Lucius

Tianxing Ma

Beat of the Bay

The Beat of the Bay

It’s pretty common to hear about pop stars being "created." The story goes like so: acts like One Direction have their look, aura, and sound constructed for them.

This could be true or untrue about Britain’s Biggest Boy Band, but it’s definitely true about Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of the band Lucius. With one major caveat, that is: Laessig and Wolfe create themselves. They’ve created a musical and visual idea for their band and have become possessed by it, carefully molding every show, interview, and record around that idea.

It’s pretty simple: two women as one. Laessig and Wolfe compose and arrange songs together, sing lead vocal together, dress together, and make appearances together. Together, they are the "Wildewoman" for which their 2013 debut album is named. It is this "twinning" and sisterly bond that led the group out of Boston and onto the Brooklyn indie scene six years ago and that has spurred the band’s budding stardom this year.

When Laessig and Wolfe emerge on the stage of Boston Calling in September, it’s impossible to tell them apart. They have the same haircut: full, blonde bangs that sweep into the dark sunglasses they sport. They each wear a black and white dress that’s an inversion of the other’s. They face each other, each playing a keyboard, and are flanked by the three other instrumentalists of the group so that it seems like there’s a mirror that has cut the stage in half.

The degree to which they match is a little freaky and alarming, but it completely suits the music: retro pop that’s as pristine and shiny as a mirror. There aren’t too many pop songs this year better than “Hey, Doreen,” on which the two singers belting completely in unison over driving guitar and keyboard that complement each other. There’s not a note or snare hit that doesn’t belong, just as there’s not a strand of hair on Laessig’s or Wolfe’s head that isn’t perfectly in place.

This control is all too intentional. "We’re kind of obsessive-compulsive, both of us," Laessig tells me over the phone (I picked up a call with who I was told would be Jess; of course, Holly’s voice came over the line.). "I like to say that we dress the sound more than we dress ourselves. It’s a mirror effect: people are transported to this other world through the symmetry." Laessig then proceeds to outline the symmetry of their whole set: "We’re both singing, and we have two guys drumming. Then it was like, can we do even more in an audio sense? So Jess and Pete Lalish share bass responsibilities. There’s that duality. It’s just, we keep expanding upon it and keep it in mind for everything artistically—for videos, for live, for lights."

It’s hard to believe that Laessig and Wolfe haven’t always been entwined at the hip, but they didn’t meet until their third year at Berklee College of Music in early 2006. At the time, they were studying vocal performance and singing the occasional jazz gig. They met on "one fateful night" at one of Wolfe’s parties, where they bonded over their love for rock and roll, soul music, and of course, the Beatles. "Our first show was going to be a ‘White Album’ cover show," Laessig remembers. "We rearranged ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun,’ but we never did the show. We just started doing our own thing." The pair then teamed up with three other Berklee musicians in New York to form the whole band.

It’s far too easy to compare current rock and pop groups to the Beatles, but Lucius carry on the two-frontman tradition that hasn’t been employed very often since the early Lennon-McCartney days. "It was a happy accident," Laessig says. "We were both singing the melody at one point and it sounded a doubled vocal, like on ‘Elliott Smith’ or so many other records. We have such different voices, but when we sang together, it was this weird third entity."

Laessig and Wolfe have fully embraced this "third entity" that seems to be far bigger than either one of them alone. Their upbeat album "Wildewoman" has earned praise from NPR and Rolling Stone, and they’re currently on their first-ever European tour. "We’re freaking out," Laessig tells me right before their flight.

This is one of the few moments in which Laessig isn’t fully composed. The rest of the time, in interviews and during shows, the two Berklee musicians are ridiculously poised, so much so it’s easy to think Lucius might have been thought up by some industry whiz. But they weren’t—the composure, the songwriting, the vocals, and the style are all the hard work of Lucius themselves.

Note: try and catch Lucius at the Sinclair on December 5.

—Staff writer Andrew R. Chow can be reached at andrew.chow@thecrimson.com

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