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Lucero’s full of sass and Stax 

Wednesday, Oct 28 2009

Lucero's co-founder, Brian Venable, wants to help journalists write their articles on his band. Over the phone from Indianapolis, the affable 37-year-old guitarist punctuates his Southern drawl with a dry chuckle as he gives this writer pointers for a piece: "'Lucero got their name from a Spanish-English dictionary. They're sort of like the Replacements, and they've been on the road forever.' I think that stuff is mandatory," he says, then suggests also being a little informative with the writing. "Maybe get in one funny part or tagline, and then put where we're playing."

Lucero has performed more than 1,000 shows, maybe even 2,000, in its decade-plus existence, and Venable has done about as many interviews, it seems. Sometimes he lies. Sometimes he tells the truth. Sometimes he spouts gibberish.

"I did an interview for the Houston something-or-other, they were like, 'Are you scared of clowns or do you like clowns?' I was like, 'Mmmm ... depends on if they're armed or not.' I don't fuckin' know. 'Who's your favorite superhero?' 'My cellphone.' When you say 'cellphone,' it's more memorable."

So why do interviews? Venable says he wants Lucero's name out there. "Like the White Stripes — a lot of people were like, 'I've read about them a whole lot, but I haven't seen 'em.' A good interview might hopefully get like five or 10 people to come to a show."

All right, then, here's the informative part: Lucero is from Memphis. The band is twangy and rootsy enough to be an alt-country band, but the raspy vocals, 'tude, and dark sentiments are pretty punk rock. Its songs are mostly about chicks and booze, not necessarily in that order. Lucero doesn't really sound like the Replacements. Maybe Ryan Adams, a little bit, when he was all kinds of fucked up. Or Wilco when it rocks out. Lucero could fit on a twin bill with Dead Confederate, maybe.

Lucero just released 1372 Overton Park, its first album for a major label – Universal. It's a love letter to Memphis that features plenty of horns, thanks to arranger Jim Spake, a Memphis icon who has played with Al Green, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cat Power, and Alex Chilton. With its brass blasts, boogie piano, and humming Hammond organ, the album bears a vintage soul vibe that pays tribute to the storied legacy of Stax Records. There's still plenty of grit and gravel in the vocals, and lots of high-octane guitar, especially on "Johnny Davis" and "Sound of the City." And maybe Lucero does sound like the Replacements on "What Are You Willing to Lose?," which coulda fit nicely on the 'Mats' Pleased to Meet Me (which was helmed by late Memphis superproducer Jim Dickinson).

Venable thinks some fans will hate it, but the band thinks it's "so fucking cool." The songs, that is, not the idea that people might turn on the album. Actually, no — Venable doesn't care if listeners rally against 1372 Overton Park, because if they do, they should "go start a band that sounds like our last record." Lucero will be playing plenty of new material live, so you'll be able to decide for yourself.

The part of the article about where Lucero is playing is coming up soon (or, actually, it's listed up top). But first, Venable offers some valuable interviewing advice. He has friends who work at radio stations, and suggests that the DJs ask musicians things like, "'When was the last time they got in a fistfight?' Ask 'em something fuckin' crazy," he says. "Get real fuckin' personal."

Okay, so when was the last time Venable got in a fistfight? "I can't remember."

About The Author

Michael Alan Goldberg


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