Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius on tour with Roger Waters: 'It feels like we were meant to sing these songs'

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Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius perform with Roger Waters
Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius perform with Roger Waters during Desert Trip at the Empire Polo Field on Oct. 9, 2016, in Indio, California. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Interview: Lucius talk about touring with Roger Waters
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Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, the lead singers of the band Lucius, were recruited by Roger Waters to perform with him on a 63-date North American tour. On Wednesday night, Wolfe and Laessig were in St. Paul to perform with Waters at the Xcel Energy Center.

Before the show, deep within the lower chambers of the Xcel, The Current caught up with the Lucius frontwomen as they prepared for that evening's performance. Through the walls, Waters could be heard rehearsing with his band in the main arena.

In addition to talking about their experience with Waters, Wolfe and Laessig also shared insights about what's happening with Lucius. Here's what they had to say:

THE CURRENT: You're touring with Roger Waters in the Us + Them tour; this sort of came about by degrees, starting at Newport, then Desert Trip, and those events have been well documented. But how did it go that you were going to be on the album, and then accompanying Roger Waters for this entire tour?

JESS WOLFE: The album was actually being recorded somewhere between Newport and Desert Trip, so we were already recording the record when we knew that we would be going to Desert Trip with Roger. It was sort of around the time that he asked us. He sort of said, "And I'd also like you to be on the record." It was in between.

After Newport, he had written us and said, "We definitely have to do this again some time." And we said, "Yeah, let's do it again some time." And then he wrote us a couple months later and said, "There's this crazy thing happening in the desert in Coachella Valley with Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones," et cetera — all of our biggest influences!

On this tour, you're doing old and new stuff. Before the tour, how familiar were you with the Pink Floyd back catalogue?

JW: I listened to Pink Floyd in late high school, early college years pretty consistently. But both of us, we weren't quite as heavy fans as most of his fans are. I think you were either 100 percent in or just appreciative of it and slightly familiar with the hits. I would say that we were somewhere between there. Holly, maybe less even.

HOLLY LAESSIG: Yeah, it was never introduced to me, I guess. I got introduced to a lot of music by my sister, and she wasn't a fan, so it never came onto my radar. But after learning it and getting deep into these songs and stuff, it's completely up my and our alley. It makes so much sense to me why we would have come together in this way. So it's pretty cool.

One of the things that characterizes a Lucius performance is how emotive you two are as singers. Thse songs have so many themes of love and loss and mystery. Are you tapping into some of those same spaces to emote these songs?

JW: Yeah, it does feel strangely familiar and comfortable on stage. It feels like we were meant to sing these songs at some point in our life. So it feels like kismet.

Lucius with Roger Waters
Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius performing with Roger Waters at T-Mobile Arena on June 16, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

When we were entering the Xcel Energy Center, we must have passed at least six semitrailers and all kinds of gear. We remember you coming to The Current, driving your own van, unloading your own gear. What's it like being part of a production of this scale?

JW: It's definitely not something we've ever been a part of, but it's wildly organized. And so it never feels frantic; I would say that it's more stressful doing what we do [as Lucius]. At least on our end of things. We have it pretty easy: we just show up and do our makeup and hair and some warmups and sound check and show time, and then we leave.

But for our show [as Lucius], we're loading in everything and we're driving ourselves. Well, now we're in a bus so we have it a little bit easier, but there's still a heavy load.

On the singing side of things, this is a 63-date tour, St. Paul is show 29. Are you calling on your formal training as far as taking care of your voices?

JW: It's definitely demanding, vocally, in a way we're not used to. The shows are two-and-a-half hours. I mean, there's a 20-minute intermission, but we take that time to go say hi to our guests because we're usually off immediately after the show. It's definitely a lot more demanding vocally. I mean, a Lucius show, we still are very emotive and it's very dynamic and there's a lot of belting and stuff, but it's shorter and different.

HL: Yeah, but I think the first few years of when we were touring as a band, it was really important leading up to this moment because we were playing shows every night and doing radio shows every morning and driving ourselves overnight and working on complete exhaustion, and learned when we lost our voices what we needed: we needed to sleep more … we just picked up all these tricks along the way because it was very demanding in the beginning of touring ourselves. I think that's definitely helped with knowing our voices really well and knowing our bodies really well on the road and applying that to this situation.

In his performances, Roger Waters is very politically overt. What's it like working with an artist like that?

JW: He's really intense and has such strong feeling about humanity and he wants to voice the concern and pain and hardship that's happening before us right now. And I think a lot of people feel — most people, I would even say — feel similarly. Even though I know some people go to a concert to find relief in that, I think there's a beauty in feeling like you're being heard; somebody else is with you. It's heavy enough right now where there's really a necessity to — and actually almost no choice to have to talk about it as an artist. We were just talking about this the other day; it's really frustrating when people say, "Just stick to the music." Because when you're a writer and an artist, I mean, much of what we do is voicing our experience in life, and a big part of that is what's happening in the world. And what's happening in our country directly affects each and every one of us. It's very hard to not want to say something about that, so in that respect, I give him a lot of credit for being so bold. Even though he doesn't live here — sorry, he does live in the U.S. — but even though he's not American, I think it's a strong enough topic to talk about.

HL: I agree.

It may be a safe assumption that Waters' traditional audience may not have been aware of Lucius before. Are you noticing more curiosity about your band? Are new people discovering you for your own music?

JW: Yeah, I think there's quite a bit of that. Definitely we have a different audience, and I think our main fanbase is saying, "Don't forget about us — we want to hear Lucius." And we're so grateful for that. It's really nice to be a part of something that we're more of a cog in the wheel as opposed to the ones running the ship. There is a beauty in that, especially to work with somebody of such legendary musical stature. But there's definitely people who are noticing us, and that's a great thing. Definitely helpful.

You're working on your third album, but is this sort of a break from Lucius? Where does Lucius's work stand right now? Is this a nice hiatus where you can let your thoughts percolate? Or are you doing things on the side as you can?

JW: We're writing and developing new ideas of how we can make doing this tour and keeping the momentum and excitement and our own motor running. So we're taking great care in making sure that that keeps going. And being part of something like this and being around somebody like Roger, it's very inspiring: visually, musically. So we're coming up with all sorts of ideas. We have a pretty exciting list of to-dos.

One of the things on your list of to-dos during the break in the tour is you'll be coming to do the Music-on-a-Stick show at the Minnesota State Fair.

JW: Yes! September second!

When Lucius played The Current's Microshow at the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda, we had a chance to talk briefly with Dan Molad about some of the new faces in the band lineup. Can you tell us more about them?

JW: We're kind of experimenting at this time. There's no official new members or anything like that. It's the four of us [Wolfe, Laessig, Dan Molad and Peter Lalish] that'll be going into the studio when we do.

We're just using this opportunity to try playing with other people. It's been really fun, because you're experimenting with different configurations and singing with different voices and that's a really fun thing to do. And there's so many people that we're fond of musically that we're getting the chance to play with.

But it will be the six of us, the ones that were at the Rotunda, who will be playing the State Fair.

We just love being in Minnesota. We've had so many career highlights — some of our biggest shows ever were here, at First Ave, and then at the Walker Art Center. And The Current has been so kind and supportive of us throughout the last several years. It's one of our favorite places to be, so we're really excited to be coming back. We're not doing a lot of touring this year, so to be able to do this in Minnesota is a highlight for sure.

Roger Waters has said that he's going to be taking to Europe and to Australia and New Zealand in 2018. Do you two have any indication that you'll be on that tour?

JW: We're going to be some more touring with him; I won't be so specific about where and when, but we're also going to be doing a bunch of Lucius stuff next year, so it's going to be a jam-packed, exciting year ahead. So you'll definitely be seeing us again, and we'll also be joining Roger for some really exciting stuff. We're really looking forward to it.

Resources


Lucius - official site

Roger Waters - official site

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