Brooklyn band Lucius hit critical mass

Jess Wolfe of Lucius shakes her head in an expression of mild disbelief. “Apparently Paul Krugman got into our music through his daughter,” she says, referring to the Nobel prize winning economist. “He turned up at one of our shows in New York. It was a bit of a surprise. He’s written some very nice things about us, which is always a help.”

Brooklyn band Lucius hit critical mass

The New York Times columnist isn’t the only prominent advocate for Lucius’ retro guitar pop. They were feted at the recent South By Southwest music festival in Texas, receiving an invitation to perform at Willie Nelson’s ranch outside Austin.

“We wanted to wait around to see Willie play at the end,” says Wolfe. “But it wasn’t possible — we were booked to do another gig later that day. We were performing five times a day — it was insane.”

She isn’t complaining. It’s taken a while for Lucius to reach critical mass. The band has its origins in a chance meeting five years ago between Wolfe and the group’s other vocalist Holly Laessig. From the start they felt a powerful creative connection.

“The musical chemistry was instant,” says Wolf. “We took to singing in unison almost by accident and decided we loved how it worked. Both of us are big admirers of the way records sounded in the ’60s.”

However, it wasn’t until they hooked up with drummer Dan Molad, and guitarists Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri that Lucius achieved lift-off. “We’ve been at this for a decent stretch and have taken on many different incarnations. Meeting the guys was the moment it came together in its present form. All of a sudden, we were a big family.”

Around the same time, Wolfe and Laessig started to dress identically on stage and style their hair the same way.

“Aesthetics are important to us,” says Wolfe. “We are inspired by artists who have a strong visual element to what they do. Adding that to our performance carries it to a different sphere. You create an experience rather than this one-dimensional approach, where it’s only about the songs. There’s so much symmetry in our voices — it’s fitting that there is symmetry in how we look also.”

But critical acclaim doesn’t pay the bills so Lucius have had to explore other ways of making ends meet. Between tours, Wolfe and Laessig have a well-paying sideline as jingle writers. One of their compositions, for a Mercedes commercial, received wide attention after it debuted during the finale of cult TV show Breaking Bad.

“We are on the road a lot — and that isn’t necessarily beneficial to your wallet,” she says. “We do jingles to help with our income. It’s also great practice. You are given parameters within which you have to write — and you have to stick to them.”

The band live together in a house in Brooklyn. You wonder if, after weeks on the road, they truly want to spend time in one another’s company? That way, surely, lies bad blood and ‘musical differences’.

“It’s cool,” laughs Wolfe. “More than anything, we are good friends. We genuinely like hanging around together.”

Lucius’ rise has not been free of controversy. The cover of their album Wildewoman might be considered provocative. It’s a reproduction of a NSFW painting by ’60s Belgian pop artist Evelyne Axell, a challenger of polite conventions.

“Some people, in America especially, don’t understand it. For the most part our audience has celebrated it. We don’t expect the whole world to love what we do.”

Wildewoman is out now. Lucius play Sugar Club, Dublin on Saturday.

More in this section

IE Logo

ABHAILE

Your guide to staying at home