Lucius on Audiovisual Symmetry, the "Third Voice" and Good Grief

On a recent tour stop in Vancouver, Lucius singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe were walking through a sketchy area of town, dressed in their trademark matching outfits and coiffed hairdos. A man stopped them on the street and looked back and forth, from one to the other, over and over again. Whatever trip he was on got leveled up that day. But who can blame him? The vocalists of dance-rock band Lucius perform face to face while wearing identical outfits and keeping their rich voices in perfect unison throughout the harmonies, yells and whispers of their songs, forcing captive audiences to do the same double-take while shimmying along. Lucius, which also includes guitarists Andrew Burri and Peter Lalish and drummer Dan Molad, will perform tomorrow, Saturday, May 14, at the Gothic Theatre. 

Westword: Let's start with why you guys are named Lucius.

Holly Laessig: It was Jess’s dog's name. When we were picking the name — this was like twelve years ago — we just made pages of lists of different names, and that was the one that won in the end.

Good Grief is different from your previous records. It’s dark, a littler heavier. It sounds like it was coming from tour life and how that was hard. Was there trepidation coming back on tour and putting yourself into that again?

Yeah. I was pretty anxious about it and nervous about touring again, because it was tough last time. But also because we had toured so much, I think we had a much better idea going into it this time around of what we needed and how much off time we would need, and how much alone time we would need to make for ourselves during the day. And so far so good.

I’ve always thought of the band as kind of more performance art, because it’s just so beautiful; it’s not just for my ears. At what point in the songwriting process do the aesthetics come in?

You know, it always starts with the music. And that’s how it started in the very beginning: We were singing in unison and we were singing as one person. Or you could think of it as a third voice, and we wanted to dress that and unify that visually the way that it sounded. And so that’s where the symmetry and the dressing the same happened, and from there visuals became very important to us.

With this record, we started with the songs. We were kind of purging all these ideas after we got off the road, and we wanted to see what songs came out first before we even decided what was going on the record or what the message would be. And then after the pieces of the puzzle came together and we could look at it, that’s when the title and visuals and everything came into play. We wanted to have a specific idea of the color palette this time around, and something that we could kind of stick to.

What is the songwriting process? Of the five of you, do you all take different roles? How does it get from your real experience all the way to a song?

Well, Jess and I had started all the songs with melody and lyrics and finished very simplified demos of the songs, and then sent them to the guys, who built these arrangements around them. So when we went into the studios, we had the simple demo and then the arranged demos – we called them the girls demos and the boys demos. So we kind of worked our way between the two. Shawn [Everett, producer] added his input and had some crazy ideas of how we could get to the end of each song in sort of a democratic way where everyone could feel like they were heard. So I think everyone ended up being happy in the end.

The friendship between you and Jess is something that so many people wish they had. And your songs on Wildewoman have a lot of female protagonists and encourage just being a woman and being whatever you want to be. Your new album, Good Grief,  is a little louder, and I feel like I have cheerleaders behind me — that friend who is like, "Come on, you got this!"

We are kind of that for each other in a lot of ways. For the past few years, we have been experiencing almost all the same things together in a very literal sense. We’ve lived nonstop together. But you know, of course, you have your own personal experiences and personal struggles, so we are able to be each other’s devil's advocate. I think in both records there is this conscience that is kind of speaking, saying, "Just keep going. One foot in front in front of the other. We're gonna be all right."

Because we are unsure of these things all the time. It’s just a reminder to ourselves. We are singing these things together, and I think people gravitate toward that, and I think people want to join in to that sentiment.

So are you writing now while you're on tour?

A little bit. Taking notes. Working on the beginnings of some songs and things. Practicing guitar a little bit. And we’ve got some writing sessions set aside for this year coming up. It’s hard to write on the road. Some people do, but it’s hard for us. There are so many personalities in one small place.

Lucius performs Saturday, May 14, at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood, 303-788-0984.