Two women with red hair and black outfits leaning towards each other

Lucius, Photo by Shervin Lainez

Rolling Stone calls them “the best band you probably haven't heard.” Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gushes about them on his blog. And by the time they play their just-added July 26th show at the Newport Music Hall, the place may just be too small for them.

They are Lucius, and they are something special. And they have roots in the Buckeye state. Fronted by flamboyant look-alike singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, Lucius treated the joyous, swooning sold-out crowd at Cleveland's Beachland Ballroom Friday night to their unique sonic and visual onslaught. It was a triumphant homecoming for Laessig, who grew up in Fairview Park (And no, she had no idea who Tom Cousineau was when I dropped his name).

No overnight sensations, Laessig and Wolfe have been making music together since meeting at the legendary Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2005. After graduation, they moved to New York and added drummer Dan Molad (now Wolfe's husband), and multi-instrumentalists Peter Lalish (a Berklee classmate) and Andrew Burri to the mix. Together they produce an intoxicating mix of Folk, Techno, New Wave and 60's-ish girl pop. But great songs and well-schooled musical chops aside, what makes Lucius so unique and utterly irresistible is the vocal and visual interplay between Laessig and Wolfe.

At first glance the two appear to be fashion-coordinated twins. Out of character, they don't even look or sound much alike. But onstage they are mirror images of each other, with matching hair, makeup and outfits. They often sing into a single mic, facing each other instead of the audience. And when their two voices merge as one, it produces a soaring sound that seems double-tracked or even a different voice altogether.

The quintet released the folky, critically-acclaimed Wildewoman in 2013, and spent the next couple of years  touring and writing new material. Their new album Good Grief dropped on March 11th, and features the bouncy, addictive single Born Again Teen.  The band recently performed the song on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and the Ellen Degeneres Show.

The Columbus Free Press spoke to Laessig before Friday's show at the Beachland. She said that the mirror-image, two singers-one voice concept was one that was carefully calculated. “Theatrics...we want to put on a show and put ourselves in a different universe and bring the audience along with us. A lot of the people we looked up to since we were kids were showmen and have created that world, like Bjork, David Bowie and Prince. It's fun to be able to escape for an hour and a half, for the audience as much as it is for us. It's only meant to compliment the music. The whole mirroring thing started because we were singing in unison, and it was almost this third voice. Us dressing the same unifies us visually. It's very thought out, it's very deliberate.”

After wrapping up their second stint at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas last month, the band embarked on an ambitious tour to support Good Grief. After a whirlwind swing through the Midwest and East, Lucius heads across the pond in April for their second European tour. They return to the West Coast in May to start a long haul eastward that will continue through the summer. Lucius was an unknown entity on it's first European visit. Will the fans in Europe be more familiar with the band this time around? “I don't know if they do, it's really hard to gauge,” says Laessig, “It's the same too in the States...on the first record, we were touring before the record even came out. With this record, it's I think we'll get a little more traction.”

Laessig, who is also married, says life on the road makes domestic life difficult. While Wolfe is married to drummer Molad, Laessig's husband remains behind in Los Angeles. “It's hard, “ she says. “During the writing process when we were writing about really personal material, it was kind of valuable for me and Jess to have each other because we had the opposite perspective. I'm always missing my husband and I never get to spend time with him. On the other hand, they never get any time apart. It's been valuable for us as friends to kind of play devil's advocate in those situations. Any way you slice it, being a musician is hard, and being married is hard, and the two on top of each's hard.”

Unlike it's more sedate predecessor Wildewoman, Good Grief explores a whole new musical spectrum, something the band's longtime fans are getting used to. With Wildawoman, “We were just writing songs, we weren't making a record, necessarily. It's been six years. We've grown a lot, we have a lot more to touch upon. We've got a lot more experience under our belt, a lot more emotional baggage (laughs). It's just an honest record.”

Lucius will perform at the Newport Music Hall on Tuesday, July 26th.

Appears in Issue: