Lucero Sets Itself Free

Lucero | Jamie Harmon

“It’s been a crazy morning,” says Lucero bassist John C. Stubblefield. “I finally got it all together. I got the car fixed, got home and showered. At the moment Rick [Steff], our keyboard player, is at the studio doing overdubs on some songs we’ve got skeletons on. I’m gonna get in there soon and work on some new ones. We came into this record with no demos, so we’re writing a lot of it together live on the floor.”

Sept. 17 | 8 p.m. | $18-$23
Cargo Concert Hall | Reno, Nev.

Watch the video for “Baby, Don’t You Want Me”

Lucero recently left ATO Records after recording its last two albums with the New York City-based company.

“We’re in between labels right now,” says Stubblefield. “It’s been very freeing. We used to have to do demos before getting in the studio. It’s basically like making a record before you make a record. This time we’re doing it just for us. We’ll see where the chips fall after the fact label-wise.”

“For [the new album], we’ve been stripping it down a little bit and going back to our roots after the last three records have had horns and more of a Memphis soul sound.” – John C. Stubblefield

Lucero is making this record on its own dime at the fabled Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis, Tenn. Phillips memorably produced Elvis Presley’s early work and was one of the first people to record B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison in the 1950s heyday of blues, roots country and rockabilly music.

“He sold Elvis’s contract, came over here and built this studio from the ground up in 1958,” says Stubblefield. “It was one of the first purposely built recording studios. At this place, the sixth member of the band becomes the studio. It’s so atmospheric. It’s definitely lending itself to the new Lucero sound. For this one, we’ve been stripping it down a little bit and going back to our roots after the last three records have had horns and more of a Memphis soul sound.”

This will be Lucero’s third session at the studio. The first one was only three days long just to get a feel for the space. From there, the band booked two more weeklong sessions. Rather than come into the 12th album with any fixed concepts or songs, Lucero is approaching this recording session organically.

“We’re still looking for it,” says Stubblefield of the thread that ties this new project together. “It’s happening and starting to reveal itself to a certain degree. It’s almost more freeing to not know or to have too many preconceived ideas about it right now.”

Stubblefield first met Lucero guitarist Brian Venerable at a matinee show at the Antennae Club in midtown Memphis where they saw Green Day and other seminal punks bands back in the 1990s.

“I was 12 and he was 15,” says Stubblefield. “Roy [Berry, the drummer] met us and he was about 18. Brian said he was starting a band with Ben Nichols. We had band practice that night and here we are 20 years later.”

Next year will mark 20 years as a band with the same core four members. Over the years, Lucero’s sound has become more laid-back and refined, while never fully departing from its gritty punk roots.

“With each album that you make and each tour that you go on, there’s growth,” says Stubblefield. “When it’s your first time going to New York and people show up, it’s amazing. It’s still that feeling, but we’re a little more focused nowadays. We’ve learned to put our best foot forward rather than all our feet forward.”

As their sound has evolved, Stubblefield believes there is still a magic something that weaves it all together through time.

“A lot of people have a certain first show they compare everything to,” he says. “In their mind it was the perfect show. You always have fans who are like, ‘Why doesn’t this album sound like my favorite album?’ But what I love about this band so much is that to a certain degree our fans get it. Everything intrinsically sounds like the band, but with a story and different landscapes colors, palettes for each record.”

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