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Dad's 45s inspired Lucero musician

Discovering his band had audience came as pleasant surprise

Lucero, which formed in Memphis, plays Salt Lake City Monday.
Lucero, which formed in Memphis, plays Salt Lake City Monday.

Ben Nichols remembers listening to his father's 45s. "He didn't have a lot, but he had the important ones."

Nichols said those included "Rock Around the Clock," a lot of Buddy Holly, The Coasters "and all that good stuff."

The guitarist/vocalist for the band Lucero, speaking from his home in Tennessee, said he was young when he heard those recordings but he could still appreciate the music. "But what made me really want to make music was Tom Waits. His song 'Blind Love' really got me thinking about playing music. Once I heard it, I saw music in a whole different way."

When Lucero formed in Memphis back in the mid-1990s, the band — with Nichols, drummer Roy Berry, bassist John C. Stubblefield and guitarist Brian Venable — didn't have a lot of direction. "It took a couple of years for us to get serious about the band. I think not having goals back then was a blessing for us, because we didn't have any expectations for ourselves. And when things started happening, it was a pleasant surprise."

In 1998, Nichols bought a van and took the band on tour. "It was scary at first, but we were out on the road like a real band. And then when we started playing to audiences of 20 to 50 people, we realized that we were a real touring band."

These days the audience has grown exponentially. "We have found some niche cities that we love to play again and again, but we are also seeking out new cities."

Late last year, the band released the album "Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers," which features the trademark Lucero blend of punk, country and rock. "That was the first album we recorded out of state. We went to Richmond, Va., and spent two weeks living at the Sound of Music Studios. David Lowery from Camper van Beethoven and Cracker owns the studio, and helped us with the album.

"Upstairs is a big room with bunk beds, and downstairs was the studio. It was very secluded — sort of like summer camp. At least it was like what I thought summer camp would be like. No, wait. It was like a musical summer camp."

Half of the songs on the album were completely written before the band entered the studio and half were written in the studio, said Nichols. "It's funny because some of the best songs were written within that two-week seclusion. But some of the worst songs on the album were also written during that time."

Nichols said there is no other job he'd rather do. "Being a band is the ultimate goal these days. Whether it's playing live or recording albums, we chose this life and we want to do the best we can."

If you go

What: Intepol, Lucero, Bobby Bare Jr., Whiskey & Co.

Where: In the Venue, 219 S. 400 West

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

How much: $13

Phone: 467-8499, 800-888-8499