Lucius talk about life in Roger Waters' band and their strong musical connections
American singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe are currently in Australia, playing our most massive arenas to tens of thousands of people every night.
The two women are the vocalists and the creative core of indie-pop group Lucius. But that’s not the group that’s doing huge numbers around the country. It’s as backing vocalists for the legendary Pink Floyd mastermind Roger Waters that they’re cast into such an immense spotlight.
Surprisingly, working with one of the biggest names in rock is a much easier gig than slogging it out with their own band.
“When we started touring with our own band, that felt like relentless touring,” Laessig told Double J’s Tim Shiel last week. “We had to be everywhere, all the time. This, in comparison, feels a lot more relaxed in a lot of ways. Even though it's much bigger.”
“It's a bigger operation, so things happen slower, which is nice, because we actually get to enjoy the city,” Wolfe added. “It's allowed us to actually see the world not just say that we've been somewhere.”
“It's been nice to not be the steerer of the ship, the captain,” Laessig said. “It's nice to be a cog in the wheel. It's less pressure and we get to enjoy it from a different perspective.”
It's nice to be a cog in the wheel. It's less pressure and we get to enjoy it from a different perspective.Holly Laessig, Lucius — Double J, 2018
Hopefully these shows with Waters will be another opportunity for the Lucius following to grow.
The band have had a few breakthrough tracks – ‘Turn It Around’ and ‘Two Of Us On The Run’ from 2013’s Wildewoman and ‘Born Again Teen’ and ‘Dusty Trails’ from 2016’s Good Grief among them – which have come after many years of hard toil.
“We went to music school together in Boston,” Wolfe explained of the Lucius story. “We were just admirers of each other’s' instrument. One night, over long talks about our musical upbringing, and wine - it sounds very romantic - we decide we were gonna do a female-led White Album cover show.
“The next morning, we got together and started working on 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun'. But that was the only song we worked on, then we just started writing our own.”
The two women perform such perfect close harmonies that it’s kind of a shock they’re not related. While they don’t share a bloodline, they do have a musical affinity that came effortlessly.
“It was such a natural musical kinship and we never looked back,” Wolfe said. “There was never a moment where we paused and said, 'should we be doing this?'. We just did it.
“Then we moved to New York together and did the songwriting/open mic scene and started getting some recognition and started touring relentlessly. It's moved forward in a really positive way.”
The band have a new album out next month called Nudes, which they recorded in just two days at the fabled Electric Lady Studios. It features a guest spot from their touring boss Roger Waters, as well as Wilco guitar maestro Nels Cline, a glorious cover of Tame Impala’s ‘Eventually’, and – most importantly – it’s entirely acoustic.
“For the last few years, part of our show is where we break everything down,” Laessig explained. “Sometimes we'll go into the centre of the crowd and just sing with everyone around, with just an acoustic guitar and around one mic.
“It just seemed to be this moment every night that really connected us with the audience. I guess this was the inspiration behind putting this on the recording”
Also, when you’re touring with one of the biggest artists in music history, time to work on your own material can be at a bit of a premium.
“We didn't have time to create a full-length record of new material amidst the Roger tour,” Wolfe said. “We'd always wanted to record a few of these covers, and we had a couple of new songs we were really eager to get out into the world.”
Lucius play the following dates:
Thursday 22 February - Chevron Gardens, Perth Festival
Saturday 24 February – The Brightside, Brisbane
Sunday 25 February – Howler, Melbourne
Monday 26 February – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Nudes is out on Friday 9 March