INTERVIEW: Lucero | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Memphis based alt. country band Lucero have earned a reputation throughout their career as being one of the hardest working bands on the live circuit, touring around the US relentlessly since they formed in 1998. With the release of their latest record, All A Man Should Do, Lucero will be bringing their live show to The Cluny on Thursday 4th February, and they show no sign of slowing down, as guitarist Brian Venable tells me. “We still play about 150 shows, maybe 200 if a new record comes out, but we’re taking it easier…”

Lucero’s 2004 road movie Dreaming In America perfectly documented the struggles of a touring band trying to survive on the road with few album sales and even less money to support them. “Like any person who has a small business, all it takes is somebody getting sick or people not liking us anymore and we are not financially secure,” reflects Brian. “We sell records, but we make a living from touring and making music.”

Brian, who himself has just gone through a divorce, is frank about the havoc and toll that constant touring can play upon a musician’s personal life. “Part of the reason was I’m never home. You get older, you settle in with one person and they don’t necessarily wanna stay home by themselves 200 days a year. But you gotta find that right person. It’s kinda like a sailor’s wife situation. ‘Hey you’re a strong, independent person, who knows that I’m going to come home. I’m not leaving forever.’”

The result of spending so much time together as a band as ultimately paid dividends, and helped Lucero finally make what they see as the album that they’ve always wanted to make. “We’re in a lucky position that not a lot of bands are; we don’t have to cite our cool influences,” explains Brian. “In the beginning it’s all; ‘I wanna be edgy,’ or ‘we love Tom Waits, we love The Replacements, we love The Pogues’. We wanted to make records like that. But the older you get, the more you also realise ‘Man, I really like the Stone Roses, The Smithereens, Huey Lewis & The News.’”

Lucero are not an easy band to categorise; although a country band at heart, their love of rock and roll, punk and the inevitable soul influence of their Memphis upbringing undoubtedly affects their raucous tales of whisky-soaked nights and Southern girls. The dynamic that Brian shares with Lucero vocalist Ben Nichols is vitally important to the band’s sound. “Ben, he likes the melody. I’m; ‘I like REM, but hey, there’s this band called Black Flag’, whereas Ben’s like, ‘Yeah, there’s that band called Black Flag, but have you heard the Smiths?’ As much as we try to make a soul record or whatever, it’s gonna be a Lucero record.”

although a country band at heart, their love of rock and roll, punk and the inevitable soul influence of their Memphis upbringing undoubtedly affects their raucous tales of whisky-soaked nights and Southern girls

Lucero have had their fair share of record label troubles but they appear to have found a happy home with current label ATO, even if Brian thinks the band are currently at an “awkward” stage in their career. “We’re old and dirt-ugly so they ain’t gonna put us on TV! If we were ten years younger we’d be The Strokes and if we were ten years older we’d be Kris Kristofferson types. Right now we’re in that ugly middle.” Their brief stint with a major was not a happy one, as Brian explains. “We signed to Universal and then a week later, they shit the bed. Our Universal deal became a glorified distribution deal. ATO’s been amazing, they’re not like, ‘Oh, you gotta have a number one record.’” Having experienced the industry from both sides of the spectrum, Brian believes that having a successful music career all comes down to what a band wants out of it. “We never wanted to start a band to become famous,” he admits. “We wanted to play music and have fun. We were never career orientated, which kinda hurt us sometimes.”

In a happier, more reflective place these days, Brian is two years sober and being able to collaborate with one of his heroes – Big Star’s Jody Stephens – on Lucero’s new record is just one of the things that he’s learned to appreciate. “It was amazing,” he recalls. “The guy from Big Star is gonna sing backing vocals on our Big Star cover!  I woke up this morning, got my kid ready for school, drank coffee, finished one of my books, I’m at the coffee shop, I don’t have to do anything ‘til 3.30pm when I pick him up from school and then we’re gonna make paper aeroplanes and do marshmallows on the fire pit out back. That’s my day. The only thing I have to do today, work related, is talk to you on the phone about rock ‘n’ roll.  It’s amazing!”

Another thing that excites Brian is getting to tour the UK again. “The last time we were in Newcastle we had a good show but the first time we only made it a song and a half before they beat up the sound man and tore up the mains!” laughs Brian. “Every city, every place is something I saw on TV, or something I read in a book, or some band I like. Newcastle? That’s Leatherface, right? I got super fascinated with Premier League soccer. I go over there, I’m like ‘Let’s talk football,’ they’re like ‘Ugh, let’s talk rock ‘n’ roll!’”

Lucero play The Cluny, Newcastle on Thursday 4th February.

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