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Every Lucius song begins with what Holly Laessig calls “coffee talks,” in which she and Jess Wolfe share what’s on their minds—and in the spring of 2020, they had a lot to discuss. Since 2007, Laessig and Wolfe have written this way, learning each other’s stories by heart before weaving them into the lyrics and chord progressions of their inventive indie-pop anthems. Onstage, they’re two identically-dressed and coiffed halves of the same whole, the mirror image of each other at the microphone; off-stage, they step into their respective lives—separate, but close—as chosen family. They’ve shared countless joys as they’ve seen the world while touring behind their 2013 debut album, Wildewoman, and its follow-up, 2016’s Good Grief, but they’ve weathered profound losses and lows together, too. And when one of them experiences a seismic shift that shakes their world, the other is there to listen, and reflect, in order to help write through it.
“Holly and I are actual witnesses to each other's lives,” says Wolfe. “Not only are we able to talk about these things and offer perspective, but she has this unique view into my life, and I into hers. We have been together almost constantly for the last 16 years.”
Second Nature, Lucius’ third album, is the closest thing yet to the musical versions of these intimate conversations. “We’ve gotten so used to helping each other write about very personal things,” says Laessig. “It’s funny, because Second Nature makes perfect sense as a title: it’s become second nature to write for each other. A lot of what we wrote about on the record were things we hadn’t talked about before: there wasn’t a readiness to face some of those things.”
The period between Good Grief and Second Nature is the most transformative—and tumultuous—one Lucius has faced to date. In the fall of 2016, Laessig and Wolfe, along with their bandmates, multi-instrumentalists Peter Lalish and Dan Molad, were dangerously close to burning out after three years of relentless touring behind Wildewoman and Good Grief. On top of that, Wolfe and Molad, who had married months before Wildewoman’s release in 2013, had hit a rough patch in their relationship. It was then when Roger Waters invited Laessig and Wolfe to join him on an international tour as his supporting vocalists. The benefits were clear in that urgent moment: if they said yes, this detour would give them an opportunity to explore new sounds in a musical world outside their own. It would also give Lucius the rest it desperately needed in order to survive.
“It was time to keep Lucius intact, but step away for a minute, just to get some perspective and a breath of fresh air,” says Wolfe. “We made a deal with the guys, and let them know this was only a short-term thing—something we felt that could help the band, but also give us some new-found inspiration. That turned into three years. Roger is someone who creates every moment in his mind-blowing show to be something meaningful. To take that and be able to see our own project with new eyes – well, that’s the whole purpose of learning from the people around you, your heroes. It’s to gather all of these wisdoms and put them to use for your own art.”
Many of the truths of Second Nature are hard to confront, but Lucius learned that there’s so much more to gain from facing the impossible than shying away from it—especially when you’ve got someone standing by your side through it all.
“It is a record that begs you not to sit in the difficult moments, but to dance through them,” says Wolfe. “It touches upon all these stages of grief, and some of that is breakthrough. Being able to have the full spectrum of the experience that we have had, or that I’ve had in my divorce, or that we had in lockdown, having our careers come to a halt, so to speak—I think you can really hear and feel the spectrum of emotion, and hopefully find the joy in the darkness. It does exist. That’s why we made Second Nature and why we wanted it to sound the way it did: our focus was on dancing our way through the darkness.”
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