The Lucius Sound: Their Approach and Their Gear
Drummer Danny Molad of Lucius reflects on their input list and why it works for them, plus what it's like to perform with live looping.
Lucius are back and with a killer sophomore album, Good Grief. I caught up with the band just a few days after its release at the sold-out Metro show, where fans had packed the room to get a glimpse of the band fronted by vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. The band's drummer, Danny Molad, gave me the behind-the-scenes scoop on how the band achieves its sound, how he mics his drum kit, and the experience of switching to PSM®900.
"A lot of people are gonna come to a show and see the girls and that's gonna be enough," Danny said. "Seeing those two girls on that one mic sounding as good as they do, it's mesmerizing."
While it's true that Holly and Jess are mesmerizing, I left the show utterly impressed with the musicality of the entire group. It was obvious the band had put a lot of thought into presenting the record in an engaging way.
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Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius[/caption]
Live Looping and The Element of Chance
From the first song, Lucius had the entire population of the Metro dancing. I have been to tons of shows at the Metro since moving to Chicago, and the audience at this show was one of the most engaged audiences I've ever witnessed there. They were SO into it. It wasn't just zombie fans zoned out and bobbing their heads along to the beat. These fans were singing every word, dancing. It was a big love fest.
"A lot of people, after they make a record like that, will immediately go to something like Ableton or Logic or Mainstage and be like, 'Okay let's get our tracks, and whatever we can't play, the computer will play,' but we didn't want to do that," Danny said. "That's why we did live looping because it creates an element of chance. There's a possibility that I'm going to do something wrong or play it a little differently than I did the night before, and it's always a little nerve-wracking and exciting. I feed off that kind of energy of not knowing if it's going to go right every night."
Danny kept the beat going for all the dancers in the house with his signature mix of acoustic and electric drums.
"I've always been a fan of combining organic and electric things," Danny reflected. "One of the first things I really gravitated towards in high school was hip-hop, and then after that was Björk. Björk I think is a great example of an artist who really melds electronic and organic sounds together. I'm not always playing the drums conventionally. I'll loop things that when I first pull up the loop, it's like What? I'm not really sure how that's supposed to sit in the song, and then I come in with a beat, and it kind of all comes together."
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Danny Molad of Lucius[/caption]
How Lucius Mics Vocals and Drums
I watched the show from front of house for most of the night, and the band sounded incredible. Jess and Holly alternated between a killer stage presence rocking UR2/BETA58s and slowing things down with crystal-clear vocals through a KSM353/ED, which left the crowd with chills.
If you looked at Danny's input list on paper, it wouldn't really look all that different from a rock band or any other band, but he definitely has a more unique setup, so I had to find out which mics he enjoyed.
"I tend to always gravitate towards SM57s on pretty much anything," Danny began. "They work in every context. I also love a BETA®52A on the kick. This kick concept grew out of a situation where we were rehearsing in my apartment in New York. The only thing that was bothering the neighbor was the kick drum on the floor so I said, 'Oh well, I'll just play toms during rehearsal.' Eventually it just got really comfortable, and we were just like, 'Why don't we do it on stage?' And then I collaborated with C&C, and they basically built me something to the specs of an old Ludwig field drum from the 1920s that I had. On toms, I think the BETA®98AMP provides a certain amount of definition that sometimes a normal dynamic mic can't have. You can put really loud, close sources next to them, and on the girls' toms, you can get a certain kind of brightness and openness that a dynamic mic might otherwise lack."
We geeked out about microphones for a bit, and it was obvious Danny was super into audio and making sure everyone in the band sounded great. We chatted about road life and how Shure mics hold up to touring standards.
"If there's one thing I can say (and I've used so many different companies' microphones and so many different incarnations of setups), it's always the case that I can take a 57 or a 52 or any one of Shure's dynamic mics and throw it around and then plug it in, and it works every time," said Danny. "I've never broken a Shure dynamic mic, ever."
In-Ear Monitoring with Lucius' Complex Setup
After talking to Danny for a while and learning more about the complex setup the band had, I knew I had to talk to him about in-ears. It seemed like if anyone got off by a second in a song, especially with the live looping, the timing of everything could be messed up.
"We just moved to PSM 900. It was like night and day. The second we plugged in our packs and started playing, it was like, 'Oh that sounds like music.' We'd been using older, not as great quality systems, but for whatever reason, the Shure system feels much more open," explained Danny. "You can load a whole lot more elements and still get a ton of clarity. It's especially important in this group with our dynamic because everything is so spread out, so if one person drops out or misses a cue, it can sometimes be like half of that part."
If you haven't seen Lucius yet, catch them on tour. Here's their tour schedule. I was extremely impressed with the entire production, from the live looping to the costume changes. You will definitely be dancing and breaking a little sweat.