The Lucius women

Lucius co-frontwoman Holly Laessig talks about how the harmonising Brooklyn band grew out of a fun music-school project

Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 00:00

Lucius formed in 2012 in New York, but you and vocalist Jess Wolfe had first met at college in Boston.
We both went to Berklee College of Music. I was studying vocal performance and songwriting, and Jess was studying vocal performance and business. We got talking about our musical influences and we realised that we had very similar influences and wanted to do a very similar thing, so we decided that we were going to do a girl group version of The White Album for a show. We ended up rearranging Happiness Is a Warm Gun with a friend of ours, but that was as far as we got (laughs).

We never did the show, but we continued to write our own stuff together and sing together, and that was kind of the beginning of it all. The three guys [Dan Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri] came on board a little later.

There’s a very specific vocal style to Lucius; your voices both blend in an almost eerie manner.
It’s just kind of a fluke; I don’t know if it’s that our voices sound similar together, or if it’s that they make a new kind of third voice, but individually we actually sound very different. Going back to the Happiness Is a Warm Gun thing, we were recording that and trying to decide whether we would switch verses, or how we were going to do it. We ended up singing a melody at the same time by accident, and we thought oh, that sounds pretty cool. So many recordings we love have those sort of double vocals, like Elliott Smith and Pink Floyd, so we kind of stuck with that idea and made it the basis of the project.

The guys provide some really nice multi-part harmonies as well.
I was always part of choirs and I sang at church, and me and Jess really love stuff like old-school soul and doo-wop, and music like The Beatles; music that had a lot of harmonies and people singing together. So I think that was in our blood to want to do that, and to sing with someone else in that way.

That 1960s influence crops up a lot, but your album Wildewoman is quite eclectic – from the girl group sound of Turn It Around to folk tunes and rockier numbers such as Tempest.
All five of us have very different musical influences, so when they come together I think it makes something really cool. For Wildewoman, Jess and I wrote all the songs, but we didn’t really have a formula. It was more like I have this verse and chorus, what do you think about it?. And the other person might have an idea that works really well for a bridge. Each song came about with a different combination of that idea, I guess.

Although you both wrote lyrics separately, was there one unifying theme that cropped up? There’s a real sense of melancholy to songs such as Go Home.
Well, we wrote it over a period of four or five years, and we had kind of parallel experiences: we had both moved to New York from Boston and we both ended relationships during that period and then found new ones – so thematically, I suppose it’s like a coffee talk between two women kind of figuring out where they’re going in life. We did a lot of growing up during that time period, so I guess if there’s a theme, it’s “growing pains” (laughs).

The title, to be enunciated like “wildebeest”, the artwork and your general aesthetic suggests that your gender is quite important to the kind of music that you make.
It was definitely important for us to have strong female role models growing up, so hopefully we can do that for someone else. When we were growing up, we were kind of losers (laughs). I grew up in a small town in Ohio and I was a really creative kid, but my school was the kind that put football in front of the arts. Nobody else really wanted more in the way that I did, so it was kind of alienating. I just always wanted somebody, as a woman, to say “This is great! You should do your own thing, be creative, carve your own path – that’s the way to do it”. I think Jess was the same.

So it’s important, but at the same time, we’re not feminists in the way that the word is sometimes used in the US – like “anti-men” or anything like that, because we collaborate so well with men and the guys in the band are a big part of how we sound.

But yeah, it is important to us. I think a lot of women get opportunities and platforms to say something meaningful, and they don’t always, and it’s a shame; especially young women and girls. So I hope they listen to the album and take something positive from it.