Were synchronized singing an olympic sport, Holly Laessig and Jesse Wolfe, vocalist of Brooklyn five piece Lucius, would be bringing home the gold. By the time I spoke to them on a warm Wisconsin evening during the second day of Eaux Claires Music Festival, they had already taken the stage twice – and not for their own set. The first time was with the legendary Mavis Staples, the second with singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis. Before their set and after our interview they took the stage again, this time to join Aaron Dessner of The National’s Day of The Dead project. All that stage jumping is proof positive they’re respected by their fellow artist, and after chatting with them and watching them kill it on stage (I’m still reeling from their visceral live performance of “Gone Insane,” from the album, Good Grief) it’s easy to see why.
You always look so sharp. What role does fashion play in the world of Lucius?
Jesse: It’s an extension of the music. It’s always been that the artist we were influenced by had a strong representation of their music visually. Whether it was in the clothes they wore or the show set, or the design of artwork. I think it’s really important for us to create a landscape especially because our music is so much about the two of us coming together and creating something as a unit and so if we can do the same visually it’s just an automatic connector for the audience, and for ourselves.
Good Grief does a great job in my opinion of balancing heavy lyrics and heavy themes with very dance worthy beats and tones. Was that intentional as you were recording the album?
Holly: Yeah I think so.
Jesse: It was a result of needing a balance ourselves. If you have these lyrics that are super heavy it’s almost hard to swallow unless you paint it with something a little bit lighter as far as the sound scape. Some of the songs are also complemented by other songs that are very sort of somber and to counteract that are some dance jams. And that was for us. It started out for us because we didn’t want to be touring for the next year and a half making ourselves too depressed. And then it also ends up being good, I think, for the audience too.
Good Grief seems like a departure from your debut Wildewomen. Was that intentional, or was that just a reflection of where you were at that time in your life?
Jesse: I feel like were constantly evolving and when you are on tour for such a long time – we wrote Wildewomen six years ago so for us it was just natural having been on the road and growing up a little bit that our sound would change and evolve and will hopefully continue to do so. I don’t think either of us is interested in making a record that’s expected. Again, the artist that we’ve always been most influenced by or the people I find most intriguing are ones that always do something unexpected.
Holly: Several people have asked that questions and by the time we were done touring Wildewomen where we were leaving off with that was closer to the newer record energy wise. By the end of that tour people were saying ‘oh I love the record but the live show is so punchy and energetic‘ and we wanted to bring that to the next record so from live show to live show it felt like more of an evolution that a departure.
I read in an interview that your relationship has been the ‘longest healthiest relationship’ you’ve had. What role does your relationship play in music writing and in Lucius as a whole?
Jesse: I mean we’re partners in all of this. Not romantic partners. I love Holly though. But partners in life in a different way. And we’ve been doing it together for eleven years and have grown as a unit. I mean really have grown individually together. And it’s very rare to be able to say you’ve been making music with someone since you were 19 or 20 years old and be able to have gone through as much as we have. And the thing is because we’re not just writing partners, we’re tour mates, were band mates, so being on the road together we’re experiencing all these things. We might have different experiences on the road or at home but we see each others experiences so were able to reflect on our own, and offer the other some perspective. So it’s a pretty unique, it’s a pretty unique experience.
What songs from Good Grief have you enjoyed performing live the most? Any standouts for you to share with the crowd?
Holly: I like playing “Better Look Back” live because we get to play a little bit on stage. “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain” is pretty fun.
Jesse: I love singing “Dusty Trails” because it’s just one of those songs that we can really sing and it’s very meaningful.
You’ve talked about the exhaustion and fatigue that set in while touring Wildewomen, what are you doing this time around to combat that?
Holly: We’ve been sleeping more because were on a bus and not driving ourselves. And I think we’ve learned a lot, and are still learning always about when you need alone time when you need to give someone else space, and how to sort of compartmentalize certain parts of your day to make you feel centered. I think we’re doing pretty good so far.
If you had to choose what performances are you favorite: festival shows or intimate shows at smaller venues?
Jesse: It’s hard to say. It’s definitely dependent on the type of festival. This type of festival feels so homey and good and the community is so wonderful and warm. But there’s also nothing like playing to a crowd of people who are only there for you and who are singing along to every word of your songs in a sweaty night club. There’s something to be said for that too. They’re different. They offer different advantages.
Is it difficult to sing songs that are vocally challenging against a sometimes raucous festival crowd?
Jesse: It has been a struggle in the past with certain things. We try to cater our set to the type of crowd it is. We have enough repertoire to where we can do that now which is great, and this one today will definitely be a mixture. Because when we can have those like intense dynamics it’s really important for us to take a minute and have the sort of airier breathier songs added to a mix of really high intensity ones. Because it just gives people a chance to breathe a little bit.
For the people who haven’t seen you live yet, what can they look forward to at your set?
Holly: Energy. Dynamics. Strong singing, fun. We have fun.
Jesse: We always have a great time, and we are really looking forward to this festival, we’ve heard so many great things and it seems that all of those things are accurate.
Catch up with Lucius live, during their 2016 tour.