The Singers of Lucius Depend on Each Other to Hit the High Notes
Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius
It takes a lot to upstage a classic-rock icon during his own set. Sporting black capes and bleached-blond bob hairdos, most fans don't know what to make of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig until they open their mouths. But singing the soulful riffs of "Great Gig In the Sky" next to Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, there's no doubt they made an impression on the final night of Goldenvoice's Desert Trip festival (a.k.a. Oldchella). With their heads tilted back, they unleashed their angelic harmonies with enough power to touch the dark side of the moon.
"Certainly singing with Roger Waters was one of the greatest things we've ever done, and our parents were there to watch," Wolfe says. "They brought us up on that music, so it was a huge deal. That was a huge high."
Since early March, Brooklyn, New York-based indie pop quintet Lucius have been touring the country, growing their fan base. But on Sunday, their tour closes at the Observatory in Santa Ana, giving them time to record their third album, the follow-up to 2016's Good Grief and their 2013 debut, Wildewoman.
Wolfe and Laessig met in college, where they discovered they had similar tastes in music. "My first friend in college was [Laessig's] roommate, and we had a group of girls that were inseparable," Wolfe says. "One night, over wine, we talked about our influences and discovered how similar ours were. Then we got together and worked on cover songs just for fun, but it developed, and then we decided to write our own."
The collaboration was very successful, and the twosome decided to grow to a quintet in 2005. But similar musical tastes weren't the only commonality the women experienced. "People always say we sing like one voice," Wolfe says. "We sing in unison a lot. At some point, people started saying, 'We can't tell who's who.' Sometimes, we listen back to tracks, and we can't even tell ourselves."
The unity of sound also inspired a unity in the look of the band's singers. The two dress identically for all public appearances, often in loud colors and busy prints, their identical mod hairstyles often dyed red. "When we started out, we wanted to have a show that was a visual representation of the music, so dressing alike was a natural fit," Wolfe says.
Though their look is uniform, the sound of their first two albums bounces all over the place, drawing from genres such as pop, synth, disco and folk. "I hope that what we put out is never as expected," Wolfe says. "When you start to write for a specific style, you sort of like put yourself in a box—you limit yourself in terms of what you can do and what you can become."
While being on the road and sharing the stage with heroes including Waters, Neil Young and Mavis Staples has been amazing and surreal, touring takes its toll. Both the lead ladies are married; Wolfe's husband is the band's drummer, while Laessig's husband is a musician in another band. "We have different difficulties, so we look to each other as a sort of 'the grass is always greener' scenario," Wolfe says. "Do you want to be with someone all the time or none of the time?"
While the touring can be rough, the ladies believe their relationship keeps getting stronger. "Eleven years later, here we are still writing and singing songs together," Wolfe says. "It's definitely my longest and healthiest relationship."
Lucius perform at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Sun., 8 p.m. $22. All ages.
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