat up book of standards (many of the songs neither one of us had ever heard).

Nic: As far as the name goes; Keven being a Buddhist thought Lotus would be a cool name for our group but I thought we needed something more passionate so I added Fire and we’ve been the Lotus Fire ever since.

Kev: We thought combining Lotus with Fire would be clever. Plus we were fusing two very unique backgrounds with one goal in mind: to create music of the world to be enjoyed by the world.

You describe your music as a mix of "Nuevo Flamenco" and Gypsy Swing", what originally inspired you to take your music in this direction?

Nic: When I moved to Sarasota FL to attend college I was introduced to world music for the first time; Piazzolla, Strunz and Farrah, Django Reinhardt, The Guitar Trio etc. It blew me away. I was brought up trying to play Gun’s and Rose’s and Hendrix tunes then all of a sudden there’s Paco de Lucia and Al de Meola playing Mediterranean Sundance, it blew me away and I was hooked.

Kev: When I first met Nic he was getting in to spanish and rhumba flamenco. I had been playing Dawg (David Grisman) swing, Django Reinhardt, and bluegrass but was ready to think and play outside the box. Unlike most classically trained musicians I was very eager to shed the music stand after music school and jam. When Nicolaas and I were about to depart from Central America we met David Perry, a great guitarist (who we convinced to join our band for a while). David introduced us to Samba and bossa nova. I immediately fell in love with Brazilian music, especially The music of Jobim and Jacob de Bandolim. Nic and I seem to pick up and borrow characteristics of music from wherever we travel.

The process of writing a song varies deeply from musician to musician, can you give us a brief glimpse into how one of your songs evolves from concept to a finished piece?

Nic: Most of the time I will come up with a chord progression, verse, chorus, bridge then Ari will work on lyrics and a melody. We usually get a good working sketch of the tune as a duet then bring it to the band for arranging. At that point everyone comes up with ideas and we experiment until it works. We have the luxury of performing a lot so the tunes will usually evolve on stage as well.

Ari: When I was first invited to sing with these guys, I had no idea it would entail writing lyrics, it was really quite intimidating. They had all of these complex and intricate compositions, and I thought, you want the lyrics to go… where? As time passed I became comfortable with the music and my role in it. Nic has become my right hand man and a co-creator with most of the lyrics; however, occasionally I’ll write a song in my head and bring it to him to search for accompanying chords (ex. "Sing For Me" and "Crazy Lady). This is definitely not his favorite way of going about it, but I do enjoy giving the men a challenge, and as he mentioned before, performing them live truly does give us a lot of freedom to find the finished product organically within its own element.

Your album; Come out Swinging came out at a few months ago, what was one of the biggest challenges that you had to overcome to make it a reality?

Nic: The mixing and mastering was the toughest by far. I have had the privilege to work in the studio with two amazing engineers on previous albums, Bud Snyder (Allman Brothers) and Pascal Danon (Gipsy Kings). On this album I was the one doing the mixing. It didn’t take long to realize that being the tech guy and producer at the same time is a lot tougher than it seemed. My first mixes were horrible! So I brought in Blair Alef, a dear friend who used to work at RCA Records to be my ears. He has been a fan for a long time and I trusted him to direct so I could focus on the tech side. In the end I’m happy with how it turned out but from now on I would rather leave mixing and mastering to the pros.

Ari: My biggest challenge with the album was "the booth". I’ve become so used to being on a stage and just singing my heart out in one take. Mistakes in live performance are to be expected, we’re human after all, not radios. No matter how good you are there’s always room for an "oops". I discovered my internal critic when being in the booth. Being limited on time, I only had so many opportunities for retakes. I had to really aim, shoot, and fire. In addition, there’s no reciprocated energy performing within glass walls, just me. There are still some little mistakes I made that drive me crazy when listening because I know I can do it better. I like to aim for perfection while keeping in mind that all that means is doing the absolute best I can. I’m still so exceedingly proud of the outcome of the album and Nicolaas did a great job with the mix, doing everything he could to ensure each of us was happy before printing. All that being said, if you think the recordings are good, wait until you see us live!

And now that the album is complete what are your next goals? Do you want to tour? Work on your next album?

Ari: Touring will be essential to our growth. I’m already geared up and ready to go. My personal goal is to share our music with the world, so naturally I want to visit as many cities and play for as many music lovers as possible. Our next album is inevitable and needless to say I’m excited, but before we race to the next step, I’d like to breathe in for a moment to see how this album is received. Then, learn from it, listen to what the people have to say, and continue to progress.
Your performances are known for being very unique and exciting. What could someone expect from coming to one of your concerts?

Nic: We try to make our shows as interesting as possible; we play Flamenco, Swing, Jazz, Bossa Nova, Blues, and Rock etc. It will go from fun and fast to quiet and serious but mostly fun and fast. The other thing that may be surprising is the amount of improvisation we do live, compared to the album. I’m not saying we are the gypsy version of Phish but we do like to jam.

Ari: I jump around a lot. I don’t really like sitting still. Usually I think I get some funny faces from the band when I’m not looking but I’m ok with being the "crazy lady".

One of the biggest challenges with having a very unique sound that cannot be necessarily categorized within one of the pillars of mainstream music is that it can be tough to get radio play. What strategies are you using to help get your music out to potential new fans?

Nic: As far as mainstream radio goes I would like to personally thank the band, management, and fans of Mumford and Sons. Thanks to them I can hear Blue Grass tinged banjo laden music between Adele and Maroon 5 on pop radio! This I believe is a huge game changer for what is considered mainstream music and I hope it will open the ears of station directors. As far as other ways to get the music out there, Pandora has to be the best. We are currently submitted and waiting for a response, if they put us on it will lead to a ton of listeners that otherwise would have been unobtainable. Outside of that, perform to whoever will listen.
More than ever before the social networks have allowed musicians to communicate more directly with their fans. How have you leveraged this to strengthen the connection with your listeners?

Nic: Living in a tourist town I think the biggest strength is being able to stay connected with new fans from other states and countries. We play the same venues consistently but 25 to 50 percent of the audience is on vacation, it’s like being on tour yet you sleep at home. Being able to stay in contact with that growing fan base is priceless.
Is there any advice that you can offer fellow musicians who are just starting out that you wish you had learned sooner?

Nic: Yes, to guitarists: don’t ever try to be the best guitarist in the world, there’s no such thing. Instead, try to write great songs, they can build a career. To bands: If you want to get tight, book time in a studio to record an album. Nothing tightens up a band like paying $75 an hour for studio time. To original acts that want to break through: learn how the industry works! When I read Gene Foley’s book "Artist Development" I realized that I had wasted a ton of money and energy doing things that never had a chance at really helping my career. I learned that the industry is a game that has rules, if you don’t follow the rules you don’t get to play the game.

Ari: When I realized that life is about the journey and not the destination, it changed everything for me. Life has become less about acquiring things, and more about the joy of living. Being a single mom I never thought I’d get to live my dream of being a professional musician. It may be a challenging task to balance my career with supporting my family but it’s worth it. I find that when I accept that we will always have everything we need, it allows me to experience the moment and appreciate wherever it may take us. My advice is, love what you do and they will love you for it.

- Jitzul

"The Lotus Fire just came off a European Tour"

The Lotus Fire is a Sarasota, Florida-based Nuevo Flamenco, Gypsy Swing and Blues group.

They draw inspiration from the influences of Piazzolla, Grappelli, de Lucia, Ojos de Brujo, Yasmin Levy, and Etta James. They have played to wildly enthusiastic crowds throughout Europe, Latin and North America in clubs, festivals, casinos, resorts, including the President of the United States.

In addition to performing around Florida, The Lotus Fire did a recent
European tour playing cafes and festivals in France, Spain, Holland and England.

The musicianship in the group is off-the-charts. These guys have monster chops! Arielleh McManus covers the full vocal range from Latin to Blues. Ari sings in Spanish, English and French! She is both a lyricist and singer extraordinaire and those incredible skills are are showcased on the new album Come Out Swinging.

Check out this fantastic group online:
- That Music Mag


This week we head to Sarasota, FL to chat with a group by the name of The Lotus Fire. They have a new album out ‘Come Out SWinging’ and it’s 45 minutes of musical bliss in terms of incredible vocals and top notch instrumentation. With songs like “Crazy Lady” and “Release” this group needs to be heard. Join us this week as the group talks about getting started, goals for 2013, discovering new music, and much more!

Stoli: Where are we talking from today and how was your Christmas?

NK: Sarasota FL, had a great holiday spent with family.
AM: I was woken up at 7 am to the sounds of my two children opening their presents and my son screaming “Another Power Ranger!!!!” We spent the day with my parents who have been divorced for years but now are good friends. It was an awesome holiday.
CLA: Sarasota. Uneventful and relaxing.

Stoli: Would you say that you are looking forward to 2013 and what are two goals the group has to accomplish?

NK: I’m really excited about the year ahead, the band is gaining a lot of momentum right now and I think we’re on the right path. As far as goals go the two biggest would be finding the right booking agent and label.
CLA: In nearly every way, this band has been one constant evolution since it started. It has gone through personnel changes, music style changes, instrumentation changes, and branding changes. But more than that, each member has evolved musically. Each of us has expanded our understanding of music through our band mates. We have learned from the experiences and opinions of each other and, as a result, our music continues to expand, morph, and encompass greater understanding. As far as goals go, I would like to see this trend continue.
KA: Tour and record another album with the allowance of more time being dedicated to the song development process. I’m hoping to collaborate more with Nic and Ari in the beginning of the song writing process. I have a desire to see our music evolve harmonically speaking and getting the guys to back up Ari more -vocally.

Lotus Fire Members:
NK = Nicolaas Kraster (Band Leader/ Guitarist/ Composer/ Lyricist)
AM = Arielleh McManus (Singer/ Lyricist)
CLA = Christopher Austin (Percussionist)
KA = Keven Aland (Violin)

Stoli: How did you 5 musicians come together and what is the meaning behind The Lotus Fire?

NK: Keven and I met at a jam night I was hosting and started the first incarnation of the Lotus Fire. We had a nice run for a few years then disbanded. I met Jon years later and we formed a band called Los Listos, it was at a Los Listos show that Jon and I met Chris. Ari used to work at that same venue so I imagine we met there but didn’t get to know each other until I heard her sing with a band called “Eclipse”. That night I asked her to join the band Jon, Chris and I were starting which became “Cabal”. A few years later Keven joined us and we once again took on the Lotus Fire name. I think the name means something different to each of us but to me it represents the search for balance between spirituality and passion.
CLA: For me, the appeal of “Lotus Fire” is not only the imagery and metaphor, but also the seemingly conflicting aspects of the metaphors. The lotus (flower), to me, is the idea of calm and clarity regardless of the surroundings (from the dirt and muck under the water, this beautiful flower makes its way to the surface). Fire is hot and is associated with passion, sometimes reckless passion. It is hard to imagine intense passion coexisting with calm clarity. I think The Lotus Fire does it pretty well.

Stoli: I am really loving your new album “Come Out Swinging.” How long were you working on this and why did you title the album that way?

NK: Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy it. The album took three to four months to finish. When I was compiling the track list with my friend Blair Alef I asked if he thought we should start with three fast tunes, he said yes to which I replied “Alright, we’ll come out swinging”. We looked at each other and new that we had our album title. I brought it to the band and they approved so it became the title.

Stoli: Nic and Ari are the songwriting team. Give us a glimpse into a songwriting session and do you always agree on lyrics and/or instrumentals?

NK: Each song comes about in its own way, sometimes I have a progression and I tell her what inspired it and we start brainstorming lyric ideas, sometimes she has songs pretty much done and just needs accompaniment. Usually the disagreeing happens when I’m trying to edit her lyrics. Ari and I have the advantage of performing as a duet on a regular basis so we can get a good working form for a song before we bring it to the band. Once the band starts working on it, it really comes to life. For example; take the song “Amor”. As a duet tune “Amor” really doesn’t carry much weight but once everyone got their hands on it, it came to life. Jon’s sextuplet arpeggio runs during the chorus, Chris’ input on the 5/8 and 12/8 bridge and Keven’s haunting violin flowing between hope and sadness. These attributes are what define the Lotus Fire.
AM: My friend Jimmy always says try to write a little bit every day, it won’t always be gold but when it strikes, you’ll know. Every time I clean my house I can’t tell you how many old papers and random napkins I’ve found in drawers and folders, old books and spirals, that have had old songs in old arrangements, ideas that have become what we perform today. When I write something I try to come up with a melody as well so it becomes more than poetry when it comes time to show Nic, but often times we’ll sit outside while he plays guitar and I’ll write what story I hear him playing. Our biggest problem is when I start improving on the patio, and he says oooh write that down, that was good, I’m like; what did I just say? It would seem we need a stenographer to follow us around.

Stoli: What are the advantages to making this album bilingual and how can you tell what language the song will sound better?

NK: I think it’s more that the song tells us. The song Amor is an instrumental that I wrote years ago, when it came time to give it lyrics I knew it had to say Amor over that big chorus so it basically had to be in Spanish. Those lyrics are the only Spanish ones that I have written, with help from Jon and Google in the translation department. The rest are Ari’s
CLA: We’ve been told (and it seems fairly apparent) that there are several marketing advantages to having bilingual music. Most notably, the music can be presented to both Spanish and English speaking listeners. Obviously, this increases the number of potential listeners. Also, there is value in listeners not understanding what the lyrics mean. For English speakers listening to our music in Spanish, or vice versa, their mind is able to focus less on the meaning of the words and more on the composition and presentation of the music. That’s not to say the words aren’t important or engaging, they are. But when a person listens to music and they can’t translate the lyrics, the voice becomes differently integrated into the music than if the listener was focusing on the words and their meaning. The process of choosing the language isn’t as much a cerebral choice as it is an emotional tendency. Ari has a great gift of feeling the music and going with her intuition.
Stoli: Your live show videos look awesome. What do you enjoy most about playing live and where can we see any new shows you have coming up?

NK: I’ve played for so many different kinds of crowds but when you have a concert setting and everyone is hanging on every note, that’s Heaven. We play weekly at a Local Spanish restaurant/music venue called Ceviche. We also have two concerts coming up, Feb 14th in Sarasota “Return to Romance” opening for Jon Secada and Feb 22nd at Myakka State Park with the Willie Royal Quartet (Violinist of Willie and Lobo).

Stoli: What is the best part of being in The Lotus Fire and what does music offer your life on a spiritual level?

NK: The best part for me is getting to hear a band full of amazing musicians take my compositions, add their own unique abilities and create something better than I ever dreamed. It’s an honor to play in this group. My most spiritual moments with music are when I feel it coming through me instead of from me; it’s as if the music is playing me.
AM: There is an uplifting freedom in connecting to what we find while tapping in to our purpose and sharing it with others. We live, experience each day, each moment, and when we feel so moved emotionally, spiritually, as human beings we need to express it. Music is the most direct line I’ve discovered that brings me closest to God and why I might be here.

Stoli: We are living in an amazing time where you do not have to dumb-down your music to create a nice following. How much time is devoted to social media to keep fans and gain new fans?

NK: In my compositions I always try to put the audience first yet challenge them at the same time. A friend of mine just said to me tonight “The great thing about your music is that it’s exotic yet accessible”. I think he nailed it. As far as social media goes we have all the pages and sites but I’m still learning how to make the most of them.
CLA: We do not devote as much time as we should to gain new fans. Most of our social networking is focused on interacting with and keeping our current fans informed using Facebook and Twitter. We understand the importance of social networking, but it can take a lot of time to do it right. All of us are very busy and have a hard time doing as much as we should. This is where a good manager would come in :)
Stoli: Where do you turn to hear new music and do you buy music physically or digital only?

NK: I usually stumble onto new music on YouTube and Pandora and purchase CD’s at Starbucks.
AM: My dad. He usually has the skinny on all the latest and greatest up and coming artists.
CLA: Typically I turn to my musician friends and ask what they are listening to.

Stoli: I love your song “For Sephora.” Please speak on that song and what it means to you?

NK: ”For Sephora” is an instrumental Gypsy Swing piece written by the great guitarist Stocelo Rosenberg for his sister Sephora. Keven turned me on to that tune a few years back and I fell in love with it. We would always do it as an instrumental then Ari started writing lyrics to it. The name, intro and chord progression are from the original piece, the rest is new. When we were writing the lyrics I envisioned a dance hall with a bunch of swing dancers in the 20’s.

Stoli: Many people are concerned with issues going on in the world today. What is your view of the world and what concerns you going into 2013?

NK: We are becoming a global society and the world is going through a lot of growing pains as a result. I just hope people will realize that were all in this together.
AM: I am concerned about the level of concern. When I am overly involved with what the world is doing or what I think it should be doing there is no solution found there for me. Instead I try to keep my concerns within my control, my thoughts, actions and words. If I want world peace I first must have peace within myself. 2013 Is going to be a beautiful year.
CLA: The world is what it is. I do what I can and attempt to lead as conscientious a life as I can. My concerns are with people who are ignorant, arrogant, and without compassion.

Stoli: What is coming up for The Lotus Fire and where you @ online?

NK: Touring! And our new website should be done by mid January.,,,,
- Skope Magazine

"The Lotus Fire "Come Out Swinging""

It is not every day that I am introduced to a band that plays a mix of Flamenco and Gypsy Swing, among other things. Though I am unfamiliar with the genre, it is hard not to fall nose over tails for The Lotus Fire once they have been experienced. Their album Come out Swinging will leave you more than satisfied. Consisting of Arielleh McManus (vocals), Nicolaas Kraster (guitar), Keven Aland (violin), Jon McLaughlin (guitar), and Christopher Austin (percussion), The Lotus Fire is a fiery act that will have you running to the showers to cool off when all is said and done.

Staying true to the album title, they sure do come out swinging with “Crazy Lady.” The seductive vocals of Arielleh McManus are fantastic and even more impressive is that she is electrify while using multiple languages. Also, the various musical influences are apparent and blend seamlessly to create some magical music. “The Dance of the Wicked” is a song that is on fire from the very beginning and McManus’s voice keeps things white hot. This song and “Crazy Lady” combine for a one-two punch that will leave listeners on the floor. “For Sephora” is a fun song with a lighter atmosphere than the previous two.

“Bon Appetite” marks the slowest tempo on the album with the blues influence most notable. The slower tempo and quieter instruments have the effect of putting McManus’s voice at the center then a lively atmosphere returns with “Release.” Clocking in at just over ten minutes long, “Diferente / Libertango” is a musical feast that does not wear its welcome out. “Amor” holds nothing back and closes the album out as hot as it started.

The Lotus Fire’s Come out Swinging strikes nothing but gold from start to finish. A band’s whose sound is influenced by Gypsy Swing, Blues, and Flamenco might appear intimidating to listen to (because I know I was), but it's certainly worth the effort. Even if this is outside your normal genre of music, it is hard not to be entertained by this talented band.

Key Tracks: Crazy Lady, The Dance of the Wicked, Bon Appetite, Sing for Me, Diferente / Libertango
Brian McKinnon – Sr. Staff
December 9, 2012
For Questions Or Comments About This Review Send An Email To


2012: Come out Swinging
2011: Cabal
2010: Projecto Electronica
2009: Los Listos
2008: The Devilishly Clever
2001: The Dance of the Wicked



The Lotus Fire is a bilingual rhythm-driven ensemble with a sophisticated yet accessible sound that is the result of an eclectic group of talented musicians. Individually, the band members have achieved an abundance of diverse experiences and accolades, including: Cordoba Guitar Company endorsements; a 4 star review in Modern Drummer magazine; performances with Willie Royal of Willie and Lobo, Greg Osby, and others; tours in Western Europe, Latin America, and North America; and numerous CD recordings.

Collectively, the members of The Lotus Fire weave these individual experiences and their stylistic approaches to music into a World Rhythm-n-Blues sound that has powerful vocals, blazing solos, and deep, rhythmic grooves. Each member offers a unique musical perspective rooted in distinctly different areas of study. These influences include the 20’s swing movement, electronic tango, blues, rumba flamenco, jazz, African drumming, funk, east Indian classical, Arabic, and R-n-B.
-Performed for the President of the United States
-Played in England, Holland, France, Spain, North and Central America
-Endorsement Cordoba Guitars
Influenced by: Ojos de Brujo, Rodrigo Y Gabriella, Gotan Project, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Guitar Trio, Strunz and Farrah, Astor Piazzolla, Hot Club of France, Rosenberg Trio.

Band Members