On the opening song of their second album, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe sing in unison as they question their own sanity. 'Madness' elegantly swirls and soars, as it heralds a change in outlook from their embracive debut album, Wildewoman. The dynamic pop five-piece, fronted by Laessig and Wolfe, embarked on an intensive tour for their debut, entailing upwards of 200 shows in 2014. The time away from home and constant travelling took its toll as they began to feel disorientated. At their show in Dublin that year, an electricity surged through the venue as the entire audience joyously sang every word back to them. Wolfe took a moment to thank the audience, stating that it was the show they needed after months being away from their homes and families.

Once the tour ended, the band relocated from New York to California to write a new record. The songs became more intense than most on its predecessor, as they delved into the experiences and hardships they had harbored. Good Grief does not bemoan the loneliness they felt on tour, rather its vibrant collection of songs express the emotions they encountered, which nobody could prepare for.

Andrew Darley spoke to Holly and Jess about the cathartic experience of writing the album, the importance of humour in coping and the ability of finding the good in times of grief.

At your Dublin show in 2014, you thanked the audience, saying it was the show you needed after being months on the road. What was the tour like for your first album, Wildewoman?

Holly: It's funny we were only talking about that show the other day because someone asked us what our most memorable shows are and that is one of them. It was much needed because we had been touring for so long. We were tired and had been away from home, always moving, trying to keep up with relationships and ourselves. It was a nice reminder of why we were there.

Jess: It's a powerful moment when you're in a country you've never been before and all these people are singing your songs. I remember we couldn't hear ourselves singing because the chanting was so loud. In 2014, we played over 200 shows - that tour had the highest highs and the lowest lows. You feel such an energy from seeing so many places and travelling the world and experiencing new cultures but it's also very laborious and very lonely. As surrounded as you are by people, it's very lonely. It's strange because you feel very alone but you don't have any alone time. There was so much going on, there was no time to sit back and get some perspective. We couldn't enjoy memories because we were onto the next thing. It gave us a lot to write about!

Would you say that Good Grief is the morning after of Wildewoman?

Holly: I like that idea. I think it is that feeling of waking up and realizing that it's not as clear-cut as we wrote about on Wildewoman. We were writing about growing up and going on a journey of finding yourself. Then, Good Grief is where we find out we don't know what we're doing!

Jess: You can never prepare for those feelings and experiences we had during that time. Our debut was written six years ago, we've grown up so much since and that comes with growing pains. Since there was no time to reflect on the road, there had been a build-up of emotion that we needed to get out. Good Grief isn't a complaint - it's a release of those feelings.

On 'Gone Insane' it sounds like you let out months of that frustration.

Jess: That's pretty accurate! Holly and I maybe fought maybe 3 or 4 times in our 11-year relationship but right before we sang that song, we had the biggest fight of our lives. When we made up and went to record it, we said we'd use that energy in the song. We did it in one take, singing into one microphone, improvising the whole ending where we're screaming and crying so it has a magic that came from a dark situation.

The album's name and artwork cleverly juxtapose that joy and misery. Do you think humour is important when dealing with heavier emotions?

Jess: Absolutely. I think that's why we had songs of relief in there. We have the grief but we also have 'Born Again Teen', 'Truce' and 'Almighty Gosh', which needed to be sung and placed on the album to give the listener a break and laugh at ourselves a little bit. The title came from the exclamation "Good Grief!" people say but it's also a reference to finding the good in the darkness. It's about finding power in a difficult situation and all the good that can come from that.

To write things that are so honest, there must be a huge amount of trust and openness between you?

Holly: I think so - it's like our coffee-talk, it's two friends going into a room and talking about each other's lives - except we make it into songs.

Jess: We've seen each other go through these times. I'm witnessing her experiences and she's witnessing mine - often they are similar experiences, if not the same. Other times, we're able to write on each other's behalf because we are a witness to each other's lives.

'Wish For Rain' touches on the idea of expecting negativity when things are going well. As people, did you find it hard to enjoy success when it did come?

Holly: After the tour we moved to Los Angeles. We were initially going to be working on the record there but we ended up staying. When we moved, we wanted to escape New York because the weather was dark and grungy. We found people were bitter there and we'd been there for nine years already. It wasn't the warmest welcome to come back to. We said we'd go to California and get some sunshine and we'd feel so much better. But when you go to California, or change your exterior surroundings, you realize the stuff you have to work out is on the inside. It becomes so much clearer when you have nothing else to blame it on. "Oh I don't feel good today - it must be the weather" or "Why am I so stressed? It must be because there's so many people around". You go somewhere nice and relaxed and you still have the same feelings. I wanted something to blame those feelings on and that's where the song came from.

After the striking Evelyne Axell image you chose for Wildewoman's artwork, how did you approach the visuals for this record?

Jess: We are always collecting art that is inspiring to us. Once we decided on the title of the record, we wanted to find something that evoked both humour and a sense that there is something to be embraced in grief and hardships. It's inspired by a Belgian collage artist from the '60s, Marcel Mariën. In the image, you're not sure if I'm embracing somebody or if I'm just embracing the darkness. It leaves the viewer to decide what it means and how it feels. We love double meanings in everything.

Do you think the essence of what you've learned is keep going when you're faced with adversity?

Jess: We had to write these songs so we could keep going. Everybody has their own form of grief, everybody is fighting some battle. Some people know how to deal with it and some people don't or can't. It's about embracing that process and knowing that it's okay to feel like shit and have a bad experience. For us, our way of dealing was making a record and saying it out loud. Going through all of this with the same group of people, you learn so much about yourself and humility. You learn how to forgive and get outside yourself.

Are you nervous about going back on tour again? Do you feel more prepared?

Jess: Yeah! We're nervous but playing is what keeps us going. The difficulty of the tour didn't come from the performances, the difficulty came from all the things that surrounded it that people don't see. We wouldn't do it if it wasn't worth it. For us, performing is everything.

Good Grief is out on March 11th. Lucius embark on a European tour in April with dates below:

  • 5/4 The Academy, Dublin
  • 6/4 Gorilla, Manchester
  • 8/4 Arts School, Glasgow
  • 9/4 Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
  • 10/4 Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
  • 11/4 Thekla, Bristol
  • 13/4 KOKO, London
  • 14/4 La Maroquinerie, Paris
  • 16/4 Botanique, Brussels
  • 19/4 Melkweg, Amsterdam
  • 20/4 Prinzenbar, Hamburg
  • 21/4 Privateclub, Berlin
  • 22/4 Strom, Munich