(Peter Larson)

South By Southwest: What you really need to know!

Wish rock critics would stop talking about queso and just turn you on to a great new band? Wish no more!


Eric R. Danton
March 13, 2014 6:05PM (UTC)

It’s understandable why the women in Lucius tend to draw more attention than their male band mates. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig wear carefully coordinated, identical outfits onstage, have matching blond bobs and sing with uncommon power and precision on songs that are likely to stick in your head and stay there for a good long time. In other words, they are natural stars.

The attention is certainly warranted. Wolfe and Laessig started Lucius as college students in Boston, then moved to Brooklyn and built the band around their voices and songs. They added and adjusted to reach the current lineup, which also includes Andrew Burri, Peter Lalish and Dan Molad (who also wear matching attire). Now, after a year or so of steady touring and the release last October of Lucius’ outstanding debut LP, “Wildewoman,” what began as Wolfe and Laessig’s project has expanded into a muscular ensemble that puts on riveting live shows as a tight, symbiotic unit.

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They have an unusual musical configuration in concert: Wolfe and Laessig face each other over keyboards and various percussion instruments at the front of the stage, while Burri and Lalish play guitar and Molad adds more percussion. There’s no standard drum kit, or bass, but the quintet’s songs are marvels of interlocking rhythms on catchy songs with indie-pop flair.

Then there are the vocal harmonies. The band calls their stylized look “dressing the sound,” and the way all five musicians blend their voices is a crucial part of it, especially onstage. Wolfe and Laessig sing as though each is completing the other’s thought, while Burri, Lalish and Molad add texture and counterpoint: They echo the women on the refrain to “Tempest,” over a sparkling keyboards and gritty guitar, and sing backing vocals almost in a round “Turn It Around,” the band’s sharp-edged, polyrhythmic single.

Lucius was at full strength when the band performed Wednesday at South by Southwest as part of the Paste magazine day party, breezing through the intertwined harmonies and massive wordless sing-along on the title track to “Wildewoman” and building from a simple guitar intro and soft vocals on “Don’t Just Sit There” to a full-throated showcase for everything the band does well.

Wolfe said later that the musicians had trouble hearing each other onstage, though that was certainly not apparent to the audience. The crowd was large, fervent and full of people singing along — no small thing at a festival featuring 2,200 bands.

"Turn It Around"

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"Tempest"

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Eric R. Danton

MORE FROM Eric R. Danton

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