…my guitar took a hard hit in Boston one night and later died in Austin, Texas. It happens, you know. And it’s not me just dropping it, but actually smashing it on the ground and then dousing it in beer….
story by Kevin Klein
If you’re reading this magazine, then you’ve probably been there. You roll out of bed, ears still ringing, wondering how you got home and whether it’s noon or Monday. You’re pretty sure it can’t be both. Your clothes are in two small piles on the floor and like plush little ash-trays, they beg you to put them back on and take them out for some air. You know these are the best of days.
Ben Nichols, lead-singer of Memphis-based Lucero, also knows what his strengths are and how to keep his edge. When Chicago Innerview recently caught up with him, he was apparently knee-deep in bookkeeping. “I’ve never done so much math in my life!” Ben immediately makes clear. “And it’s hard for me. I mean, I’m not naturally suited for this kind of job.”
In short, Ben Nichols is the near equivalent of a young Southern, unknown version of say, Bruce Springsteen with a touch of the flu. He is also the de facto accountant for Lucero’s new imprint label, Liberty & Lament. “I’m trying to figure out where all the money’s going,” Ben continues. “I have an engineer to pay, a mastering guy…ads in magazines…”
So with one eye on the future and the other perhaps on a cute Midwestern bartender, Ben Nichols steers his Southern, indie/roots/rock band in the direction of his life-long ambition. “I’ve always wanted to be in a touring band,” Ben explains. “The original idea was that we were gonna play soft, cheesy country songs at punk rock shows. That was the only goal we had when we started. We just reached a point where people were actually coming to see us play.”
Seven years, five records and three labels later, Lucero is following up 2004’s critically acclaimed That Much Further West (Tiger Style Records) with their self-released Nobody’s Darlings. No tricks here, no alt-slant – just unembellished, unobstructed rock & roll. Nichols’ voice is as vulnerable and beautifully defeated as ever as he reflects on the adversity and bittersweet rewards of the road. You can almost feel the lights coming back on in the bar at the end of the night as your drunk and tired eyes find the door and the girl you were hoping to talk to leaving with some lanky stranger. The empty feeling of never standing a chance is perfectly framed in the title track as Ben sings, “We ain’t nobody’s darlings / so I’ll settle for watching her dance.”
“I have definitely felt that people aren’t doing us any favors most of the time,” Nichols laments. “Right now my goal is basically to view this as a small business. When you approach it that way, you don’t have to have a hit on the radio. I figure after seven years, we’re going to try and pull this off for as long as we can.”
Hard to argue. Nobody’s Darlings finds Lucero in the twilight of its youth. They have made a couple good records by now – establishing a dedicated following through their visceral live shows – and have tasted success to the extent that they are poised and committed to carrying on.
“I’m sure there’s a whole new batch of problems waiting around the corner,” Nichols confirms. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. You know, my guitar took a hard hit in Boston one night and later died in Austin, Texas. It happens, you know. And it’s not me just dropping it, but actually smashing it on the ground and then dousing it in beer – you know, putting it over the edge.”
Nine times out of ten, it’s all about that edge. Gotta protect and nurture the car that gets you to the dance…so long as you don’t mind waking up in the back seat to the sweet smell of Jack Daniels and Marlboro Reds.
Lucero :: with Get Up Kids and Straylight Run :: at Metro on June 9 :: and at House of Blues on June 10.