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In Lucius, Two Singers Find An Arresting Harmony

Lucius' new album, Wildewoman, is out now. (Courtesy of the artist)

Sometimes, when two voices come together, the result can be arresting. That's what Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe discovered when they met at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and struck up the partnership that would become Lucius. The band is a quintet, with Laessig and Wolfe's voices at the center — and the music they make together can sound like anything from 1960's girl groups to sunbaked psychedelia to the hangover that comes after after a heavy-drinking country song.

Lucius has just released its full-length debut, Wildewoman, and Laessig and Wolfe joined NPR's Arun Rath to talk about it. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

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Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Once again, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

I once heard a music professor make fun of rock 'n roll for making a big deal about two-voice harmonies. But when it's done right - well, check this out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GO HOME")

LUCIUS: (Singing) I'm your dolly stuffed with extra baggage.

RATH: These are the voices of Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. With their three bandmates, they're called Lucius. And their music takes many forms. One moment, it's a sassy Motown stop; then a sweet Brian Wilson ballad; then the hangover after a heavy-drinking country song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GO HOME")

LUCIUS: (Singing) I don't need you anyway. I don't need you. Go home. Go home...

RATH: The first full-length album from Lucius is called "Wildewoman." It comes from a nickname Holly Laessig's mother had for her as a girl, wilde child.

HOLLY LAESSIG: I was just, like, always playing in the dirt and, like, doing my own thing and, you know, just kind of weird kid. And Jess was a weirdo too, right?

(LAUGHTER)

JESS WOLFE: Yeah.

LAESSIG: And so we kind of bonded over that. And, well, now we're grown up, I guess, so I guess we're wildewomen.

WOLFE: Yeah.

LAESSIG: I mean, I think we were also just sort of recognizing the fact that all the women that we surrounded ourselves with had this sort of spirit about them.

WOLFE: Yeah.

LAESSIG: And we wanted to recognize that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILDEWOMAN")

LUCIUS: (Singing) And she'll say whatever's on her mind. They're unspeakable things, and she'll speak them vain and you can't help but wish you had bolder things to say. She's a wildewoman...

LAESSIG: I mean, we both had kind of a tough time growing up and in school - not really being accepted or getting along, or finding the friends that you wish you had. And so when we found each other and some of the other friends that we met in college, it was a really great experience. And we kind of wanted to just celebrate that and have other people feel that, too.

RATH: So you guys met at the Berklee College of Music, right?

WOLFE: We did. We had a lot of mutual friends in school and one drunken night, started talking about our influences and realized how similar they were and - even though we had completely different upbringings. Holly grew up in Cleveland, Ohio; and I grew up in Los Angeles. But there was just an automatic kinship. And we started writing together very soon after that.

RATH: There was alcohol involved, so did you start singing right away that very first...

WOLFE: No, but we were listening to recordings.

LAESSIG: Yeah. I mean, we were always singing, but we hadn't sung together or decided, until that point, to work together.

RATH: I read that The Beatles' "White" album was important to the band's formation there, some sort of debt of gratitude, you guys. Could you explain that?

LAESSIG: (Laughter) Well, that - OK, let's take it back to that first night, when we were sitting in Jessica's living room drinking red wine on this beige-colored futon, I think it was. And we started talking, and we decided that we're going to do a "White" album cover show and be like, the female Beatles and...

WOLFE: ...for a night.

LAESSIG: ...for a night. And surprisingly, we got up the next morning like, gung ho - like OK, let's meet at Au Bon Pain and have a coffee and like, do this and rearrange some...

WOLFE: Yeah, let's start with "Happiness is a Warm Gun."

RATH: Could you give us a little bit of "Happiness is a Warm Gun?"

WOLFE: Oh, no, no.

LAESSIG: Oh, no, no, no, no.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: Something?

LAESSIG: We're out of practice.

WOLFE: Yeah, that song - we rearranged the song and had planned to rearrange the rest of the tracks, and we just never got around to it. We just ended up writing our own stuff.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN IT AROUND")

LUCIUS: (Singing) She felt comatose waiting for this thing to grow. She's impatient 'cause she wants it now, and so it shows...

RATH: There's a quality that reminds me a little bit of some of the Phil Spector-produced women, but it's almost like the women then sort of took over the studio, held him hostage, and then took it on themselves.

WOLFE: I like that.

LAESSIG: Yeah. It's a nice description - maybe my favorite.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN IT AROUND")

LUCIUS: (Singing) She's looking through the wrong end. She's looking through the wrong end. She's looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Turn it around, turn it around...

WOLFE: Yeah. I mean, we're definitely inspired by that era. And I think that's one thing that we all really like - that kind of grittier, older, rawer kind of sound.

LAESSIG: Joe Meek, Phil Spector, those were definitely, like, strong influences for the sound of the record.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN IT AROUND")

LUCIUS: (Singing) Close the door with the intention of not looking back...

RATH: Something else I heard about is that one of your early goals with the band, was to get the attention of one of our friends here, Bob Boilen - of NPR Music. So tell me about the stalking of Bob Boilen.

(LAUGHTER)

LAESSIG: Oh. We used to write, like, little love letters to Bob. I mean, not, you know, not actual love letters, but little notes. But...

RATH: He's loveable.

LAESSIG: He is. He is super loveable.

WOLFE: He's a loveable guy.

LAESSIG: We - just notes inviting - or actually, drawings that were little posters...

WOLFE: Yeah, invitations...

LAESSIG: ...inviting him to our shows - for like a year, maybe.

WOLFE: Yeah.

LAESSIG: We only sent a couple.

WOLFE: Yeah.

LAESSIG: I mean, we weren't like, serious stalker material.

WOLFE: Yeah.

LAESSIG: And then he heard our EP in December of last year, and then invited us to come and do the Tiny Desk Concert in January.

WOLFE: And then he came to our live show. And, you know, it's just - it's been a real friendship ever since then. And he's just been a champion of ours, and we're so grateful for that.

RATH: And I know the tune that Bob fell in love with, was one called "Don't Just Sit There." We'll go out on that one today. That's Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, of the band Lucius. Their debut album is called "Wildewoman." You can enjoy their Tiny Desk Concert at nprmusic.org. Thanks again.

WOLFE: Oh, thanks so much for having us.

LAESSIG: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T JUST SIT THERE")

LUCIUS: (Singing) Don't just sit there. Tell me what I want to know, what I want to know. Don't just sit there. Tell me what I want to know...

RATH: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. Check out our weekly podcast. Search for WEEKENDS ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes, or on the NPR app. You can follow us on Twitter: @nprwatc. We're back next weekend. Until then, thanks for listening, and have a great week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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