The first time Lucius played Philadelphia there were four people in the room… That’s including the band, the headlining act, and myself… That was more than three years ago and they’ve come a long way. Lucius expanded from Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig to include Dan Molad and Peter Lalish (both formerly of Elizabeth and the Catapult) and Andrew Burri. They’ve also transformed from a folk outfit to a band that plays playfully lush indie pop. They’ve developed a relatively huge following, which has packed both Johnny Brenda’s and Milkboy in the past year. They’ve been praised by the likes of NPR, Rolling Stone, and Billboard. October saw the release of Wildewoman, which boasts a sassy, soulful, and sing-along-able brand of electro pop; the album showcases a band that can really write a classically clever song, but then sprinkle it with a bevy of postmodern sonic quirks that only make it shine brighter. Well, more so than any of these accolades, I think their current tour, which has been selling out venues in various cities and forcing relocations to larger spaces in others. Next Friday, December 6th, they will be playing downstairs at World Café Live, doubling the size of the next biggest rooms they’ve played in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. Peter Lalish recently took some time to tell me about Lucius’ ridiculously exciting recent history.
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask if you have any particularly significant thoughts or favorite memories of the city. You’ve played here a handful of times, in various musical projects.
Peter Lalish: Philly is an amazing city. We all met in Boston and live now in NYC. Philly feels a like a combination of those two cities. It’s filled with great history and is encouraging of its artistic community. We’ve had a few great shows at Johnny Brenda’s. It’s like a little mini rock n’ roll ballroom. The last time we were in Philly we reached out to this amazing video artist/animator named Tobias Stretch, who lives there. We ate some great Mexican food at El Jaracho and got to see his studio. Check him OUT! He’s from another planet where creativity reigns supreme.
IC: Lucius have gotten quite big in the past year. What have been your highlights of 2013?
PL: The response to our live shows and our record has been so positive and affirming, more than we could have ever imagined.
It’s been quite a busy and exciting year. I was actually going through my photo library on my computer last night and looked at the photos from one year ago and was amazed at all fun stuff that we’ve been a part of. In all of the shows we’ve played, I think there have been two that really stuck out in the band’s minds. Our show at St. David’s church at SXSW was really special. And getting to be a part of the Solid Sound Festival this year was a really great time. Both the museum and the festival were run by a very inspiring group of hard working, open-minded people.
One specific moment that stuck out was at a festival in Ohio, called Nelsonville. It was a million degrees that day. Immediately after our show we played a little acoustic show in a tiny log cabin. You could pack maybe 30 people inside and a few others that poked their heads through the windows to watch. With all of the people in there, the heat rose another 10 degrees or so, which would have made the temperature just the right level for basting a turkey. It was a fun, intimate, and sweaty-as-all hell. Everyone emerged at the same time just drenched, like they had been in a sauna. Afterwards we were backstage and Jonathan Richman came over and introduced himself and said how much he enjoyed the acoustic show in the cabin (sweat lodge). I was trying to keep it together, but it was blowing my mind that we got to play an acoustic show in a sauna with a mega sweaty Jonathan Richman in the audience. He is a gentle spirit and a genius of love.
IC: In-line with that, you’ve toured with a number of really amazing acts recently. Are there any acts that you especially enjoyed getting to see on a nightly basis, or that you just found to be especially fun touring partners?
PL: That’s like trying to pick your favorite child. This year has just been one long party of touring with our friends: Hannah Georges, You Won’t, Pearl & The Beard, The Spring Standards, Alpen Glow, Tall Tall Trees, and, recently, Phosphorescent and Caveman in Europe. We couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring group of people to watch night after night and every one of them are top notch human beings. Bless your whole crew.
IC: Your Wildewoman LP dropped recently. Have you had any favorite responses to it?
PL: We recently met Philippe Axell, the son of Evelyne Axell, the artist whose work we used for the album cover. When we reached out to him to ask if he would be open to us using his mother’s artwork for the album cover, he immediately responded and seemed grateful that her artwork would be associated with pop culture 50 years after it was created. He came to see our show in Belgium and had not only nice things to say about the show but also the aesthetic of the band, the record, and even our music videos. It felt very personal, hearing that from him, someone who cares deeply about his mother’s legacy. Finding the right artwork that would fit this album was a long process and it was the last step in finishing the record. To hear that from him felt like it had come full circle.
IC: You’re signed to Mom + Pop, which I’m quite a fan of. What are your thoughts on the label? Do you have any favorite label peers? I’m a huge fan of Freelance Whales, Polica, Sleeper Agent, Sleigh Bells, and The Jezabels.
PL: The label is amazing in that each of their artists are quite different from each other, but have a strong, unique voice and mission with their music. The label is still a pretty small group of people that care deeply about honoring what each band has to offer. The new Polica record is awesome. I can’t wait to see her live. They also just signed a guy named Mikhael Paskalev, who is super awesome.
IC: You’re going to be playing your biggest headlining Philadelphia gig to date in December at World Café Live. What can be expected of the live experience?
PL: We try our hardest to make the show an experience and to connect with the audience. Nothing feels better onstage than to see people dancing and singing-along. Sometimes we are loud, sometimes we are quiet. We sing and bash on the drums. We like to have fun. We are Lucius.
IC: What are your most significant hopes and goals for 2014?
PL: We would all love to keep touring, keep meeting people that inspire us, making new fans and sleeping on their couches and to try and get this record that we are so proud of into as many earbuds as possible. Also, to play a concert on the moon.