The film itself is a portrait of a band in strenuous straits, zigzagging endlessly around the country, stationing themselves in dives and bars to play to crowds of uncertain sizes. Hundreds of bands go through the cycle of constant touring, but what made Luceroâ€™s situation especially unfortunate was how they had always been a band that deserved to crack open its niche.
Luceroâ€™s organic mixture of skilled Punk and Tennessee-bred Southern Rock could mesh equally well with the tastes of old-school Country fans out for something classic and Rock radio listeners in the market for something rootsy. The problem is getting the attention of those people. Once theyâ€™ve heard the band, thereâ€™s no way their charm couldnâ€™t reel in some new enthusiasts.
In 2009, Lucero is still alive and thriving but, no, theyâ€™re not quite where they should be. Are the kinds of troubles that they went through during the filming of the doc still applicable?
â€śOh yeah,â€ť says vocalist Ben Nichols, â€śvery much so.â€ť
The group is still owed money from one of their previous labels and still run themselves ragged on the road. However, last fall, the group signed a multi-album deal with Universal
â€śWe did two batches of demos, 18 demo songsâ€ť Nichols says, sounding exhausted just discussing the workload. â€śWe took them apart and weâ€™re putting them together again. Weâ€™ve got two weeks to record this thing. Weâ€™re doing 12-hour days. We started the day we got back from South by Southwest (around March 21) and we go right up until the day we leave for tour (about April 12). Weâ€™re hustling.â€ť
On previous full-lengths, Luceroâ€™s rambling anthems cut melodic swaths of Americana that evoked the raw pride of The Replacements, the thoughtful positivity of Bruce Springsteen and the winsome forlornness of Hank Williamsâ€™ heartsick ballads. For this new one, the bandâ€™s been listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Rolling Stonesâ€™ Exile on Main Street and is hoping to do something a little different.
â€śIt sounds funny but weâ€™re making a Soul record this time, within our framework,â€ť Nichols asserts.
With the incorporation of back-up singers and a horn section, this next disc will have the Rock & Roll ambitions of seventh album Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers, but, says Nichols, â€śitâ€™s going to be 10 times better than that. Weâ€™re definitely putting more into this record than we have any record in the past. Itâ€™s been a couple of years since we put out Rebels and weâ€™ve taken on all the lessons and mistakes from that record.â€ť
Itâ€™s rare to find a musician speaking so transparently about his or her older work, but Nichols is upfront about what the last LP lacked.
â€śWhat I needed was an editor,â€ť he says.
That outside voice came in the form of producer/ex- Flogging Molly member Ted Hutt, who is working with Lucero at the famed Ardent Studios in their hometown of Memphis.
â€śHeâ€™s been great in letting me know what needs more work,â€ť Nichols says. â€śJust giving me his opinion on the songs has been really helpful.â€ť
With 15 songs set so far, the band is unsure how many will make it to the as-yet-untitled album. What makes this release special are the possibilities that come with Universalâ€™s commercial reach.
â€śWith them, you could get this record into Target and Wal-Mart, places that actually might make a difference for us that we havenâ€™t been able to get into before,â€ť Nichols says.
After the album is finished, Lucero goes back to Americaâ€™s highways. â€śTo survive, weâ€™ve got to stay busy,â€ť says Nichols.
Recalling the days of Dreaming, he adds, â€śWeâ€™re exactly the same as we were back then. But thatâ€™s just fine. Weâ€™re right where we want to be.â€ť
LUCERO plays the Southgate House Thursday with Titus Andronicus. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.