Wildewoman: A Sound Uniquely “Lucius”

It’s impossible not to tap your toes and sway your shoulders to Lucius’ infectious “Turn It Around.” From the very first “ahhh-ha!” and the syncopated handclaps that follow, I’m hooked. Playful, fun—I like it. And then, the chorus sets in, and what originally sounds like a catchy, airy pop song reveals to be much richer, much more magnetic than your typical bubbly tune, thanks to the vocal finesse of its leading ladies.

Enter Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, the power behind Lucius’ soulful, multi-layered sound. The duo have been performing together ever since their college days at Berklee–for nearly a decade now. Listen to the perfect unison and gorgeous harmony with which they sing, and their longstanding experience is pretty evident. The fact is no secret to many onlookers as of late. Just ask Rolling Stone, who recently highlighted Lucius as an esteemed “Band to Watch.”

Now, the group is making waves across the music sphere with news of a new album. The first time I heard “Turn It Around” was when I came across the band’s EP earlier this year. Now, it takes new form as one of 11 tracks on the band’s debut LP, Wildewoman, released today, October 15, via Mom + Pop Records.

Yet, while the lively, clap-your-hands-say-yeah number has definitely been one of the band’s more popular songs to date, Wildewoman in its entirety doesn’t confine Lucius to any clear-cut indie-pop genre. Though at times marked by bouncy beats and buoyant vocals, as in the uber-catchy “Hey Doreen,” their sound is at other times more reminiscent of mountainesque folk, as in the wispy “Two of Us on the Run.”

Ultimately, Wildewoman is a testament to Lucius’ aversion to stagnancy and affinity for experimentation. “We’ve gone through a lot of changes,” says Laessig, in speaking both about the band’s sound and the nature of the quintet itself. After Berklee, Laessig and Wolfe moved to Brooklyn, where they met drummer and producer Danny Molad. Straying somewhat from their former folkier selves, the duo worked with Danny to experiment with new sounds. “We wanted to rock out a little more,” says Laessig. Guitarists Peter Lalish and Andrew (Andy) Burri later joined the set, rounding out the five-man band known as Lucius today, which in its current form has only been performing together for the past two years.

Laessig cites each member’s personal style as one reason behind the band’s inclination toward experimenting. “We always stayed open-minded,” she says of crafting the sounds of Wildewoman. “Some things didn’t work, some things did, but at least one thing stayed true—trying new things.”

Several styles having particular influence on the group come from the 1960s, from the old soul of the likes of Sam Cooke and the pop rock of the Beatles. “It’s what Jess and I bonded over,” Laessig says of the era. More than being inspired by the sounds of the decade, the two look to the mod fashion of the time to craft their image, a striking symmetrical aesthetic which complements the duo’s sonic symmetry—and provides for a dynamic, evermore arresting live performance. Or so I hear time and again.

As I chat with Laessig about Lucius’ latest big moves, she’s roaming around a bookstore in Portland, enjoying a few moments of down time before the band’s show in the city that night. It’s the first stop of their current tour before they head to Seattle, New York, and DC, and eventually to Europe for their first European tour. October is a busy month for Lucius, to say the least. But it holds in store the hard earned fruits of labor. “It’s been a long time coming,” says Laessig. “We’re psyched to put out this record and be able to show people what we’re about.”

Despite the stylistic variety behind the quintet’s debut record, despite the diverse influences shaping a quirky collection of songs, the quintet’s debut record is somehow unified by a sound uniquely “Lucius.” Considering that a couple years ago the band didn’t have a vision for their first record, or have any idea for that matter that they would go on to produce a record at all, you could say Wildewoman is a wild success.

“We didn’t expect this,” says Laessig. “But we’re happily surprised.”

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