Some of Lucius’ best shows have been born from the most obnoxious, pain-in-the-ass circumstances, the kind that rear their meddling heads at the most inopportune moment.
Just before playing a sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom a few months ago, one of their cars got towed–with a bunch of gear inside, along with the brand new matching outfits Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe had picked up for the performance–and the intricate lighting design they had configured wouldn’t work, either. In April, after playing the Mercury Lounge, they brought the band van back to Ditmas Park for the night, figuring it would be parked on the street for a few hours at most in between the late show and the early sound-check they had the next day. While Laessig and Wolfe were singing in a session that morning, they received a flurry of phone calls from one of their band mates, who had returned to the block the van was parked on only to find it gone.
In both instances, you’d never know that Lucius was dealing with the most stressful logistical headaches a band can face. They didn’t panic in the face of major setbacks, both financial and personal: if anything, they took their frustrations, channeled it into their music and let loose with the bombastic effervescence that’s become their audio calling card.
“Amidst all these things, we borrowed a friend’s car, we scrapped the outfit thing, found something else, didn’t have the lights and we were all over the place,” says Wolfe, recounting both debacles. “We felt so many mixed emotions that we just really played our hearts out. I think the audience felt it, and we felt that they felt it. We looked at every pawnshop on Flatbush Ave [after the robbery]. It took longer to get back on our feet than we’d have liked to, but at the same time, something like that shows how supportive the community is, and our fans, and it made us re-visualize what we’re going to do onstage.”
This burst of adrenaline did them well, as everyone’s starting to wonder who this five-piece is that sprung up in a flurry of handclaps and harmonizing croons from Ditmas Park. Lucius, with its current lineup, has been playing together since last spring, though Laessig and Wolfe have been making music together for years. “When we first started playing, Jess and I were only singing,” says Laessig. “We’ve added a lot of things. We’re continuing to push ourselves … Now, whenever we write, someone will have a different idea–‘Let’s use this synthesizer instead or the drum machine!’ We’ll have a different arrangement each time for each song.” Andrew Burri, Dan Molad and Peter Lalish supply the percussion, guitars and an additional assortment of instruments that complete the cacophony with synthesizers, shakers, and blocks, but Lucius is, if anything, a group of people who are musically ambidextrous. Everyone in the band picks up a pair of drumsticks at one point over the course of a set, and when all five performers are belting out the “Oh Wa Wa-s” in “Genevieve,” it’s a forceful, belted refrain that’s strongest as the sum of its parts.
“Initially, we had ten songs that we recorded,” says Wolfe. “Holly and I didn’t even have a plan of what it was going to be. Danny had just left the band that he was in at the time, and it was sort of the perfect time for all of us to be creative and experiment with something. Several months later, we started playing some of those songs live, and they totally transformed to the point where we ended up going back and re-recording some of those songs because they live different lives now. For us, we were just exploring. Now, we’re a unit, and naturally, when you have five different people playing together for a long period of time, you’re always trying to make something new and different for yourself because you’re playing these songs over and over again. You end up finding different ways to set it apart for yourself, not even just for your audience.”
Spicing it up doesn’t pertain solely to their songs, either. This comes across clearest when Lucius are onstage, and when everyone’s all decked to the nines in suspenders, bowties, chandelier earrings and mod, vibrant ensembles for Laessig and Wolfe. “I think we’re an elevated version of ourselves onstage,” says Laessig. Adds Wolfe, “I think that for us, the whole outfit, costumes, whatever you want to call it, it’s just an extension of the music. We find ourselves to be very symmetrical throughout the whole process: Holly and I are singing together, facing each other, two voices as one. We get onstage and we have this powerful energy between us. We’re both playing keys, the guys are on both sides of the stage, drumming, sometimes together and sometimes separately, we’re both singing, Pete’s making these crazy sounds out of nowhere–no show is ever the same even though it feels familiar. That symmetry and that sort of reflectiveness, we wanted to show that in more than just music. I think that also excites people. It excites us, you know?”
We do. And we agree wholeheartedly.
Lucius play a sold-out show at the Mercury Lounge tonight.