Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe have known each other almost ten years. They met in college through dorm mates and have been singing together since 2003.
“We were lucky,” Holly says. “Second or third year we were at Jess’s house at a party drinking wine, lots of it, and we sat down on the couch at one point and we said, ‘we should do a show in the cafeteria – a white album cover show.’”
Jess adds, “And we never did the show. But we started writing music together.”
The Beatles as catalyst, these two young women living in Boston banded together as one heart and one voice to bring the luscious sound known as Lucius. Today the band stands as Jess and Holly on vocals, Dan Molad drums, Peter Lalish guitar and Andrew Burri guitar.
Watching Holly, Jess and the boys is like taking a trip into the melodic unknown. Their music and live performance is a blissful resonance to the ears. I sat down with the two ladies on the steps of Austin’s Omni Hotel during SXSW to talk all things Lucius.
Kristen Blanton: You’re here – you’re in Austin, you’re at South By. What’s going through your head this time around?
Holly Laessig: It feels great. The weather is beautiful. We’ve had only a positive experience so far. We’re going to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings tonight. So we’re excited about that.
Jess Wolfe: Yeah, just happy to be playing for people and seeing new faces. That’s the whole point of this all, so it feels good. It feels good to be busy.
KB: Do you feel overwhelmed at all?
Holly: You can’t really feel overwhelmed in Austin. I think we felt overwhelmed before we got here, thinking about everything we had to do. Then you get here and everyone is so chill.
Jess: It’s like, “Let’s take a pedicab to our gig.” It’s a little slower than New York.
KB: Speaking of New York, how does space influence you two – how does the craziness of the city influence the music you’re making?
Jess: I think that we both long for a place with more space, so maybe that carries over in the music. Naturally, your state of mind is going to be a direct representation of your art. I think we’re lucky because we live in this little community of Ditmas Park, near Prospect Park but sort of like a secret little gem. If you know about it you’ve lived there for 10 years and if you don’t know about it…
Holly: Then stay out!
Jess: It’s a really nice small little community filled with artists and young families. It’s a really inspiring place. It feels like a small town in New York – as much of a small town you can possibly get in New York. So I think that really helps us. We have such a diverse group of musically talented friends, electronic musicians and soul musicians and folk musicians and country, so I think we’re also directly inspired by their music.
Holly: New York is definitely inspiring and energizing and overwhelming and that carries over for sure.
KB: Tell me about the actually process of your music writing.
Holly: There’s no formula, every time it’s a little bit different. Usually one of us will come up with an idea or a verse or chorus and then other will fill in the blanks.
Jess: We’re lucky that we’ve sort of had some symmetrical experiences and been able to relate and finish each other’s sentences. You know, I’ve had times when I couldn’t write because I was too sad or going through whatever and Holly’s been about to sort of speak for me. So it’s beyond our friendship and musical talent. We have this connection and it’s a really beautiful thing that we can do for each other.
KB: Your sound and your presence are so authentic – from your matching outfits to matching voices. How did this style emerge?
Holly: I think it’s fair to think retro, but I think it’s also fair to say that we wear what we like. We’re not trying to be another era or wear a costume.
Jess: And I think more than anything, more than what it is, it’s really just the visual representation of the music. We just want people to come see our show and have a direct visual representation of the music. And people are so visual these days I think it’s important for us and for our audience to have that correlation.
A lot of people say we’re two voices as one and there’s a heartbeat to the music, especially the percussive elements. You know, the guys are doubling each other a lot, we’re doubling each other a lot singing in unison and I think that brings it together. There is no distinction of the visual elements; therefore I think that connects everything.
KB: What’s on the horizon?
Jess: Touring and a full length. We’re in the process of finishing recording and hopefully by fall we’ll have our debut full length.
KB: How long have you been writing the album?
Holly and Jess: Two years.
Jess: It’s cool to go into the studio as a band. Actually we had recording most of the record without the band as it stands now and after we, basically, had to learn how to play the songs live because the band was formed through the process. After we were at a place where we had been playing these songs and reinventing them naturally as we played together. So we’re excited to go back and make some edits so that it is relevant to what we’re doing now and so that it feels like it’s us.
Holly: We’re certainly anxious to get it out there.
KB: And how has touring been for you all?
Holly: It’s been great so far. It’s been really fun. We’re in a van with three stinky guys a lot – and we’ve gotten really good at putting our hair up really fast. We’re down to like, five minutes.
Jess: I think we get dressed quicker than the boys do.