Like any pop music enthusiast, I’m a sucker for catchy tunes delivered by beautifully coordinated double-lead vocals and with outfits to match, and Lucius’s infectious, Spector-esque debut album, Wildewoman, hit the spot. Likewise, the band’s latest effort, Good Grief, did not disappoint, either. Keeping all of the sparkly, retro-pop sensibilities intact, this new album offers some insight on the deep personal impact that life as a touring musical act has had on the members of Lucius. I spoke to one of the band’s two frontwomen, Holly Laessig, over the phone on April 1, and she told me a little more about it.
Hi. How are you? I’m good. How are you doing? I thought about, um, saying that I was Jess and that I had to like take over the interview because something happened, and I was trying to think of this whole thing because it’s April Fool’s, but then you called.
Yeah, I was really hoping you wouldn’t do that because I was like, “Oh, no, it’s April Fool’s Day; something is gonna happen!” I know, I have loved April Fool’s for so long; it was always my favorite holiday. For the last couple years, I haven’t gotten to do a good trick, so I’m thinkin’ about it for tonight.
So you’ve done pranks in the past? What was your best one? A couple years ago, me and my husband [Andy] had a friend staying with us, and the night before I was like, “Oh shit, it’s April Fool’s tomorrow! We have to do something; we have to trick Andy!” and our friend was like, “Oh, you’re right. Okay, what should we do?” and I don’t know why, but we decided to take everything out of my fridge and have him hide in the fridge. And then I woke up Andy, and I said, “Can you help me with this coffee machine? I don’t know what’s happening with it,” and he was like, “No, I’m sleeping,” and I was like, “Come on, please.” And so he comes out to the kitchen, and I was like, “Oh, can you grab me the milk from the fridge?” and he opened the fridge, and our friend was in it. Like in the fridge. And luckily he didn’t die in there because he was closing the door, and he was like, “Please make it quick.” Anyway, my husband got thoroughly scared and ran off, and it was great.
That sounds really fun. I’m terrible at pulling pranks and tricks and all that kind of stuff, but that sounds fun. Yeah, it was good.
So Good Grief came out recently. It’s excellent. I love it. Thank you for that. Thank you.
How was the process of actually making this album different than with your previous one? The biggest difference was the timeline. With the first record, when we started it, we were just writing songs, and we weren’t even thinking of it as making a record necessarily. We wrote those songs over several years, and so it was very kind of super lax. This time around, we wanted to write as soon as we got off tour and kind of get things going, and things always take longer than you think, so this one was a little more pressure, I guess. But we had a lot more to say, also, ‘cause we had just been in this whirlwind for the last couple of years, and we had seen so many things and felt so many things, and had experienced a lot more and grown up a lot more.
So we didn’t have time. We were so crammed with stuff. We didn’t have time to write on the road. When we got off the road, it felt kind of like when you slam on the breaks and you just fly forward. We were still, which was uncomfortable, and all this stuff came out. We had a few sessions, Jess [Wolfe] and I, to go through our journals and our voice memos and ideas that we had, and we brought verses and choruses and different melodic things to each session and kind of worked them out. And it was interesting going back through all that stuff, ‘cause you don’t really have time in the moment to reflect on all those feelings, so we quickly realized that it was a lot of heavy stuff. There were a lot of relationship struggles, and there were a lot of personal struggles, and things that we had been experiencing along the way but hadn’t really had time to reflect on. I think in response to that, one of the first songs we worked on was “Born Again Teen.” I think several of the other songs were really intense, and it was like, ‘Ugh, we just got off tour; do we really want to deal with this right now? Let’s start with something light.’
Sort of like the comic relief, almost. Totally. Yeah. And so I think it’s kind of got that bipolarity about it, the record. And that’s kind of what tour life feels like. You’re onstage for an hour and a half, and it’s this massive adrenaline rush, and you’ve got all these people cheering you on and feeding back at you, and it’s like this glorious moment. And then you get off stage, and I think your body, in order to balance that, has to go lower than a normal low. So it’s like these high highs and low lows, and I guess the record is sort of like that, too.
As a person with depression, I’ve found that some of the lyrics in your songs are almost eerily relatable. I was wondering if any of your music is actually inspired by mental-health-related issues? Yeah. I mean, I think so. Everyone in the band experiences different levels of anxiety and depression, and I think “Gone Insane” came out of a relationship experience where the other person was really struggling mentally, and so I think that’s definitely on there, for sure.
Are the relationship songs about romantic relationships, or were they about relationships with people in general? I think they’re mostly marriage stuff. The other thing, too, is that Jess and I kind of get to be each other’s devil’s advocate, because on the last tour I was away from my husband the entire time, but then she was with hers all the time, and there’s different struggles that come with both of those things. So when we’re writing or having “coffee talk,” like I like to call it, we have that other perspective, which is kind of nice, to have that reminder, because being an artist is already hard, and then being married is also super hard. Those two together, it’s just very hard, but it’s nice to have that other perspective when you’re writing with someone. It’s like it becomes a conversation, which I think is why it’s also kind of relatable for other people, too, because it is kind of multiple perspectives on things.
Wildewoman was often described as reminiscent of the ‘60s. I hear a lot of the ‘80s sound on Good Grief. Would you say that’s accurate? Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot. I think that probably is accurate because when we did this record, after Jess and I had written these songs that were very basic demos with melody and lyrics, we sent ‘em off to the guys and they built these beautiful arrangements around them. Then we kind of went into the studio with both demos, so we had the more fully realized one and then the very stripped-down one. And then with that, Sean, our producer, had this brilliant idea of sitting around together and listening to music, which nobody does anymore. And so every time we were approaching a song, he would have us all write down a song that we wanted to listen to that we thought might inspire something, whether it was the way the guitar was recorded or how they stacked the vocals or whatever it was, and put it anonymously into a box, and then we would just listen to all these songs together and write on a dry-erase board all the things that we liked about each track. And no one had to say whose it was; it was totally democratic. And it really helped, because the five of us as a band are very strongly opinionated people with a lot of different influences, but I think we’re kids of the ‘80s, so a lot of the nostalgic songs that make you feel a certain way came up a lot, and so I think that shows a little bit. People have mentioned it a few times, so there you go.
Which aspect of the finished product are you most proud of? Well, the whole record. There were times when we were like, ‘Ugh, good grief.’ You know, that was the running gag, that’s sort of where the title came from, but I guess the thing that I’m proudest about is that the songs are very honest and coming from a very personal place, and it’s not totally easy to expose yourself in that way. I’m proud of how “Gone Insane” turned out, because that whole ending was improvised, and that kind of became the whole song in the end. And I think it has a point to it, and it feels like something people can really relate to. So I guess that’s the thing I’m most proud about, is that all five of us made a beautiful record as honest as we possibly could, and hopefully people like it, but whether or not, it’s just what we needed to say and make.
After going through all of these heavy emotions, what do you do to wind down? Well, okay, in the studio — we were in Sean’s studio, his little dark studio space in downtown L.A.— we were in there day in and day out, and we would get coffee in the studio and do this whole listening part thing, and then we would have lunch and we would work on the tracks, and then we’d order in delivery cases of beer and kind of have these intermittent breathing spaces. And actually at the time that we were recording we were staying in this crazy house on the top of a hill in Montecito Heights in L.A., and it’s like this magic place we were renting from this guy, and a few other bands have rented from them, too, but he built this place a long time ago … and it’s on this big property that’s untouched, and you have almost a 360-degree view of the city. It’s the most insane thing. And if he wanted to do it now it would never happen. It’s just one of those things where he got in at the perfect time, and there’s two big tortoises there, and it’s like a total Zen retreat, and I think that was kind of the place to take a sigh of relief at the end of the day.
And then in life, I think everyone has kind of a different way of dealing with the stress. I have like four journals compartmentalized into different things, and I like to do that, and everyone obviously likes to listen to music or draw or take walks. Andy Burri goes for like 9-mile runs (I don’t know how he does it), and he exercises hard — plays hard and then parties hard, and I’m like, “I don’t know how you do it,” but everyone’s got a different way of dealing with it.
So are you guys planted in L.A. now? Yes. Well, three of us are, and then Pete [Lalish] and Andy are in Brooklyn still. I’ve been there for a year now. When I first got there, it was so weird. That’s kind of where the “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain” thing came about, because that first few weeks that we were there, I just felt like — well, we had just come off the road, and I was trying to balance out my psyche — and I just felt like I kept opening the door and it was the same day every day. And the sun was just, like, shining, and I was like “Okay,” you know, “fuck you!” Well, the thing is that I realized that I had nothing to blame anything on. When you’re a New Yorker, you’re in a certain situation where you can blame your feelings on the weather or being over-bombarded, but in L.A., you have nothing to blame it on because it’s just beautiful and relaxing.
Lucius plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) with Margaret Glaspy on Friday, May 6, at 9 p.m. For more information, visit sohosb.com.