Grabbing breakfast with Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig to talk the soul sisters’ new LP Good Grief.
BACKSTORY: Two heavenly voiced frontwomen who founded their band shortly after college and made some indie-pop magic
FROM: Los Angeles via Boston and New York
YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM AS: Faux twins who have marked time singing with Mavis Staples, Tweedy, and The Rentals in addition to releasing their own music
NOW: Dipping deeper into duality with their second proper LP, Good Grief
Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig have been friends since they were eighteen. Like any long-term BFFs, the Lucius frontwomen have a fair share of dirt on each other.
“Holly looks like a different person now,” Wolfe declares when asked what they were like as students at Berklee College of Music. “I’ll show you!”
Like so many others around us this morning in the Atwater Village breakfast joint where we’ve met, Wolfe whips out her phone and begins scrolling. The Facebook photo she pulls up is from the pair’s first radio interview back in 2009. While neither one of them has done much in the way of aging, there is a wonderful fresh-faced quality to the snap, almost as though the two vocalists couldn’t picture what life would have in store for them in just a few short years.
Although they already had one solid—albeit “retired”—album under their belts in 2009’s Songs from the Bromley House, it wasn’t until their 2013 release, Wildewoman, that Lucius (which also features Dan Molad, Peter Lalish, and Andrew Burri) found their footing with a lush indie-pop sound that highlights Laessig and Wolfe’s vocal harmonies.
After an exhaustive tour behind Wildewoman, Lucius relocated to Los Angeles in 2014 to begin work on their next release. As both Wolfe and Laessig recall, it was a tough period. Flipping through the collection of thoughts, ideas, and dreams they had amassed over the previous few years meant digging through some darkness first. The pair found an elegant solution to putting themselves on an even keel—and named their album, Good Grief, in the process.
“If you’re going to be sad, have a good cry. Get it out, scream, whatever it is you have to do to feel like it’s being released in some way.” — Jess Wolfe
“We ended up starting sessions [feeling] pretty exhausted [from] being on the road. [We thought,] ‘We don’t know if we want to tackle something like this just yet, let’s do something light and easy,’” explains Laessig. “So we have a few songs like that that ended up being Band-Aids to the other stuff. We had these very positive and upbeat tracks juxtaposed with these really heavy tracks. When we were in the studio, after doing a few of the Good Grief songs on the road, it was like, ‘Oh god, shut up already!’ We were thinking of a title that could encompass this yin and yang, as well as poke fun at ourselves a little bit…give ourselves a little comic relief. Good Grief ended up being the perfect way to say that.”
To break up the tension, Laessig and Wolfe took their writing sessions on the road, sending their band demos from Long Island, Vermont, and LA. While recording a series of “la la la’s” for eventual single “Born Again Teen” in a rented room, they even sacrificed their Airbnb rating.
“People started complaining,” Laessig recalls of the late night recording session. “There were these old windows from the ’20s that don’t really shut. There was no isolation at all.”
But it wasn’t all torment. Both women recall a cast of characters from that time that would make Wes Anderson proud: a miscellany of dogs. Tortoises. And a passionate human fan.
“One lady would come visit us with her dog,” Wolfe recalls. “We’d play our songs and she’d cry. It was very touching.”
It’s a driving force both ladies of Lucius seem to live by. If you feel something, say something…no matter what people may think.
“I feel like tears are the gift for the sadness,” says Wolfe. “If you’re going to be sad, have a good cry. Get it out, scream, whatever it is you have to do to feel like it’s being released in some way. It doesn’t mean it’s cured, and it doesn’t mean it’s over. But it’s going somewhere. The energy is moving. I think that’s what a lot of these songs were for us. We couldn’t bottle it up.” FL