When Ashley Maietta, Ari Tibi and McKail Seely got together for a casual songwriting session back in 2015, it was pretty much love at first sound.
"It wasn't perfect, but there was something there that made it sound like, 'this is one voice,'" Seely recalled of their instant vocal chemistry. Recognizing they had something special, the band Luci was formed then and there.
Their first two songs were written together that same evening, they booked their first gig two weeks later, and the Los Angeles-based indie-folk trio's spellbinding, twang-tinged harmonies have been enchanting listeners ever since. Local audiences have the chance to hear them live again on March 16, when Luci performs at Stanford's Bing Studio.
Each of Luci's three band members — who also write, record and perform as solo artists and are involved in other creative projects — brings their own unique style and skills to the collaboration.
"The massive idea machine is Ari," Maietta said. "McKail and I kind of switch off on the roles of constructor and editor. It's the three peaks of the triangle — a cool dynamic."
All three share songwriting duties, and sometimes experiment with vocal arrangements, but most often Seely and Tibi work out the foundations on guitar, with Tibi singing the lowest part, Seely the middle, and Maietta the highest.
"The only reason I'm doing music today is because of these two," Maietta, who works in artist development and music publishing at a record label, said of her bandmates. She'd planned on a career based solely on the business side of the music industry, but collaborating with Tibi and Seely made her realize there'd always be a part of her that was an artist. "It was a hole in my heart that was not filled," she said.
The group's name came from a suggestion by Tibi, who'd been an anthropology major in college. It refers to the famous fossilized Australopithecine named after the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," while the spelling harkens back to the name's roots meaning "light." Because their voices blended so unexpectedly seamlessly, the group liked the concept of giving their collective creation its own, singular, personified identity.
"The idea of having one voice influenced the idea of having one name," Seely explained, "the entity we conjured up this night."
Luci has put out several releases, opened for the likes of REO Speedwagon, Justin Moore and Tyler Farr, and toured nationally with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo.
"When we least expect something is when we end up having these really magical opportunities, when we're not necessarily pushing the band," Seely noted.
After years of activity, though, the three artists were ready to press pause and go in separate directions for a while.
"With the pandemic, and even pre-pandemic, we were sort of taking a break, taking a breath. It provided a lot of growth for all three of us," Seely said. The band assumed that the 2020 release of "Watch It Rise" and "Love Don't Love," the two tracks with which they almost always end their concerts, would be their swan song.
The song "Watch It Rise" is about "once you think you've been buried you've really been planted; about digging into the darkness and coming into the light, like a sunset-to-sunrise kind of vibe," Tibi said. The poignant and ultimately hopeful song has proved prophetic, and resonates even stronger with Luci now that they've weathered both a bittersweet split and a surprise reunion — the latter thanks in part to Stanford Live. It was a last-minute invitation to play at Stanford's Frost Amphitheater last summer, as part of a tribute to the music of Linda Ronstadt (a longtime musical influence), that brought them back together. Luci was called in as a substitute when Canadian folk trio Good Lovelies had to back out. The gig turned out to be a healing — and productive — experience. "It sort of forced us to come back into a creative space with each other again," Seely said.
"I cried a lot onstage and after," said Tibi. "It was heartbreaking to be without my girls for so long, but we all needed that growth; the crack that let the light in again. Stanford was the thing that pushed us out and put us back together."
Their upcoming return to Stanford will give them the chance to play a full 75-minute set of almost-all originals, plus a few choice covers. The concert will be mostly acoustic, with Tibi and Seely on guitars, and Maietta providing percussion via a tambourine and stomp box. They also plan to debut at least one brand-new song that was in progress as of their recent interview with this news organization.
"Stanford seems to be this little catalyst that keeps popping up," Maietta said.
As for the future, the trio hopes to keep their rekindled collaboration alive.
"It's always been my personal dream to have a full-length album with Luci," Seely said.
Whatever happens, the three are grateful that Luci has "expanded our own creativity and music world more than we could imagine," Tibi said. "Three people who are so different; three different voices, coming together and creating harmony, literally and metaphorically."
Luci performs Thursday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at Bing Studio, 327 Lasuen St., Stanford. Tickets are $30-$40. More information is available at live.stanford.edu.
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