Music » Music Stories

Lucero's Ben Nichols is older and wiser, but still the Southern-tinged rock & roll punk he's always been



Thirteen years ago, Lucero was just four drunk punks with a Southern-rock edge who hailed from Memphis, Tennessee. In 2010, Lucero is still comprised of four drunk punks with that rock & roll edge, but now it's on a major label, and the band's current tour and last album, 1372 Overton Park, features renowned Memphis studio musicians. Still, as Lucero singer/guitarist Ben Nichols explains below, while the band has matured — to an extent — they have no intention of slowing down. During a tour stop in Tallahassee, Florida, Nichols talked to B-Sides about the current state of Lucero, its past couple wild St. Louis shows and the direction the band may steer in the future.

B-Sides: I know you guys are currently touring with a full band. Are you going to have the full band, plus the horn section, at your upcoming St. Louis gig at Off Broadway?

Ben Nichols: It should be the full band. We have a two-piece horn section with us. We'll have some keyboards, and Todd [Beene, from Glossary] on the pedal steel. Those shows are always real fun for me. I love playing with all the guys.

Do you find yourself making adjustments to your routine when you have the full band?

I've been drinking less before the shows — and, possibly, more after. But I have to give my guys credit. Everybody's been playing pretty well. When you're playing with guys like Rick Steff [accordion, keys] and Jim Spake, who's a brilliant saxophonist, they're just so good and so professional. [They] kind of make everybody step up their game. You really don't want to let them down. And we've been playing some pretty great shows; it's going in the right direction.

Since you've been playing with these guys more, have you noticed it having an impact on how you write newer material?

Man, I'm not sure yet. I've been writing all the new songs on an acoustic guitar. And I very rarely ever play the acoustic guitar live. But I've been enjoying writing songs on it. So right at the moment, I have more of an acoustic vibe going. But once I bring these songs to the band, things could totally change. So we'll see what happens. But right now I've been leaning toward a quieter, acoustic direction. There may be a way to use the full band and still keep the quieter direction. We'll have to get into the studio and see what happens.

Your last couple of shows here have been eventful, to say the least.

[Laughs] Yeah. At LouFest, I was sick as a dog. They ended up hooking me up to an IV. There was was gross. We only made it about halfway through our set, but we tried, man.

Considering we had Kings of Leon and Pigeongate a few weeks prior, I think St. Louis at least appreciated your effort.

I appreciated everyone being so understanding and cool about it. We had left that morning, and I was fine, but by the time we got to St. Louis, it got really bad. We were bummed, though. It was a very cool festival. We went out there and played as much as I could take. But that was that. Hopefully, we won't have any incidents this time around.

I remember your previous St. Louis show, at Off Broadway, was kind of wild, too.

Oh, yeah! There were fights. That was insane. I think we hadn't even started playing yet, and a girl got her hair yanked out. [long pause] Hopefully, when we play this next show in St. Louis, we'll play a full set, there won't be any fights, and everything will work out. It'll be just a good rock & roll show.

You guys have been going at it for a while now, and I know some of you have families and whatnot. It seems as though over the last couple of years we have seen a more "mature" Lucero.

Yeah, I think it is a more mature Lucero. But, really, we're still touring about as much as we always have. We're still doing over 150 shows a year; we're not slowing down by any means. We're lucky to be doing what we do. Everyone's still willing to make the sacrifices that it takes to go on the road and keep the band fully operational. And I don't see us slowing down anytime soon, to tell you the truth. And, hopefully, we'll continue to play more mature shows. Which, I think, means better-sounding shows and actually playing the songs as they were intended to be played? And not fucking everything up all the time.

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