For Lucero's album, frontman Ben Nichols wanted “an old school rock ‘n' roll record.”
For “Women & Work,” released in the spring, Nichols channeled the city he's called home for more than a decade: Memphis.
Home of Stax Records, Booker T & the MGs, Elvis, Al Green and Jerry Lee Lewis, a Memphis rock sound comes through on the album.
“You kinda stack all that stuff up and it's an impressive legacy,” Nichols told us on the phone from his Memphis home. “When you're making a new record here, you can't top that stuff, so all you can hope to do is to do it justice.”
In advance of the band's show Monday at The Waiting Room Lounge, Nichols talked about writing the new album, his songwriting and how the band has changed over its 14 years.
Q. How did you write the songs on the album?
A. “On My Way Downtown” was one of the first songs written for the record. I guess “I Can't Stand to Leave You” was probably the very first one that I wrote. Then “Women & Work” came next. I wrote it really quickly. That actually might be the quickest I ever put a song together. I had random phrases written down, and I decided not to think too much and just write a rock ‘n' roll song. It ended up being really fun and it set the tone for a lot of the rest of the record.
Once I had the tone of the record in mind with “Women & Work” and “Lightning” and “It May Be Too Late” — I just kinda wanted an old school rock ‘n' roll record — the bridge to “Downtown” fit in perfectly.
Q. Do you sit down with a guitar or notebook to write songs?
A. Usually fumbling around on the guitar and kinda walking around the house playing guitar until your fingers hit some frets that sound good. Then you follow that for a little bit. The music's pretty much there and then it takes forever to write lyrics.
To find anything worth actually saying is not easy. Hell, it doesn't have to be worth saying, but as long as it's not too stupid. It's really easy to mess up a good song with horrible lyrics, which I've definitely done in the past but I try to avoid.
Q. The album sounds really big almost like the band is much more comfortable with the horns that were added on your last album, “1372 Overton Park.”
A. I think so. We'd never played a live show with the horns when we recorded “1372.” Then we spent the last two or three years playing with them. Now, they're pretty much part of the band. They've got the Lucero tattoos and they're with us, part of the team.
I thought the horns were done very well with “1372,” but they're integrated better on “Women & Work.” And there's more pedal steel — Todd Beene from Glossary played pedal steel with us and he's got a much stronger presence on “Women & Work.”
I think this one sounds more like Lucero whereas “1372” sounded like Lucero with horns.
Q. I like how the horns give a new feel to some of the older songs.
A. My horn players and my keyboard player are professional as hell. They've done a lot of session work and played with a bunch of people for a lot of years. It's amazing how they can take a song and write an arrangement for it and take it to a whole other level.
Lucero's been around for 14 years now and (they've) kind of breathed some new life into some very old songs. You're not rewriting them or changing them at all, but accentuating them in different ways — taking the old stuff and relooking at it. I think it was healthy for the band, and I think it makes the live shows more interesting. I think it was good for everybody.
Q. You can also strip the songs down and do them with just you.
A. Yeah, you've got plenty of room dynamically. You can get really big or strip everything away and get really quiet. I like having that flexibility.
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