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Indie-pop band Lucius talks new album 'Second Nature'

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

And finally today, Lucius is the powerhouse indie pop band known for high-profile collaborations. The frontwomen of the band, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, have lent their signature third-voice harmonic blend on songs by artists like the Black Pumas, The Killers and Harry Styles. All the while, Laessig and Wolfe have been working hard to produce their latest album, "Second Nature."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCE AROUND IT")

LUCIUS: (Singing) Eyes wide shut, and we'll keep dancing. Above, underground, we'll keep dancing around. Dancing, our love's burning out. We'll keep dancing around it.

NADWORNY: That's "Dance Around It" from the latest release. The album is an exploration of the highs and lows of love and showcases the band's wide-ranging, eclectic style. I spoke to Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe about the album, and Holly started off by explaining more about the song we just played.

HOLLY LAESSIG: The term dance around it, we liked that because it's a term that means, you know, to avoid something, to put something off, but also liked the idea of literally dancing - dancing around this, like, motion until you can get yourself out of it or face it. And I think a lot of this record was that, was, like, coming to terms with things, facing things. That song in particular set sort of an intention for the rest of the record with that sentiment, I would say.

NADWORNY: I wonder, can you talk a little bit about what it was like to work with musical titans like Brandi Carlile and Sheryl Crow, who appear on the record? I mean, what was the writing process like and working with them?

JESS WOLFE: We were in Sheryl's living room when we started writing for the record. We wrote "Man I'll Never Find" on her piano in her living room. And she was so kind and generous to offer her home to us while we were starting to work on the project. And, you know, we have been longtime collaborators of Brandi's. We're on her newest record and have toured with her over the years, have sung together many times. She's become a one of our dearest musical compadres. And, you know, when somebody like Brandi's in the room, you really want to show up, and you want to sing your best. You want to present the best. And she'll always let you know if it's on or if you can pull more out of you or if it's not.

NADWORNY: I want to talk about another song, "Heartbursts." Let's listen to a little bit and then talk about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEARTBURSTS")

LUCIUS: (Singing) Can we open our eyes now? Heartbursts, heartaches. We don't know the shape, shape that this will take. It's worth the wait. Better give your heart than never give at all.

NADWORNY: Can you tell me a little bit about the song? Like, what inspired it? What are you getting at with these lyrics?

LAESSIG: Well, this song was one of the ones that was kind of talking about and exploring the idea of finding love again and reconnecting again to that feeling. And, yeah, it was, like, one of the, you know, opening yourself back up to the possibility kind of songs.

WOLFE: Yeah. I'd say it's our most, like, hopeful track on the record and also encouraging you to, like, be brave and step out of your comfort zone and - because you never know what will be behind the door if you just open it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEARTBURSTS")

LUCIUS: (Singing) Heartbursts, heartaches. We don't know the shape, shape that this will take. It's worth the wait. Better give your heart than never give at all.

NADWORNY: We're going to play a bit from one of the most intimate and painful songs on the record, "The Man I'll Never Find." Let's play a little bit here, and then let's talk about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE MAN I'LL NEVER FIND")

LUCIUS: (Singing) I'm looking for the man that I'll never find. I'll know it when I look him dead in the eye. Don't want it if it's easy. But I wish it was, believe me. I'm looking for the man that I'll never find. I'm going to please you.

NADWORNY: Can you tell me a little bit about how that song came to be?

WOLFE: It was March, early March, pre-lockdown. And it was the like - I mean, I was going through a divorce, and it was sort of my - I don't know. In a way, it was like an apology for not - for looking for something that didn't exist somewhere or asking somebody to be something that they couldn't possibly be. And, yeah, I mean, honestly, it was one of the songs that came quickest and most naturally on the record, and I'm really proud of it. It's a hard song to sing every night, but it's also, I think, one of the most honest.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE MAN I'LL NEVER FIND")

LUCIUS: (Singing) I thought that it would be you. I wanted it to be you. And I'm sorry I was always looking for the man that I'll never find.

NADWORNY: Holly, I wonder, you know, when you're writing about something so personal and so specific like that song, how do you kind of make it both of yours? How do you strike this balance between personal and vulnerable and thinking about kind of this larger idea?

LAESSIG: It's not my experience, but I was there for this experience of my friend. And I - you know, I wanted to help bring some of those realizations to the surface and be, you know, part of that process as much as obviously was comfortable for Jess. And so it did - you know, it does feel like - it doesn't not feel like part of my song, too, in that way. And, you know, when you're writing songs versus singing songs, it also - it just feels different. I mean, it's the same way that you can kind of connect with parts of anyone's song. I mean, if we were covering, like, a Dolly Parton song or any other song written by any other writer, you find something within that song, you know, that you can relate to as a human with emotion and love and experience and find your way to sing it and own it, you know?

NADWORNY: I wonder what you - what do you hope people take away from this album when they listen?

WOLFE: I mean, I think - I hope that it just brings people some joy and also an understanding and a - you can have joy and darkness at the same time. You can have light and dark at the same time. In fact, darkness doesn't exist without light. And to truly enjoy something fully, to really appreciate it, you have had to have a balance on the other end. You have had to have some experiences that allow you to appreciate it.

NADWORNY: That was Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, of the band Lucius. Thank you both so much for joining us.

WOLFE: Thank you so much.

LAESSIG: Thank you.

WOLFE: Really appreciate your time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEXT TO NORMAL")

LUCIUS: (Singing) I've lost some friends along the way. Laughing at the wrong times, saying things too straight. I don't want to die just trying to be myself. When everyone's the same it's time to separate yourself. I thought that I was off. I was just mistaken. Turns out I wasn't crazy at all. I just had some walls up that needed breaking. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.