The band Lucius and its album “Good Grief” prove an adage: It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
“Good Grief” is a collection of songs from a band that for three years or so had endured a tide of new experiences, including a transcontinental move. It swirls with moods and emotions, climaxing with the song “Gone Insane,” a catharsis and emotional bloodletting.
The catalyst for most of that journey was the previous album, “Wildewoman,” released in 2013, which launched the band into a realm of popularity for which it might not have been quite prepared.
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Lucius, who performs Saturday at the RecordBar, was founded in 2005 by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, fellow students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2007, they moved to Brooklyn, where they resided in a house that had been a music school and recording studio. There they became acquainted with the three men who would become their band mates: Danny Molad (Wolfe’s husband), Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri.
Their 2012 self-released EP caught the attention of Bob Boilen of National Public Radio’s “Tiny Desk Concert,” who invited them to perform on his show in early 2013.
On the NPR website, Boilen explained his fondness for their sound: “One minute, Lucius sounds like a girl group circa 1961; the next you could be hearing an Emmylou Harris outtake. And, though only four songs turn up on the band’s 2012 EP, I feel a strong album on the way.”
He was mostly correct. “Wildewoman,” released domestically on Mom + Pop Music, received mostly positive reviews from the music media upon its release in October 2013.
The most favorable reviews cited the band’s blend of diverse influences, all fused into a sound that was both familiar and elusive. As a reviewer in Paste magazine put it: “At times almost country … and other times impossibly hip, the band’s influences ring clearly but not overpoweringly so. Most prevalent is a soulful ’60s vibe.”
“Wildewoman” included “Turn It Around,” a hit on adult-alternative radio charts with a prophetic title. The album made plenty of best-of lists at the end of 2013 and gave the band reason to tour, relentlessly.
Touring also gave Wolfe and Laessig a chance to show off their sense of fashion and visual panache, a symmetry foiled only by the disparity in their heights (Laessig is the taller of the two). They dress identically and wear their hair stylishly the same way, like twins. And they sing the kind of keen harmonies that usually only siblings can muster.
The visual/fashion factor has become a significant element of the band’s personae, and one that requires lots of attention.
“For me, our look is an extension of the music,” Wolfe told The Star recently. “It’s become such a part of the band’s identity that I’m constantly looking to further inspire and surprise our audiences and ourselves. I always feel like I always want to change things. I’m very visual, and I can’t not pay attention to the details.”
It comes with a cost, one more than financial. The two subject their hair to styles and colors that change constantly.
“We change whenever we feel like it,” Wolfe said. “It’s usually pretty last-minute, like the day before. At one point, we almost ruined our hair from so much bleach. People think we wear wigs. But we don’t wear wigs.”
That twin-like solidarity and commitment deepened the bond between the two, especially as they set off on the “Wildewoman” tour, which meant traveling 300 days in a year. That grind aroused a variety of experiences and emotions between best friends who were also in business together.
“We experienced each other’s independent lives together as well as our lives as a band,” Wolfe said. “Touring together gave us and the band a different perspective and understanding of what we were all going through.”
Touring also prompted the band to move from its roots in New York to Southern California, where Wolfe was raised. In the process, they wrote songs for “Good Grief,” which ended up being something of a travelogue that captures the band’s transformation, physically and metaphorically.
As Hilary Hughes wrote in the Village Voice, “You hear concrete, chain link, and laughter in crowded bars on the tracks that were written in New York; you hear lonely dawn drives, swaying palms, and wide-open spaces on those penned in California. This is what makes ‘Good Grief’ a true (and rare) bicoastal record.”
“Good Grief” also reflects the band’s affection for a broad swath of music. The album was produced by Shawn Everett, a co-conspirator in a ritual that gave Lucius’ electro-pop songs a unique flavor.
“We draw from so many musical influences, and we try to treat each song like it’s living in its own world,” Wolfe said. “So for every song on the album, we picked another song that we thought should inspire or affect its recording.”
The titles of those other songs were written on pieces of paper and placed in a basket.
“We’d pick a song out, one by one, and list the things in that song that we could draw inspiration from,” Wolfe said. “We had a wide variety of music, everything from Judee Sill to Beyoncé. It was a really strange idea that made for a really open-minded, experimental approach. “
The bicoastal geographical influences and the disparate musical influences give the songs on “Good Grief” a variety of roots and inspirations and a kaleidoscope of sounds and moods. But the song that resonates most is one inspired by a feud, a rare, heated and profane argument between Wolfe and Laessig.
“We’re best friends; we never fight,” Wolfe said. “But there was a lot of tension that day, and we had this incident that just blew up. It’s one of the very few times that happened.”
But they used the eruption to their advantage and recorded “Gone Insane,” venting anger and emotion as they spit fire singing: “Go on, call me the one who’s gone insane / Oh, I will be the one who’s gone insane.”
“We apologized to each other and then said, ‘Let’s get in the studio right now and record,’ ” Wolfe said. “That part at the end where the song falls off the rails, where we actually go insane, was completely improvised, completely in the moment. It was our first take, and we ended up keeping it.”
When they perform the song live, Wolfe and Laessig do their best to re-create the scene that inspired all the fury on the live recording. “We let ourselves go and try to present all the theatrics and intensity of it,” Wolfe said.
Their live shows have become notable for those theatrics and for their fashion, vocal gymnastics and array of musical influences, as captured by this New York Times review of a show at Webster Hall in April: “What’s impressive about this duo is how the two use their approach to several different effects: one moment, it was as if they were singing in the round at the Ryman; the next, they attempted extravagant Pointer Sisters-like up-tempo soul; later, it was Velvet Underground-style whispers.”
Those shifts in styles, Wolfe said, signify the band’s resistance to standing still and its commitment to keeping things fresh and exploring new environments.
“We draw from so many influences,” she said, “it adds this whole other level of quirkiness. We have always looked to do something different and try something that will surprise.”
Lucius performs Saturday at RecordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd. The Cactus Blossoms open; showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $20; see therecordbar.com for more information.