Lucero with Shovels and Rope
When: Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. (doors at 8)
Where: Club 9ONE9
Tickets: $15 at ticketweb.ca, Ditch Records, Lyle’s Place and the Strathcona Hotel
When you grow up in a musically rich city like Memphis, Tennessee, outside influences don’t necessarily come into play. There’s enough music within the city limits to satiate even the most voracious appetite.
Those same rules apply to the group Lucero. When the Memphis group began drifting away from its rootsy punk rock and toward horn-heavy rock ‘n’ roll, second thoughts didn’t enter into the equation.
“Soul and rockabilly and blues and country was always in our system,” said Lucero guitarist Brian Venable, 41. “It just took longer to notice it.”
The sonic shift began when Lucero signed up some brass bandmates for their 2009 recording, 1372 Overton Park. The horn section was added after the fact, according to Venable, which didn’t result in the intended effect. When the time came to write a follow-up record, Lucero created songs with horns in mind.
“They were a part of the practices and part of the demos,” Venable said of saxophonist Jim Spake and trumpeter Scott Thompson, who have played on recordings by Al Green, Ray Charles and Solomon Burke.
“They were a part of the band, more integrated.”
For the better part of a decade, Lucero was a hard-edged rock ‘n’ roll band. In recent years, it began to broaden its sound by adding piano and other instruments to the mix, leading to a sound that Venable describes as a cross between southern R&B and country.
As a result, some fans of the group were caught off guard when a brass section appeared more prominently on Women & Work, the group’s eighth and latest recording. “A lot of people who don’t like horns, it freaks them out,” Venable said.
“They want these sad country songs, because that’s cool. Not everybody wants to hear sad R&B songs, because that’s not Johnny Cash or Hank Williams. But the people who get it, they love it.”
Venable, who was raised in Memphis, didn’t expect listeners to react in such a way, especially since Lucero hails from a city that is synonymous with soul music. But he understands that a musical gap exists between younger listeners and people such as himself, who grew up hearing music of every genre imaginable.
He was raised on the radio, before moving on to metal, followed by punk. Eventually, southern rock and groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd wormed their way into his teenage ears. “Over time I listened to everything,” he said.
Venable had a similar musical upbringing as his bandmates, singer-guitarist Ben Nichols, piano player Rick Steff, pedal steel player Todd Beene, drummer Roy Berry, and bassist John C. Stubblefield. Everyone in the group is an experimentalist, which helps bond the band from the inside out. That’s key, Venable said.
Even though they come from the friendly South, playing concerts in strange places for a living can be a bit disorienting.
“Being from Memphis, from the South, New Jersey is crazy to us, Seattle is crazy to us,” he said with a laugh. “We’re a whole different region of the country.”
They speak a universal language in their music, which has shades of Bruce Springsteen’s heartland rock. Nichols is a keen wordsmith who writes earnest, engaging songs about life on the road and the plight of the working man; to say the title of Women & Work is fitting would be an understatement.
The sextet has a ball travelling the world by bus because the payoff is so huge, Venable said.
“We’re almost at the point where we don’t need to drink before the shows anymore. You know you’re going to get a couple drinks brought to the stage.”
Lucero concerts often get a little out of control, Venable admits. But that’s all part of the fun. “Our shows can be a big, sweaty mess. And it might sound like crap [inside the club], but the energy is amazing. There’s something to be said for a big, gigantic show. But there’s also something about intimate shows, where everything gets crazy. The type where you walk away and think, ‘That was more than a music show. That was intense.’ ”
That atmosphere creates quite a bond between the band and its audience. Its current club tour, which brings the group to Victoria for the first time on Wednesday, will provide more friendly opportunities for fans, Venable said.
“We don’t hide out, or get on the bus and go to the hotel immediately after the show. We could play music all day long, but it takes two things to make a good show: a good band and a good crowd. It’s nice to hear their stories, and it gives us a chance to say thank you. The crowd is just as important as the band. And I think that gets lost at some of the bigger shows.”
© Copyright 2013