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Lucius
Lucius brings a provocative stage presence. (Laurie-Anne Benoit / McGill Tribune)

Lucius becomes one with the music

Arts & Entertainment/Music by

On March 28, Lucius, a five-piece band led by singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, performed at Theatre Fairmount as part of its tour to commemorate the release of its second album, Good Grief. While its first album, Wildewoman, has been praised for its soulful ’60s vibe, its new album moves in a different direction, taking on an ’80s pop sound. To Peter Lalish, guitarist for Lucius, this distinction in sound comes from the fact that unlike the band’s first album, Good Grief was written from scratch as a collaboration between the band’s members. Lucius’ lead singers, female powerhouses Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, met at Berklee College of Music and began working together in 2003. It was only until they moved to New York four years ago that they met Lalish and the other two members Dan Molad (drums, vocals) and Andi Burri (drums, guitar, and vocals), coming together to form Lucius as it is known today.

“Wildewoman was [made] starting from a lot of different moments in time,” Lalish explained. “[Good Grief is] one story that [combines] all of our crazy different personalities and musical tastes all in one […. Writing this album was] the first time that we all realized how much we each love Nine Inch Nails, and we each love old school hip hop, and we each love Harry Nilsson, and [even] classical music.”

Coming to a final consensus can be challenging while taking so many opinions into account, however. As Lalish noted, taking all five voices into consideration presented a challenge that also pushed their musical sound in a different direction from their first album.

“Each of us in the band are all songwriters,” Lalish explained. “You put five songwriters in a room and you have five different perspectives on the same thing, and so that can be a challenge by itself […] it’s sort of like everyone’s opinions, and it turns into this big stew pot. And you have to sort of see where the voice is, and all of that. So I think that those drastic changes [in our sound] are really just from having more opinions in the room.”

The band was not shy to showcase its hard work on this album during the show, with lively performances of many of the new songs. Starting off the show with “Madness,” a passionate transcription of a dream, Laessig and Wolfe assumed position across from each other in symmetry center stage, singing passionately in unison. A few songs later, they quickly picked up the audience’s energy with “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain,” utilizing the full stage space by walking in different directions and assuming various positions on the stage, standing close and interacting with a lively first few rows. Later, for “Born Again Teen,” the pair moved their mics to stage right, facing each other in symmetry while head-banging to the bouncy 80’s-sounding pop song.

The band's engaging stage presence throughout the show included far more than its versatility in stage location, however. Two-thirds of the way through the show, Laessig and Wolfe left the stage completely, leaving the other three members to play what sounded like an improvised drum interlude for several minutes. The move left audience members a bit disoriented, but nonetheless entertained. The girls returned several minutes later in completely new outfits to coolly continue the show as though nothing had happened.

When prompted about the costume change after the show, Lalish explained that costume changes serve more than the purpose of keeping the audience on their toes.

“One, it’s like a little bit of a breather for [Laessig and Wolfe],” Lalish explained. “Instead of screaming the whole show, they get a minute to go back there and catch their breath. And then it’s also a moment for the guys to act like idiots and just make noise on stage, which is always fun.”

Costumery is a large part of Lucius’ identity as a band. Laessig and Wolfe always dress and style their hair in unison, thus placing emphasis on their sound: Two voices as one, or put-together harmony.

“They’re always doing this two-headed beast sort of music,” Lalish said. “It’s not always in harmony, a lot of it’s in unison, and that is kind of a rare thing [….] I think it was less of a reaction of ‘Let’s get some attention doing this,’ and more of like ‘Let’s really make an attempt at becoming sort of one thing that this is a reflection of that sound, that one kind of projected voice. [Laessig and Wolfe] have two really really different personalities. I think this allows them to find a common ground in their songwriting, […] I think to them it is important that they can step into these shoes and be able to perform on stage as this thing that’s maybe a little bit outside of themselves, but it has even more power, I think, that way.”

The band’s power was ever present during Monday’s performance, captivating the audience song after song. After leaving the stage a second time, they quickly summoned several minutes of applause from the audience, and returned for an encore by popular demand, bringing with them the members of their opening act, Pure Bathing Culture. The two bands silenced a once-rowdy audience with a collaboration on Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” that was eerily beautiful and passionate. Several songs later, Lucius ended the show with a song off itsfirst album, “Genevieve,” bouncing around the stage, playing drums, and head banging, and summoning the same level of energy from the dancing crowd. If there was anything to take away from the concert, it’s Lucius’ power to keep an audience engaged with theatrics, energy, and powerful voices.

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