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An austere indie folk duo from Australia, Luluc rose to international acclaim following the 2014 release of their second album, Passerby, a hushed and elegant collection that drew attention to the songwriting and vocal talents of Melbourne natives Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett. Having already won over some notable admirers like legendary producer Joe Boyd and the National's Aaron Dessner with their self-released 2008 debut Dear Hamlyn, the duo eventually relocated to New York and began recording for the Sub Pop label, which also issued their third LP, Sculptor, in 2018.
Prior to finding success as Luluc, Randell and Hassett had a long and patient history together. In 1999, nearly a decade before their first release, the two Australia natives met halfway around the world in Scotland while Randell was working at the Edinburgh Festival and Hassett was traveling around Europe with his guitar. The two musicians hit it off immediately and began singing and writing together, though after their return to Australia, both would end up tied to other bands, jobs, and lives for many years. After the death of Randell's father, she went through a personal upheaval, reevaluating her life and deciding that it was time to make music her primary ambition. With Hassett as her collaborator and editor, she slowly developed a set of quiet acoustic songs that would eventually be included on the duo's first album, 2008's Dear Hamlyn, a tribute to her late father. Self-released in Australia, the album boasted a simple and elegant formula largely based around Randell's earthy, haunting voice with Hassett harmonizing and adding subtle flourishes over the gently strummed acoustic guitar.
Their success wasn't immediate, but over the next few years some highly influential fans like producer Joe Boyd (Nick Drake, Fairport Convention), Lucinda Williams, and the National's Aaron Dessner began to take notice. With the band now spending more time in the U.S., they began to play higher-exposure shows, joining Fleet Foxes, the National, and José González on-stage. They split their time between Melbourne and Brooklyn, and it was No Depression editor Peter Blackstock, a big fan of Dear Hamlyn, who instigated a meeting with Sub Pop chief Jonathan Poneman, who happened to be in Brooklyn at the same time. He signed Luluc after one meeting and they began the arduous task of recording their follow-up album with supporter and friend Aaron Dessner co-producing.
In the meantime, the band had become friendly with Joe Boyd, who pegged them to contribute two songs to a 2013 Nick Drake tribute album he was producing. Finally, in the summer of 2014, 15 years after their first meeting and six years after their first release, Luluc made their international debut on Sub Pop with Passerby. The album was a critical success and boosted the band's exposure significantly. The following year, Dessner asked them to contribute a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Til the Morning Comes" to the 2015 tribute album Day of the Dead. Dirty Three drummer Jim White and lute player Giorgio Xylouris also played on the track, with the former also making a guest appearance on Luluc's self-produced third album, Sculptor, in 2018. Recorded at the band's own Brooklyn studio, Sculptor expanded their sonic palette significantly and included additional contributions from Dessner, Kiwi musician Matt Eccles, and J Mascis, whom Luluc had previously supported on tour. In early 2019, Sub Pop offered a reissue of the band's 2008 debut, Dear Hamlyn, which up to that point had been unavailable outside of their native Australia. ~ Timothy Monger