After watching the video for “Candelabra Eyes”, you might be convinced that there are two Russell Lacys.
Over haunting vocals and unsettling guitars, images of Lacy’s face oscillate between white and red lighting – the former calm, the latter crazy – before the blue and white Lacys begin to sing as they overlap each other. Directed by R. Anthony Harris, with crucial contributions from cinematographer Joey Wharton, the clip is part Dr. Jekyll, part-Mr. Hyde and fully suited to the eerie sound of the song.
There may only be one Lacy in real life, but the multi-instrumentalist and Richmond native handles both sides of the bill in his recording studio, Virginia Moonwalker. The Mechanicsville facility has been a popular choice for local bands since its founding in the early 2010s, having captured essential works by Tarrant, the Milkstains, Pete Curry and Saw Black. More recently, Lacy has been following a self-titled album there, a project that began just before the COVID-19 pandemic and grew from his planned six songs into an LP that blends upbeat rockers and pensive, soul-dreaming gems. pedal steel with its brooding second track, “Candelabrum Eyes.”
Lacy presented a blistering release show that took place on Sunday, August 14 at Gallery5 to celebrate the only format the album is currently available on: vinyl. “I won’t even talk about streaming until I’ve sold 200,” he says.
Although he created a temporary Instagram account specifically for the Gallery5 show, he tends to avoid promotion via social media, preferring to rely on word of mouth and other more tangible channels. “I always think if you make a really cool poster, people are going to take a picture of it and do it for you.”
As multifaceted as his talents are, Lacy’s approach to sharing music is singular, and he has a thriving studio, countless collaborative relationships, and a stellar new album to show off. “I just want to keep doing what I think is right,” he says.
Style: The video for “Candelabra Eyes” is so striking. How did you convey the mood of the song in this format?
Russell Lacy: You start dreaming, then you work backwards, then you get practical. It’s like, “Okay, well, none of us can float, none of us can fly, there are no vampires. As far as I know, there are no chupacabras…”
When I went to visit their workshop, [R. Anthony Harris and Joey Wharton] had the mannequin head there, which they just use to set up shots. There’s a lot of things they bring to the table with their heads on fire, and how to organize and make a video, and how to light it. It also developed over time. We filmed part of it in their studio, then part of it here in the country [in Mechanicsville] the night. So even though there was a plan, people were also ready to move.
How did you capture such a haunting vibe while recording the song?
Cool and spooky guitar lines, of course, it’s John Sizemore. I could probably sit down and say, “I’m going to emulate John Sizemore and come up with something,” but even then it would be so derivative. He is the master of scary riffs. And “Candelabra” wouldn’t be it without him.
What was the deadline for writing the new album?
I’ve been writing songs for so long that I’m going to salvage something from the past to get what I think is the best collection of songs. Also, I worked with [composer] Ben Gebert — he helped with the initial concept. It wasn’t even supposed to be a record… We were only supposed to do six songs, but we started in February, then COVID hit, then John and I started working. I started playing piano on COVID, then I wrote ‘Two Cents’ and ‘Every Morning’, and wrote them on the piano… It just kept growing.
Does recording other artists give you a wider sonic palette for your own songs?
I think it’s impossible not to pick up stuff when you do. I tend to think in metaphors and analogies, and all I feel is a carpenter who’s been doing it for a long time. Anything I can bring to the table. I really got lucky.
I was recently able to work with Charles Arthur. I met Charles when I was 20, and he’s about 20 years older than me. His daughter is recording here now with him, and she’s 20, so she’s where I was, except now we have the Moonwalker and we have all these other things going on. Now, rather than just watching Charles play, I spend time with him. You can’t sit in a room with Charles Arthur playing an instrument and not pick it up.
What has been the reaction to the album so far, given that it’s only been released on vinyl worldwide?
I’ve had more people tell me about this record than anything I’ve ever worked on, [and] in the coolest way. I have a bunch of people saying, “Somebody brought your record to my house to listen to, to show me that record…” That just seems fair to me.
To purchase a vinyl copy of Russell Lacy’s new album, and for more information on Lacy’s studio, the Virginia Moonwalker, visit thevirginiamoonwalker.com.