Although Girling-Butcher could write a mean ballad (check out the hushed awe of ‘All Moments Leading To This’), Runga’s winsome naivety wasn’t her style. Perhaps she took her tip from assertive post-feminist songwriters like Alanis Morissette, but Girling-Butcher never milked the bitterness from her life experience, or relayed it with unappealing stridency.
Instead, her songs conveyed complex emotions and observations, allowing intimacy when required. They were also some of the most sexually forthright songs to have emerged out of NZ.
Oh, and did I mention her extraordinary singing?
All this, and a really good band, too: instead of just electrifying folk modes like most singer-songwriters, employing Marcus Lawson’s jazz-tinged six-string bass and Derek Metivier’s sizzling drums (not to mention Metivier’s hand-sculptured production) made for a sound that you couldn’t quite tag. It was brooding, blues-imbued, sensual.
Unfortunately, it also made Lucid 3 a group that was too conventionally adept for student radio, yet too left-of-field for commercial radio, and although they managed three albums in their eight-year creative life, they ended up where they began: with more critical than commercial acclaim, still somehow underneath the popular radar.
When I spoke to Girling-Butcher in 2004, she admitted they had gone about it the wrong way to achieve pop success: “We’ve been a completely do-it-yourself band, and I don’t think that commercial people trust that at all. But we’ve chosen to do it independently because of the creative liberty that gives us. It’s a mystery, but there’s a twist to Lucid 3 that doesn’t quite work commercially.”
Lucid 3 were also troupers on the live circuit, touring the country extensively and getting supports for acts like UB40 and Brooke Fraser, as well as appearing at festivals like WOMAD.
Which isn’t to suggest that they failed dismally. All Moments Leading To This (released in 2004) made it to No.2 on the Independent Music NZ Chart, and the same year the single ‘AM Radio’ won both Best Indie Video at the Juice TV awards, and was voted best single by RipItUp readers.
Lucid 3 were also troupers on the live circuit, touring the country extensively and getting supports for acts like UB40 and Brooke Fraser, as well as appearing at festivals like WOMAD. Famously, when they supported flaccid ‘You’re Beautiful’ singer-songwriter James Blunt, he was so impressed that he doubled their fee. “My fee went from $250 to $500,” she has said. “I didn’t even stay to watch his show or meet him, so I felt very rude when the promoters paid me the next day.”
The group’s partnering with producer (and former Mutton Birds guitarist) David Long for the third album, Dawn Planes (2007) proved an awkward fit however, with grafted-on grungy guitar and an obvious attempt to write-to-order that failed to capitalise on the group’s strengths. Soon after, Lucid 3 went on indefinite hiatus.
Victoria Girling-Butcher spent the years immediately following Lucid 3’s hiatus fighting an auto-immune disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes arthritic pain and fatigue. She wrote a song about it, ‘Mirror Mirror’, on her debut solo album, Summit Drive (2011).
Girling-Butcher’s occasional day job until recently was journalism. In 2004, she was working as a court reporter in New Plymouth: “There’s something I really like about reporting. Even community news. I like community. I like the little stuff. Journalism is interesting to me intellectually, I do find it stimulating … but there’s something that does really wear you down when you’re not able to earn money from what your whole heart and love is going into, music.” She also paid the bills by serving time in bands with Dave Dobbyn and Andrew Keoghan.
Derek Metivier has gone on to work in television sound engineering and composition, while Marcus Lawson has performed with Dave Dobbyn and others.
Victoria Girling-Butcher - vocals, guitar
Marcus Lawson - bass
Derek Metivier - drums