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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

An Autopsy of a College Band: The Life and Death of Lucid Soule

In May of 2001, I completed my freshman year of college. Shortly after the school year ended, my friends and I ventured to a church in Denham Springs, Louisiana to see a heavy metal band called Once Blind. The youth church we visited was called The Back Door, or The Back Gate, or The Back Wall, or The Back Window, or some other house-related, early 00'sesque  name. The place was actually pretty nice. Huge open area, and an upstairs full of pool, ping-pong, and Foosball tables. Do kids still even play  those games? I hope so because they're great.
Not great? Once Blind wasn't actually playing. Or rather, Once Blind was playing, but not the Once Blind we were hoping for. This Once Blind was a Christian Contemporary Music Worship Band. Not my style then, and not my style now. Someone else at The Back Door was as disgruntled as I was. As the smartly dressed band began to play, a guy up front with a large Mohawk shouted "Hey, this isn't the Once Blind we thought it was!"
"Hey, that voice sounds familiar!" I said to no one in particular. After a few seconds, I placed it. The guy with the Mohawk was the host of the Sunday night radio show I listened and called in to every week. The guy's name is David Loti. I would go on to co-host the radio show with him, and I enjoy his friendship to this day. But first I had to hunt for him through the crowd. Dave had the same idea as I did the moment Once Blind did not rip into their first song: leave. I caught him on his way out and introduced myself. Turns out the guy with him was Adam Hebert, Dave's at-the-time co-host on the radio show, and all-around cool guy. That sentence had a lot of dashes.
Anyway, the three of us, at times joined by some of my friends, had an excellent conversation at a picnic table outside the venue. Through that conversation, I learned that Dave and Adam were in a band together called Lucid Soule--like Lucid, as in "expressed clearly, bright or luminous" and Soule as in "the word "Soul" with an "e" at the end." Lucid Soule had a show coming up in a week, and I told Dave and Adam I'd try my best to make it. It was the least I could do for making them play and endure my song requests every week. Man, as I type this out, I realize how serendipitous this whole thing is. Groovy.
Anyway, Dave and Adam left, I went back inside, met a girl, asked her on a date, and this happened. Man, good times. Good thing she wasn't my type.
I kept my promise, attending Lucid Soule's show at the Vineyard Cafe on Tiger Bend Road. I even brought my three friends along with me.
We were blown away.
Lucid Soule was an art-rock band from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They were led by guitarist/songwriter, John Tulley, with vocalist and later also keyboardist, Lindsay Spurlock, David Loti on drums, and Adam Hebert on bass (I just so happened to have picked up the bass guitar months before witnessing my first Lucid Soule show, and afterward, I pushed myself on the instrument, attempting (futilely) to match Hebert's skill and passion). Lucid Soule, in its early years, combined virtuoso instrumental performances with Spurlock's soaring vocals, in a style that melded Tool with classic rock sounds. As much as the band were compared to Tool in their early years, as I listen to Lucid Soule's first album now, I notice it contains a sense of fun absent in Tool's music, as well as experimentation that feels a bit more playful than tortuous (and I say that as someone who somewhat likes Tool). Also, all of Tool's songs aren't ten-minutes long (Lucid Soule's 60-minute set generally featured seven songs at most). But I am getting ahead of myself, and this next sentence will connect this tangent back to where I was. Lucid Soule had something that a lot of bands want: a powerful live performance.
My friends and I sat spellbound for much of that first show, and we immediately found out the date for the next. I'm not sure how many Lucid Soule shows I attended that summer, but the most accurate answer I can give is: all of them.
Late that summer, I moved out of my parent's house (for the first time), to a small apartment on campus, with one of the friends who came to that first Lucid Soule show with me. Moving out was harder than I anticipated. Growing up on a farm in the country spoils one for space. All of a sudden, I had all these loud neighbors who also thought I was loud, a roommate who, while a good friend, was in quite a different place in life than me (and seven years older), and absolutely no money whatsoever. I made $412 dollars a month at my LSU student worker job, my share of rent was $275, then bills, and gas, and no food but salami sandwiches, ramen noodles, Swiss Cake Rolls when I was flush, and a loaf of wheat bread as my meal for the week when I wasn't. Thankfully, my parents found out how flat broke I was (my mom noticed the weight loss pretty quickly) and started helping me out with groceries a little bit. Also, I started working weekends for my dad in the crawfish ponds. With those extra few dollars I could afford my escape: the cover charge at my local bar, where Lucid Soule played a couple times a month.
The bar was Ichabod's, now Northgate Tavern, and my happy place. Admittedly, Ichabod's was a bit of a dive, but it had a Streetfight II: Turbo arcade machine, an outdoor patio, and the TV's over the bar were often set to Adult Swim, meaning that Cowboy Bebop was often the backdrop for my Lucid Soule show experiences. Meanwhile, the band drew decent crowds and garnered great local buzz, with rumblings of a possible breakout always on the horizon. They released their first album, titled I (as in the roman numeral for "one"). Also, Lucid Soule played my friends birthday party, and life seemed as if it could not get anymore awesome.
However, and quite unfortunately, I soon learned that happy places don't last. Some stupid stuff happened with my stupid church (upon which I'll go in depth in my upcoming Cornerstone 2002 retrospective), which negatively affected my personal life. I moved back home, and I don't want to talk about that. Ichabod's shut down. A bunch of other lousy stuff happened, and life sucked for a little while. But Lucid Soule kept playing. As much as I could, I still went to their shows, and eventually, life got awesome again. The band began to pick up a bit of a Radiohead sound, as Spurlock's keyboard-playing became prominent. This evolution served the band well, and their live set seemed to possess even more power. They released a new two song EP, which showcased their changing sound. It is titled III, as I had also been packaged with a 3-song EP called II (which featured mostly guitar experiments from Tulley). The songs seemed to flow faster, even though they still hovered around the eight-minute mark in length. The first, "Entropy," featured lyrics by Loti, in what, along with his drumming on the EP, was his last contribution to the band. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved to Colorado, and the band replaced him with Andy Reed. Almost on cue, I got a migraine for nine straight months. It was insane. EKG's, cat-scan's, X-Ray's, lots and lots and lots of meds, and damn, my life is dramatic. Needless to say, I didn't catch any Lucid Soule shows in 2004. The loud noise and stage lights would have murdered me.
Even though I went into recovery that summer, and even went to some shows out of town, I was completely out of the local scene. My friend in the band was gone, and admittedly, I forgot about Lucid Soule. Meanwhile,  Lucid Soule kept slaving away, writing new material, playing major label showcase shows. For some reason, be it the band's challenging song lengths or artistic uniqueness (by this point, comparisons to Tool were no longer apt--Lucid Soule had no peer in sound), none of the labels bit. But the band didn't quit.
In 2005, at the urging of Loti himself, I went to my first Lucid Soule show in over a year. Loti had moved back to town and was working on a new project (which was to become the award-winning comedy band, A Soup Named Stew), but he had seen some of Lucid Soule's recent shows, and assured me the band was better than ever. He was right.
Though it doesn't always happen, a band is supposed to improve with time. Lucid Soule did. Tulley, always an incredible guitar player, had developed a more relaxed, sophisticated, ethereal (yet at times still aggressive) style all his own. No one was comparing his work to anyone else because, as mentioned in the above parenthetical, he had no peers. Hebert, as the band's sound became more stream-lined, toned down his bass-playing acrobatics, playing a more conservative style that better served the songs. Reed played exceptionally, a great fit, though admittedly, the band began its change in sound before his arrival. Spurlock's vocal tones had become more clear, the lyrics she sang easier to pick up. The chemistry between her keyboard-playing and Tulley's guitar-work had also reached new heights. The band had become a completely better version of themselves. Dave often told me during this period that he must have been holding the band back, but I think this is completely untrue. After six years of writing and performing music as Lucid Soule, Tulley, Spurlock, and Hebert, along with Reed, had simply gotten better than they were before.
By this point, I had graduated from LSU, still lived with my parents, had no job or prospects, and blogged...a lot. 2005 was one of the greatest years of my life, and I spent it once again going to every local show Lucid Soule played. The band just sounded so upbeat and exhilarating, and the sky was the limit, and then they broke up.
After releasing IV, aka A Crack In the Glass, Lucid Soule disbanded. I won't go into why, other than simply stating that being in a band with three other people is hard. During the span I am retrospecting here, I was in two bands, myself. Neither lasted long.
A Crack In the Glass does a very good job of capturing Lucid Soule's final sound. The inclusion of re-recorded versions of the two songs from the III EP saps a little of the album's energy, as the band, obviously a little bored with them, tinker around with them a bit too much. The remaining five songs, however, are still a breath of fresh air to this day. And to this day, I still don't understand why Lucid Soule didn't make it big. To my ears, they are better than 99% of what was and is out there today. Lucid Soule were highly original, highly talented, and highly enjoyable to hear.
Fittingly, Lucid Soule played their final show at Northgate Tarvern, the new bar in the building once occupied by Ichabod's. The place was packed with a bunch of kids the same age I was when I sat awestruck with Cowboy Bebop on the screen behind me. Their enthrallment and excitement matched my own. I hope those kids found another band to latch on to. Someone to reminisce about. As for me, now I'm almost old enough to be President, and my kid jams out to old Lucid Soule albums with me. If he one day decides to go to college, I hope he finds his own local band to rock out to. I'll always have Lucid Soule.
If you're curious to hear what I'm talking about, A Crack In the Glass is available on Amazon for far too low a price. If you just want to hear a few songs, miraculously, Lucid Soule's Myspace and Purevolume websites still exist. I don't trust that those links will always exist, though, so I've uploaded some of the songs below on my own. Hope you enjoy them.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nic,

It made my night to read this after a turdtastic day. Thank you. I'm so glad you posted these songs on YouTube too.

Man! Lucid Soule sure was good after I left.

: )

Peace Friend,

davidloti=davidloti

Nicholas said...

Man, you're the reason I could even write this.
Glad I could brighten your night. Hope, outside of the turdtasticness of the day, you are doing awesome.
-Nicholas