Lead singers are a sort unto themselves, typically drawn to and defined by that center spotlight. Lucius deliciously defies those expectations with its twinned frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. Wolfe and Laessig share vocals — sometimes doubling, sometimes harmonizing, but always presenting a united front in a manner that subtly universalizes the songs and turns them from a meditation to a chorus.
"Neither of us needed the sole attention, and neither of us wanted to do it alone," says Wolfe, the more diminutive of the two singers, who now dress and style their hair identically. "That's what makes it unique, and people connect with it. It's such a shared experience. That's why the visual element came into play; the symmetry was really important to show that it was one thing as opposed to two people when you look onstage. There's an automatic uniformity."
Lucius is supporting their October full-length debut Wildewoman. Well, "debut" is actually a bit of a misnomer, because Laessig and Wolfe released Songs From the Bromley House in 2009, albeit as a different incarnation of Lucius. Back then, the two Berklee College of Music grads were more of a folk duo practicing sad songs. But they wanted something different. The change came courtesy of fellow Berklee alum, drummer/producer Danny Molad, who eventually became Wolfe's husband.
"We really wanted to dance and get grittier onstage, and also experiment in the studio," Wolfe says. "When we met Danny, that's really where it changed. His guidance with arrangements, recording and engineering — sort of bouncing off what we already had and enhancing it — helped to get us to a place where we felt this was something unique and new."
Wildewoman touches on a variety of styles, from baroque and '60s girl pop to '80s synth pop and '70s glam, swirling them together seamlessly. While the melodies possess tender, timeworn delicacy, the percolating rhythms and luscious, shimmery textures evoke modern acts like Animal Collective, Yeasayer and Dirty Projectors. The record's standout track is "Hey, Doreen," which drives a deep, soulful groove down a plinky, analog side street, sounding like The Jackson 5 getting their Romeo Void on.
"We're still trying to figure out how to play that one live," says Wolfe of "Hey, Doreen," laughing. "There's a lot that's going on there. We wanted to write a murder ballad. I don't know what it was, all this Dexter and Breaking Bad and all these characters. So we just started writing a story about a Thelma and Louise kind of thing."
It's easy to see the appeal. While they're hardly outlaws, both Laessig and Wolfe were teenage outcasts who found each other at Berklee, bonding over The Beatles and Bowie.
"Growing up we had a rough time finding a community in middle school, high school, what have you," Wolfe explains, "so going to music school was the first time we actually felt like we were surrounded by likeminded people. It was really integral to our growth as individuals and people to be a part of a larger music community."
In 2007, after graduating, the duo moved to Brooklyn, where they and some other musicians shared a house that for 60 years prior had been a music school. Many large instruments were left behind. That was the creative nexus for that first album, and about a year later Wolfe and Laessig met Molad. Guitarists Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri eventually rounded out the quintet. Given the new lineup and sound, they consider Wildewoman a fresh start.
"It was really important for us to do that and to have that process of making that first record, but Lucius as you would know it and hear it now is not the same," Wolfe says. "We wanted to make sure that was clear, because it wasn't a continuation of that. It's really a new chapter under the same name."