Lucius knew from the start they were on to something special. Centered around the powerful voices and compelling songwriting of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, the Brooklyn band has evolved from a promising duo into the dynamic quintet that releases its debut LP, WILDEWOMAN, Oct. 15 on Mom + Pop.
Hailed by Rolling Stone as a Band to Watch, alliteratively lauded by The New York Times for their “luscious, luminous, lilting lullabies” and praised by NPR for their “charisma and charm,” Lucius pairs the synchronous vocals of Wolfe and Laessig, who play synth and keyboards, with guitars and drums from Dan Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri. Together, they make music that evokes classic girl-group pop and iconic rock ’n’ roll with a modern twist, that belongs solely to Lucius. But none of it happened overnight.
“We’ve been singing together for almost nine years, and this will be our first record as a band,” Wolfe says. “We never wanted to rush anything. We never looked for a record deal before it felt like we needed one, and we never wanted to be on tour until we felt like we could sustain ourselves on the road. It was important for us to hone our craft.”
Wolfe and Laessig met in college in Boston, bonding over a love of old-school soul, David Bowie and the Beatles. They sing as though each is one half of the same voice, with riveting, resonant unison parts on songs like “Hey Doreen,” the propulsive first single from WILDEWOMAN; and harmonies that feel instinctive as their voices diverge and then meld together on the ineffably catchy title track.
“We started singing in unison because we were always drawn to doubled vocals on recordings,” Wolfe says. “We figured it couldn’t hurt to try it in a live setting and it just felt like our voices were supposed to be sitting together – an automatic vocal kinship. In truth, many of our intentional decisions, when it comes to sounds and arrangements and even band setup, have been happy accidents.”
After their initial musical gathering, the pair started writing songs together, exploring a sense of otherness that each had felt growing up, and pairing it with arresting musical arrangements: from bright acoustic guitars and heartbroken vocals to layers of irresistible rhythm and bold melodies.
“Jess and I have shared unusually parallel experiences,” Laessig says. “We were both bullied during adolescence, which lit a fire in each of us. We have both experienced relationships and love on a similar timeline, so when we write songs together we have a natural empathy. The themes that run through this record reflect the struggles and realizations of becoming an adult, and of being a bit of an outsider sometimes, but embracing it. I think that’s something people can relate to.”
In 2007, Wolfe and Laessig moved to Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park, taking up residence at the Bromley House, which had, unbeknownst to them at the time, been a music school and recording studio for more than 60 years prior. Wolfe and Laessig established an open-door policy for the strong local community of musicians. First came Molad, a drummer, producer and engineer whom Lucius sought out for some early recording sessions (he also co-produced WILDEWOMAN). He introduced them to Lalish, his former bandmate in the indie-pop trio Elizabeth and the Catapult. Later, Molad met Burri while working on a different recording project, rounding out the Lucius family.
At the same time, Lucius was developing the memorable visual look the band employs onstage — “dressing the sound,” they call it. Taking inspiration from strong visual artists, and citing Bjork, Bowie, Warhol and Prince as style icons, the women are bedecked in a seemingly endless array of identical head-to-toe ensembles, complimented by the men’s sharp, tailored style.
With acclaimed performances at South by Southwest and Bonnaroo, and a tour schedule that keeps them on the road in the U.S. and Europe for the rest of the fall, 2013 has already been a full year for this young band. With the release of WILDEWOMAN, Lucius’ steady ascent shows no signs of retreat.