How Lucius Went From Pete’s Candy Store to Bonnaroo

The story of how Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, vocalists for New York indie pop act Lucius, patiently and pragmatically built their band Lucius to where it is today could be something of a model for other emerging artists.

Their inclusive and involved approach to their music career over the last six years is now starting to pay off with synch deals, a string of mid-sized festival and support dates this summer -- including this weekend's Bonnaroo as well as upcoming shows with Tegan and Sara, Dispatch and The Head and the Heart -- and just last week the band announced they will release their debut album later this year on NYC label Mom + Pop in North America -- and none of which happened overnight.

The genesis of Lucius goes back to 2007 after Laessig and Wolfe moved to New York City after attending school in Boston. They settled into an old Victorian house in Brooklyn, which in many ways seemed to seal their music fate. The house, in Brooklyn's Ditmas Park neighborhood, had housed a recording studio and for sixty years previous was a music school. The house became a sort of nexus for a community of musicians and where Laessig and Wolfe could write and record music.

“It became a communal house and a place to nurture our writing habits,” said Laessig. We had an open door policy and we met Danny [Molad, drummer] and Pete [Lalish, guitarist] that way."

Lucius’ following grew steadily throughout 2010 and 2011 as they played small rooms in Brooklyn (like Pete’s Candy Store) and Manhattan while establishing relationships in the local music scene. “There hasn’t been one pivotal moment “explains Laessig, “by working hard and being around people that inspire you, naturally you’re going to grow and meet other likeminded people.”

The band made a splash at CMJ in 2011 and their fans voted them Best Emerging Artist that year in The Deli NYC, a prominent local music magazine. During this DIY period, they booked their own shows, sold their own merch and enlisted the help of friends in creating a music video for single “Turn it Around,” which led to them signing with Zync, a music licensing company. 

2012 was a major year in Lucius’ development: they embarked on their first full-length tour, solidified a business team and released a self-titled, self-released EP. Also Andy Burri, a guitarist, joined the band and the band played its first show as a five-piece last May at Brooklyn’s Googamooga festival. Around that time High Road Touring’s Dave Rowan signed Lucius after seeing them play The Echo in LA. They released new material and toured strategically, waiting until this past October for their first national tour.

And late last year, their first formal manager, Ben Levin of Tony Margherita Management, took them on as clients. “About three songs in [seeing them for the first time], I got a chill from one of their songs,” recalls Levin. “It was a memory that any music fan gets when they see something they connect with.”

Laessig and Wolfe still remain at the forefront of the band’s business, running their social media, connecting with fans after shows and realizing the importance of timing. “After every show, Holly and I are still at the merch table selling our merch because we want to talk to people," says Wolfe, "we want to build relationships with music lovers.”

Since last fall, the five-piece has steadily toured, playing four stints of dates across the US leading up to their summer festival dates. “[Opening for] different bands got us in front of a lot of people. The fans that saw us at those shows come to our shows the second time — it’s a kind of centrifugal motion,” explains Wolfe. They have sold 4,000 physical copies of their EP exclusively at shows, according to their manager Levin and digital sales are also at 4,000, according to Soundscan.

Lucius had a successful spring, including an appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert in February, selling out NYC’s 300-capacity Knitting Factory in April and securing synchs on FOX’s “New Girl” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”

With momentum steadily building, Lucius signed to indie label Mom + Pop (home of Andrew Bird, Metric and Sleigh Bells) which is distributed through Sony RED. After entertaining a major label offer, among others, the band finally made the decision to join Mom + Pop in North America.  "It was very much a gut decision — it felt like the right group of people and the right time," Levin says. “The band has a lot of respect for artists on the label, and they’re someone that really helps expand an audience while allowing the band [creative freedom].”

Lucius continue a busy touring schedule this summer after Bonnaroo, playing Wilco’s Solid Sound Fest (Mass.), Edgefest in Toronto, Kahbang Fest in Maine, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest and Boston Calling amongst other dates.  And they just finished recording their debut LP, which should be out later this year.
The band is also currently in talks with a worldwide distributor and has plans to tour more in the fall. 

Lucius play Bonnaroo today (6/15) at the New Music Lounge and Sunday (6/16) at the Sonic Stage.