“John C. Stubblefield from the Lucero rock band!” declares the bassist, phoning from outside Beale Street’s New Daisy Theatre in the band’s hometown of Memphis. The lineup is at the venue doing production rehearsals in preparation for a three-night stand in New York.
So will the set be different each of the nights? Stubblefield laughs. “We’ll see. That’s where the ‘Seats of Our Pants’ [the clearly apt moniker for this Lucero tour] comes in. We’ve done a couple rehearsals, redoing some of the rock tunes acoustic and digging up some of the old tunes we haven’t played in years, some fan favorites. And we’ll be opening for ourselves, so to speak, totally acoustic,” he explains. “Rick’s [Steff] playing an upright piano for the first set, which’ll be about an hour. Then we’ll switch over to a longer rock show with the horns.”
Are Lucero country, punk, alt, or Southern? In a word, yes. Singer Ben Nichols notes: “We’re each playing in a completely different band. We’re onstage and each playing in our own Lucero. I’m not sure that’s how it works for other bands.” To wit, Stubblefield, as a kid, was an “orchestra nerd” who moved onto hardcore shows at storied venues like 616. “We’re all kids of the ’80s and ’90s, being somewhat isolated without the Mojo Triangle between Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans.” (That phrase was first coined by author James L. Dickerson in his 2005 book, Mojo Triangle: Birthplace of Country, Blues, Jazz, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.)
Despite their regional flair, Lucero even have rabid fans in Japan, where they toured with Flogging Molly. Still, there was a slight communication breakdown. “While we’re playing, people are dancing, and grooving along, shouting, ‘Oi oi oi.’ And the song would stop, and there’d be no applause. They’d stand at full attention, to see what you’re going to say. It’s a respect thing, I guess, but at first we’re like, ‘What did we do wrong!?’ ”
Closer to home, all Lucero members dabble in outside projects, including Overjoid, Cat Power, Hank Williams Jr., and Stubblefield with North Mississippi Allstars and Jim Dickinson. It’s only a boon for the wide-ranging Lucero sound. “Your output is directly influenced by your input,” believes Stubblefield. “Even on our last couple records, it’s been a blessing having a demo studio with Chris Scott [formerly of ’90s heavy-rock phenoms Son of Slam, now proprietor of 777 Studios] and he’s influenced the band a little bit, and all the cross-hybridization of people on the scene are helping out and keeping the Memphis sound alive. ”
Lucero’s own Memphis sound goes over well in New York, where the band has been playing for 14 of their 16 years together. The first gigs were at Hank’s Saloon, the country-fried dive in Brooklyn, so a return to the Big Apple is welcome. “Every time’s a new adventure,” laughs Stubblefield. “We have lots of friends in New York who are Memphis transplants, and new friends we’ve made.” By the time Lucero’s By the Seat of Our Pants hits the stage in NYC, the lineup should be ready for their two-set experiment. “We’ve had this idea for a long time,” concludes Stubblefield. “It was just up to us to figure out how to make it happen. And we finally did.”
Lucero play the Bowery Ballroom November 3, 4, and 5 at 8 p.m.