Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Cahoots: Ben Nichols of Lucero

Saints Don't Bother Presents In Cahoots: Ben Nichols of Lucero

SDB caught up with Lucero's Ben Nichols this week via email. Ben was gracious enough to answer the following questions for (all of) us. Read below:


SDB: First of all, are Brian and Roy alright after their mugging and Roy's broken jaw? What happened and where?

Ben: Random kids running the streets picking fights with or sucker punching random people. Roy got hit and then a half hour later Brian ran into the same kids. It wasn't really a mugging it was simply asshole kids. About seven of them. One would punch a person on the street and the rest would scatter and run. Could've happened anywhere.

SDB: Y'all just played what seems to be your annual trip to SXSW. How were the shows? Were you able to catch anyone that we need to know about that we may not know about now?

Ben: We played five shows in two days and all of them were really good. We had the horns with us and it was a lot of fun. A pain in the ass but a lot of fun.

SDB: What's the 2010 plan for Lucero after these tour dates (including Coachella and Bonnaroo)? Any ideas or details for the next album yet?

Ben: We haven't started writing the next album yet. Haven't really had a chance to catch my breath since 1372 came out. Hopefully I'll have a little time later this summer. Probably not though... I have a feeling we're going to be on tour most of this year.

SDB: Lucero added an unmistakable Springsteen-ian-like sound with the addition of Rick Steff's keys and accordion on 2006's "Rebels, Renegades and Sworn Brothers". Last year, y'all released your 6th and major label debut "1372 Overton Park" to rave reviews and best-of lists everywhere, including my list here. How and why did the addition of the horns come about, and how does it help further Lucero's sound? What's different with a major label versus before?

Ben: All labels are really about the same. None of them want to spend any money. All of them want to own your recordings. Big or small the only difference is how much red tape you have to go through to get the same things accomplished. Touring constantly year in and year out is the only way I know to actually sell a few records. There's no easy route for a band like us. You've gotta put in the work. The horns came about because we are lucky enough to live in a city like Memphis that has a ton of great musicians in it. John C. knew Jim Spake and Jim was kind enough to put some horn parts on a couple of demo songs. We thought it was amazing and the rest of the record got shaped around that Memphis Soul idea.

SDB: How did y'all's home base of Memphis affect the musical interests of you and the rest of the group when y'all were forming back in the day? How did the town react to your sound, especially a town known for its soul, R&B and of course, rock and roll...obviously it affected "1372..." ?

Ben: Like I said there are a lot of talented musicians in Memphis. We always came from a more punk rock, self-taught, it-doesn't-matter-if-you-can't-play-guitar-write-songs-anyways approach. But over the years getting to meet and work with guys like Rick Steff and Jim Spake has really helped shape the band into something bigger. Folks around town seem to be receptive enough. Hell we're not really home enough to know what the hometown thinks.

SDB: Ben, tell us about your first solo album, Last Pale Light in the West. It is not a totally new sound and vibe as far as the album goes, but it feels like a natural progression and a logical progression in sound for a solo record. (Oh, and it's really good was on my best-of 2009 list as well!) Last Pale Light sounds like it could, and should be, the soundtrack to a spaghetti western film. Did you have that in mind when you were recording it, or was that even a thought to you? What does the album sound like to you? A buddy of mine described it to me before I heard it as "just a good ol' drinkin' record"...I replied, "Well, isn't that a Lucero record?"

Ben: It's supposed to have a western feel. It is based on a book Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. The book takes place in Mexico around 1849. So the record is supposed to have an older sound to it.

SDB: Before "1372 Overton Park", it seemed like y'all put out an album every year or every other year or so. How have y'all been so consistent with your music over these years, but have re-invented your "sound" over and over as it keeps getting better and better?

Ben: I think we're learning how to record a better record. The songwriting is what I think makes the band consistent. I think I'm still writing the same kinds of songs that I did when the band started, hopefully writing better, but they are still coming from the same place.

SDB: Tell us about the "$5 Cover" program that took place a couple of summers ago in Memphis with director Craig Brewer (of Hustle & Flow fame). What's the back story, the current story and what's going on with "$5 Cover" moving forward? How can we see the installments of the series, and how can we see the Lucero episode?

Ben: It's all on the internet. It was made for the internet actually. Craig wanted to do a psuedo-reality show about the local Memphis music scene. I think they're working with different directors in different cities now making new episodes.

SDB: Who do we need to know about that is coming out of the Memphis scene now that we should look into, so we can say that Ben Nichols told us so before they were big?

Ben: All the bands we toured with last fall are from Memphis. Cedric Burnside & Lightnin Malcom are great. The Dirty Streets. Everybody on that tour was good.

SDB: Just a couple more questions for you...

SDB: Do you have a favorite song that you've written? If so why and is it the same as your favorite one to play live?

Ben: Nope. I like some better than others but there's not really a favorite.

SDB: Is there a song out there that you love that you didn't write and wish you had?

Ben: A ton of them.

SDB: What are 5 artists/records that you've been digging on lately that you might suggest to our readers? Or a few records from 2009 that we need to know about?

Ben: Glossary, Joey Kneiser's solo record, The American Princes, Cedric & Malcom, Josh Ritter

SDB: Who else/what are some of your biggest influences, and what did you take from them?

Ben: There's a lot of influences too. Tom Waits, Shane MacGowan, Paul Westerberg, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, the same one's as every songwriter.

SDB: My fellow blogger "Davy Vegas" and I have a theory that the single greatest sound on the face of the earth is that of a well-played steel guitar. Being that you are well versed in many genres, and have been playing lately with the great Todd Beene of Glossary, and you are an obvious fan of the "old sound", is this a theory you can support or do you have other thoughts on the subject?

Ben: I don't think I believe in a "single greatest" anything. Todd Beene is pretty awesome though.

SDB: Glossary is now on y'all's label "Liberty and Lament". How did this come along? Their record from last fall Feral Fall is great by the way.

Ben: We had a distribution deal through our manager. That's basically what Liberty & Lament is and that's how we put out some of our old cds. It's a damn shame no record label will give Glossary the kind of deal they deserve so we figured we'd try to at least help get Feral Fire out there a little bit.

SDB: Ok, this is it-- My dream show of all dream shows is Lucero, Glossary and Drive-By Truckers. What's the chance of that ever happening in Knoxville, or nearby at least? I'd like to think that this show was my idea, as Lenore Kinder (who was featured in your Dreaming in America dvd) and I discussed this show lineup as far back as I'd like to take some ownership in the show if it were to ever happen! Please make it so.

Ben: We'll see.


Knoxville is looking forward to the return of Lucero to Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria on Friday night. Tickets are available now or at the door. The show is being presented by WUTK 90.3 The Funhouse.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Out today... Go get it!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

In Cahoots: Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers

In Cahoots with Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers

Last month, on Valentine's Day as a matter fact, the Drive-By Truckers rolled their rock show into Knoxville to the Bijou Theatre. The Truckers are currently touring in promotion and preparation of their upcoming release this week of their tenth studio album, The Big To-Do.

We caught up with Patterson Hood, the long hauler and lead Trucker, to discuss the new album, a summer tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and a few bands that we all need to know about.


Saints Don't Bother: How would you describe the newest album The Big To-Do (your first release on ATO Records) to your older fans that have been listening for a while and to those newer fans that aren't as familiar with the progression and history of the band and album flow? In short- how does TBT-D lineup in comparison to the previous albums and to further the sound and 'agenda' of the Truckers?

Patterson Hood: It's probably a bit more concise and Rocking than some of our later records. Definitely more melodic, a little more attention paid to musical structuring. I think it's a really good sounding record sonically, definitely our best sounding record. I'm very proud of the songs and the way we played them. All of our records have been recorded more or less live in the studio and this one isn't an exception, but the band is really playing great right now.

SDB: Right off the bat, before a note is even heard on DBT albums, y'all have some of the most interesting song/album titles ("The Wig He Made Her Wear", "The Flying Wallendas", The Big To-Do ). Are your titles a conscious part of songwriting and putting the album together, or are they after thoughts that just seem to really compliment the songs/albums nicely?

PH: I often have a title before actually writing the song. I usually think about an idea for a long time before actually writing the song, then actually write the song very quickly. Finding the right title is sometimes the impetus or way into the actual song. In the case of this album, we had
the album's title before most of the songs on it.

SDB: What's your favorite track on The Big To-Do and why?

PH: I'm really proud of them all but "Birthday Boy" is probably my favorite. I always love Cooley's songs and this is one of his very best ever.

SDB: The DBTs are touring with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers this summer (one of my all time faves, and the most under-rated American rock musician). How did this come about? Did it have anything to do with your cover of his song "Rebels" (it's one of my favorites) on last year's rarities and b-sides collection The Fine Print? Why, of all of his songs, did y'all pick that one? How did he respond to y'all wanting to cover it and to the finished product?

PH: I have no idea if that had any direct affect. We're all HUGE Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers fans from way back. They're probably collectively our favorite band on earth so it's a real honor to open for them. We recorded "Rebels" for the TV show King Of The Hill. We were asked to for that specific song because they wanted a more guitar rock version of that song for the show. Tom Petty played a character on that episode (which became a reoccurring role for him) and they told us he had signed off on us performing his song on the show. That was also exciting because we all loved that show.

SDB: Y'all were in Knoxville a couple weeks back on Valentine's Day, and played one of the better shows I've seen from y'all in some time. Is there a different approach to tours with a new album to promote, is there something we don't know or is everything really clicking right now? I would say it must be that y'all are well-rested, but 2009 was one of the busier years of recent past with Booker T's album and tour, your solo album, a dvd, a movie soundtrack that was shot just outside of here in Knoxville, a little bit of regular touring, etc...what else did I miss? What's different than a year ago? Two years ago?

PH: The band is in an especially good place right now. we have our magic lineup and everything is just clicking like it's supposed to be, We all loved The Bijou.

SDB: I see that y'all have several projects and another album this year, so 2010 doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. What can we expect for this year from the DBTs?

PH: We'll be touring extensively behind The Big To-Do and at some point releasing a second album from the sessions called "Go-Go Boots" which is the polar opposite version of what we do. I really like it too, but for different reasons.

SDB: Couple more things- What are 5 bands, acts, groups or singers that you are digging now that we all need to know about?

PH: Spoon, Iron and Wine, Bloodkin, Collin Hering, and Glossary all have exceptional new albums. David Barbe (who has produced our last 7 or so albums) also has a fantastic new album with his band (David Barbe and The Quick Hooks) called "Love It, Don't Choke It To Death" which is coming out this week and I really love.

SDB: What excites you the most about this year professionally and personally?

PH: Personally, my family. We have a 5 year old little girl who is my pride and joy and a 5 month old little boy who is super cool. Professionally it's the band that I'm most excited about. Looking forward to going out and playing this album live a few hundred times.


Again, you can pick up The Big To-Do on Tuesday at your local (preferably, but not mandatory) independent record store. In the meantime, you can listen to The Big To-Do online at the DBT myspace page and download Patterson's favorite song on the record, "Birthday Boy", at the DBT page. Also, tickets are on sale now for the Truckers' summer tour dates with and without Tom Petty here, which include nearby shows in Lexington, Asheville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis and Cincinnati (with Tom Petty).

Other notes:

Here is a list of The Big To-Do listening parties. Go listen to the new album with other fans this week and see what you think...and make some new Trucker friends.

Download the DBT's cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Rebels".

Also, the DBT appeared on Letterman on Friday night. If you missed it, you can see it here:

What do you think about the new album? Let me know! As Patterson says, "See ya at the rock show!"