After watching the video for “Candelabra Eyes,” you might be convinced there are two Russell Lacys.
Over haunting crooning and unsettling guitars, images of Lacy’s face flick between white and red lighting — the former calm, the latter crazed — before blue and white Lacys begin to sing while superimposed over one another. Directed by R. Anthony Harris, with crucial contributions from Director of Photography Joey Wharton, the clip is part-Dr. Jekyll, part-Mr. Hyde and entirely suited to the song’s ominous sound.
There may be only one Lacy in real life, but the multi-instrumentalist and Richmond native keeps busy on both sides of the board at his recording studio, the Virginia Moonwalker. The Mechanicsville facility has been a popular choice for local bands since its founding in the early 2010s, having captured pivotal work from the likes of Tarrant, the Milkstains, Pete Curry and Saw Black. More recently, Lacy tracked an eponymous album there, a project that started just before the COVID-19 pandemic and grew from its planned six songs into an LP that folds upbeat rockers and pensive, pedal steel-dipped gems in with its brooding second track, “Candelabra Eyes.”
Lacy fronted a blistering release show set on Sunday, Aug. 14 at Gallery5 in celebration of the sole format on which the album is currently available: vinyl. “I’m not even going to talk about streaming until I sell 200 of them,” he says.
While he created a temporary Instagram account specifically for the Gallery5 show, he tends to steer clear of promoting via social media, preferring to lean on word of mouth and other more tangible channels. “I still think if you make a really cool poster, people will take a picture of it and take care of that for you.”
As multifaceted as his talents are, Lacy's approach to sharing music is singular, and he’s got a thriving studio, countless collaborative relationships and a stellar new album to show for it. “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 go about conveying the song’s mood in that format?
Russell Lacy: You start with the dream and then work back — then get practical. It’s like, “Alright, 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 studio, [R. Anthony Harris and Joey Wharton] had the mannequin head there, which they use just to set up shots. There’s a lot that they’re bringing to the table with the head on fire, and how to actually organize and do a video, and how to light it. It also developed as it went. We filmed some of it at their studio, and then some of it out here in the country [in Mechanicsville] at night. So as much of a plan as there was, people were also willing to move around.
How did you capture such a haunting mood when recording the song?
The cool, creepy guitar lines, of course that’s John Sizemore. I could probably sit down and be like, “I’m going to imitate John Sizemore and come up with something,” but even then it’d be so derivative. He is the master of spooky riffs. And “Candelabra” wouldn’t be that without him.
What was the time frame for writing the new album?
I’ve been writing songs so long that I’ll snag something from the past to get what I think the best collection of the songs is. Also, I was working with [composer] Ben Gebert — he helped with the initial concept. It wasn’t even supposed to be a record … We were supposed to only do six songs, but we started in February and then COVID hit, and then John and I started working. I started playing piano over COVID, and then I wrote “Two Cents” and “Every Morning,” and I wrote those on piano … It just kept growing.
Does recording other artists give you a broader sonic palette for your own songs?
I think it’s impossible not to pick up stuff when you’re doing it. I tend to think in metaphors and analogies, and all I feel like is a carpenter who has been doing it a long time. Whatever I can bring to the table. I’ve been really lucky.
I’ve been 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 this other stuff going on. Now I get to, rather than just watch Charles play, hang out with him. You can’t sit in a room with Charles Arthur playing an instrument and not pick something up.
What has the reaction to the album been like so far, given that it’s only out in the world on vinyl?
I have had more people talk to me about this record than anything I’ve ever worked on, [and] in the coolest ways. I have a bunch of people who are like, “Somebody brought your record over to my house to listen to it, to show me this record …” It feels right to me.
To buy a vinyl copy of Russell Lacy’s new album, and for more information about Lacy’s studio, the Virginia Moonwalker, visit thevirginiamoonwalker.com.