Interview: Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius

Lucius (Photo: Petecia Le Fawnhawk)
(Photo: Petecia Le Fawnhawk)

Indie pop act Lucius has evolved since their beginnings at the Berklee College of Music in Boston during the mid-2000s. Their 2013 debut album Wildewoman put them on the map with a fusion of folk and ‘60s pop. Then they moved from their home base in Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 2015. Recently they’ve been involved in Roger Waters’ Us + Them World Tour along with releasing the acoustic album Nudes on Mar 2. On St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll be performing stripped down versions of their songs for a sold-out show at the Columbus Theatre in Providence’s West Side.

I had a conversation with Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from the band about the new album, being on the road with an originator of theatric rock, being in the studio with Nels Cline, covering a song by a contemporary act and their plans for their next release.

Rob Duguay (Motif): Lucius’ new album Nudes seems like it’s delving into the band’s folk roots. Is that what the band was going for or was it simply an idea for doing an acoustic album?

Holly Laessig: One of the best parts of our set for us, along with the audience, is that during every show we try and do a couple of songs completely broken down. Sometimes we’ll even just have a couple microphones and an acoustic guitar, or even sing a cappella. It’s one of our favorite things to do while performing live. While we were part of Roger Waters’ current tour, we wanted to give something to our fans to stay connected with them, to let them know that we’re still here and to give them something special to hold on to in the meantime. We did some writing and put a couple of new songs on the album, along with some rearrangements of some of our old songs and some covers as well.

RD: With the rearranging of the songs, did it take any adjusting at first to go from the synth-backed songs to making them acoustic? Or was it seamless?

HL: I think it was pretty seamless. We’ve done so many different iterations throughout our touring, including morning radio sessions where there’s only enough room to have two acoustic guitars and one drum. We’ve done the “Tiny Desk Concerts” for National Public Radio and we’ve broken down songs in various ways according to our boundaries that are set for us. We’ve done all of our songs in so many different versions, and, every time we write, it’s with a vocal and a piano or a vocal with an acoustic guitar, so it starts pretty simple. It’s easy to strip everything away and we enjoy it.

RD: You mentioned touring with Roger Waters, who you also did a rendition of the folk standard “Goodnight, Irene” with him on the new album. What has it been like being on the road with Roger? It must be a wild experience.

Jess Wolfe: It’s been amazing. Being a part of something like what Roger is currently doing where the music is embedded in all of our DNA, we have this nostalgic attachment to these songs and seeing it come to life every night is incredible. The way it affects people and how relevant it feels is huge at a time like now where things are so unpredictable. It feels really important to be a part of something like that.

Roger is also very conscientious about how the visuals are portrayed with the music and with us that’s already something that’s part of our own experience as well. He’s kind of the guy who invented that, so it’s incredibly inspiring. He created the theatrical element of rock ‘n’ roll in the way that we know it.

RD: The influence he’s had on the both of you is very noticeable, especially with how Lucius presents themselves on stage. For example, the way you both dress identically, and even when you have your keyboards set at a certain angle. Nudes also has the band collaborating with Nels Cline, who is notably the lead guitarist for Wilco and an avant-garde jazz musician. How was it doing a song with him? I hear he’s a friendly guy.

JW: He’s very friendly and he’s a good friend of ours. We’ve been fortunate to perform with Wilco a bunch of times. When we were in New York recording the album and we wanted to have beautiful guitar experimentations, he immediately came to mind. We contacted him and luckily he was in town and the timing worked perfectly. He just came to the studio and we did it, it was awesome.

RD: I’m a huge fan of his so it must have been amazing to work with him. One thing that really struck me about the album, because I didn’t expect it, was the version of “Eventually” by Tame Impala the band did. It’s a stunning rendition and it had me amazed. What inspired that when there were so many other songs the band could have covered?

JW: We’re huge fans of theirs and that record, Currents, is something [to which] we were listening on repeat while writing. That song is just so beautiful and a lot of times, because we’re singers, the both of us gravitate towards the classics, nostalgic music and oldies. With that going on, it was important to us that we did a song done by one of our contemporaries. That was the first song that we thought we could cover and fit in well with the album.

RD: I love how different it is and how perfectly it fits with the vibe conveyed by the original.

JW: Thank you.

RD: No problem. This acoustic tour that Lucius is currently on goes until the end of March. Afterwards you’ll be back on the road with Roger Waters. So what else does the band have planned?

JW: We’ll be going back into the studio to work on the next record before we head to Europe with Roger for three months.

Nudes via Spotify:

Web site: