Deep Breathing

Cincinnati cello and drum duo Lung perform in Eugene

There’s a magic trick performed in the music of Cincinnati two-piece band Lung, playing March 29 at John Henry’s in downtown Eugene. Where in other rock bands there would be the interplay of guitars and bass submerged in fuzz and sludge, with Lung there’s cello, played by Kate Wakefield. Her cello exists over a foundation of metal-informed percussion provided by Lung’s percussionist, who goes by the one name  Daisy. Close your eyes, and there could be four or five band members on stage. 

Lung comes to Eugene behind its late 2021 release, Come Clean Right Now. Throughout the new record, Wakefield’s voice remains fierce, clear and aggressive, meeting at an intersection of emotive hard rock and opera, but also able to carry an engaging straightforward banger like “I’m Nervous” with an energy that’s not unlike the garage-y arithmetic of Jack and Meg White.

Meanwhile, Wakefield’s cello is sawed at mercilessly, sometimes soaring, other times grinding, from trilling riffs to gloomy depths. She plays through bass amps and pedals to redefine typical heavy metal virtuosity for a classical instrument that’s yet to have its day in the rock ‘n’ roll sun.

Wakefield grew up wishing she played an instrument more typically used outside classical music. In college, though, she was asked to play cello in a rock band, and it was then she realized the untapped potential of that instrument that she’d been playing since she was a child.

Plug a cello into some bass amps, she thought, “turn it up and distort it,” and it becomes a guitar-bass hybrid, she says.

From Come Clean, the song “Air” is like a chamber music update on The Smashing Pumpkins, made no less lethal. Elsewhere, “Tick Tock” begins with something like the sound of a processed cello emergency alarm, signaling the early pandemic period during which much of the music was written, often remotely. 

Remembering that period, Wakefield says, “I don’t know any kind of art could come out of that time and not be somewhat impacted by it; the vibe of the time, the uncertainty, the extreme highs and extreme lows.”

“None of those songs existed before the pandemic happened,” Daisy, a veteran of several Cincinnati-based projects like Foxy Shazam, explains. “Once it was relatively safe we got together and recorded it.”

After Wakefield and Daisy, who met through the Cincy music scene, began playing together they considered adding even more low end to the sound with bass guitar, but soon nixed the idea. 

“If you have other instruments they cover each other up in weird ways,” Wakefield says. “Why add more chefs to the kitchen?” Daisy says, personally, they’ll never play in a band with more than two or three members again. “There’s so much more space!”

Influenced by what Wakefield calls “the doomier aspects” of classical composers like Prokofiev and Stravinsky — who, if they were around today, would likely be in metal bands, Wakefield says — her songwriting style changed after she began playing with Daisy. In addition to Lung, Wakefield has a solo project under her own name.

“When I’m just writing on my own,” Wakefield explains, “it’s a different palette of colors. We’re pretty collaborative.”

Performing with Lung at John Henry’s are Eugene bands Silence Mill and Holy Nitemare, 8 pm, Tuesday, March 29; $10, 21+, check with venue for COVID-19 safety policies.