Lung (photo by Rachelle Caplan via Facebook)
Lung is a Cincinnati based cello and drum duo who I have known going on five years now. I was absolutely jaw on the floor blown away the first time I saw them (playing with the great Trophy Wife in the summer of 2016); that awe has not faded since and they have become one of my absolute favorite bands. They continue to raise the bar again and again with every release- a rare feat as every artist hits their slumps or can miss the mark with any given song or album- but that seems to have completely missed this band.
Not only is their music captivating and starkly original, they are one of the hardest working bands I have ever met. Before the pandemic, they were touring relentlessly and on top of that, always went out of their way to help other bands. They helped out with booking touring bands coming through town even if they weren’t in town themselves, and were also an integral part of Ladyfest Cincinnati (they have also been awesome to my bands any time I’ve asked for shows out their way). They released a spectacular split LP in April with SKRT on Romanus Records which featured beautiful artwork and came in several colorful variants. Then barely taking a breath, almost immediately followed it up with the single “Sun God,” quickly followed by “Air.” Both singles are on the upcoming album Come Clean Right Now.
They describe themselves as a “powerhouse cello and drum duo” and that is definitely very true, but there is so much more to it than that. For those who are unfamiliar with this band, let’s also get it out of the way that this is not chamber music, of course there is nothing wrong with chamber music (and is probably also a first thought for many when they hear the word “cello”), but this is ROCK– very clear hard rock and punk influence runs throughout all of their releases- and one can almost hear a hardcore or a metal band shredding out many of their riffs.
Cellist and classically trained vocalist Kate Wakefield expertly handles double duty, providing the dynamics on both ends of the spectrum. The high end is covered with vocals that glide effortlessly over top of the chugging and commanding cello- which is run through distortion pedals into dual bass amps- while drummer Daisy Caplan deftly anchors the entire thing. Caplan holds things together with driving beats punctuated with hard hitting flams and a style that isn’t overly fill heavy- though he definitely knows exactly where to punch a fill in when needed- to compliment the other aspects of the given composition. The wrong drummer could absolutely trample and ruin these songs rather than add to them, so he is the perfect second half of this musical equation.
Their sound can be described with words like bombastic, dark, intense- but also subtle and introspective at times- there is just so much nuance. While they have experimented in the studio before, particularly with layering Wakefield’s operatic vocals, with these new singles they are taking even more advantage of the studio environment in a way that has enhanced the music and made it sound positively gigantic in comparison with their earlier albums. The vocals are still gorgeously layered, multiple tracks harmonized with each other, and the cello and drums sound even bigger than ever before like they are poised and ready to fill a stadium.
On “Air,” a frantic cello riff opens the track with a complimenting rapid fire floor tom pattern keeping pace before the song very quickly e x p l o d e s into the chorus- an absolutely MASSIVE and visceral wall of sound that crashes into the listener like a wrecking ball. The lyrics are a fervent plea to a lover- who is revered, needed more than water or air or anything else- and the strong emotions Wakefield is conveying are palpable throughout.
The bridge of the song gave me serious 90s alt rock vibes with the cello heading high and the vocals sweeping and swirling in layers to match. The song then returns to the verse- the drums softening in the background- before the music drops out for two measures letting the vocals ring out alone and then all of a sudden the chorus comes smashing back in closing the song out. It is all very rapid fire and over in just under three minutes. I found myself having to catch my breath after the first listen, like what the hell just happened?! (in a very very good way) before hitting the repeat button multiple times. To say I need the entire album in my life as soon as possible is an understatement; I can’t wait until its out so I can dive right into the sure to be wonderful depths.
Lung at Ladyfest Cincinnati, Oct 2017 (photo by Kate Hoos)
Check out this article which gives more details on the process the band used to write and record the album during the pandemic in 2020.
Like many other bands in 2020/2021, Lung had to cancel dozens of tour dates (including a set at Punk Island) but will be returning to the road this fall for a lengthy tour with Mac Sabbath. Check the tour poster for when they’ll be in your city.
Watch the music video for “Air” below
Come Clean Right Now is out 8/20/21 on Sofaburn Records.