Lucero works on its legacy
WANT TO GO?
With Robert Ellis
WHERE: The V-Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday
INFO: 304-781-0680 or www.vclublive.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If Ben Nichols hadn't gotten his heart broken, there might not have been a rock band called Lucero.
Nichols, who grew up in Little Rock, Ark., said, "I followed a girl to Memphis 15 years ago. We didn't make it, but the band is still together."
He added, regretfully, "There are songs about that. You can listen to them."
Some of them might even get played Tuesday night at the V-Club in Huntington, where the "country-ish" alt-rock band is scheduled to perform.
It's been three busy years since the release of Lucero's critically acclaimed record, "1372 Overton Park," which marked a musical change in direction for the band to a bigger sound.
"We were listening to a lot of Stax Records stuff," Nichols said. "We listened to a lot of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Carla Thomas."
The band chose to embrace the musical history of Memphis by adding more layers and moved from basic rock 'n' roll to more of a wall of sound, with horns, piano and a steel guitar.
"We still have a lot of those elements on the new record," Nichols said. "In a lot of ways, 'Women & Work' is a continuation of where we were going with '1372.'"
However, Lucero added another layer, the singer/songwriter said, by focusing on the sounds from Sun Records, like Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins -- Memphis rock 'n' roll pioneers.
"We did the soul stuff with '1372'," he said. "This one, I wanted to make a rock 'n' roll record that was more fun."
"Women & Work" was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, a studio that's recorded a number of blues, rock and pop albums, including records by R.E.M., The White Stripes and The Replacements (which Lucero frequently has been compared to).
Nichols said the music the band is making is not just about honoring the legacy of the Memphis scene, but also adding something worthwhile to it.
Lucero's music has expanded, but the kinds of songs it does hasn't changed that much. There's still plenty of rough and tumble, bittersweet songs about love and loss or getting liquored up. A lot of it comes right back to Nichols, who says most of the lyrics are, at least partially, autobiographical.
"Most of this stuff -- the majority -- has probably happened to me at some point in time," he said. "It's just a lot easier to write from firsthand knowledge. The first-person kind of stuff is just what pours out of you in the middle of the night. There's a lot of that in Lucero."
But it's not everything.
While many of Lucero's songs come from Nichols and his competing benches of angels and devils, a few are inspired by things that just happen to cross his path -- including old photos, Cormac McCarthy novels and comic books.
For example, "The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo," from "1372 Overton Place," is about a character from the alternative comic magazine Love and Rockets, which told stories about a Mexican girl and her friends growing up in the L.A. punk scene.
"It's tougher to take other sources and turn them into a song that actually has a heart and soul," Nichols said. "It can definitely be done. It just takes more craft."
The upside is there's probably less pain involved.
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.