Tuesday, June 21, 2011
10 Questions: Brian Venable of Lucero
1) Lucero's been around almost 13 years now, what would you say is the key element to your survival as a band?
B.V.:Not Breaking up. Not Quitting. I don't know if it's every band or just us but pretty much,we don't have anything else to do. We love playing music but it's not like I put my law degree aside to play music . I'm going to wash dishes or I'm going to play rock'n'roll and I love playing Rock'n'roll and I hate doing dishes. This is what we do. I think we've done it so long, we don't know how to do anything else.
2) Lucero is known as one of the hardest touring bands on the road today, is there a secret to spending all that time on the road with out killing each other.
B.V.:You have your out bursts. It's like a family, there's always going to be "that person is driving me nuts right now." But underneath it all you love each other or you wouldn't spend so long with that group of people. You are 4, 6, 12 people crammed in to a box 9 to 10 weeks at a time. Basically, you can't get rid of your family and you can't get rid of your band. It's that kind of attitude where "we're going to do this forever and to think that your going to be together forever and not fight . . . you know what I mean. Understanding and a lot of ignoring.
3) How was it opening for Social Distortion?
B.V.:It's a Blast! We did 6 weeks with them before Christmas. So this is like a family reunion. Like schools back in. Sometimes it's tough just doing 40 minutes a night, but getting to hang out with Mike(Ness) and the boys is like a touring summer camp, with Chuck Ragan especially.
Also, as a punk rock kid growing up listening to social distortion, I'm still pinching myself. If you would have told me when I was 16 and skateboarding, that 20,30 years later I'd be playing with them I would have said you were crazy.
4) Of all the bands that you've played with, what has been the band that you like the most opening for and which band did you like opening for you?
B.V.:Each experience is different, you can't really rate them. We kind of made a pact that we wouldn't open up for, or take anyone to open up with us that we didn't like. We've never had any real surprises, never opened up for anybody that were complete dicks about it. We Looked into it. Opening bands are all different and fun. We've taken out all kinds of Memphis bands, like the (North Mississippi) Allstars did for us, so you're hanging out with your friends. We've gone out with Drag the River and bands like that, pretty much family. That's a blast too, but it's all different experiences. We've turned down, not substantial but bigger bands because we've heard they're crazy and because we rather take out this other band. It's a determent career/business wise but if you're going to spend 6 weeks with someone we'd rather take out our friends than the flavor of the week. So sometimes we'll take the hit.
5) I read an interview in which you mentioned that the two albums whose songs most excited you were Tennessee and the latest 1372 Overton Park. Both of these albums have uniquely different flavors so what is it that excites you so much about their songs?
B.V.: At each of those places it was a leap of some sort. If you look back now, Tennessee doesn't sound that crazy because it's 10 years old. We were moving from twangy alt-country to a new sound. Tennessee was our indi-rock album. You get so excited about something that's so different. When Tennessee came out nobody liked it. Now out of the whole catalog Tennessee is everybody's favorite. Ben was going through some crazy girlfriend drama and it was showing. The songs were about that. It was like catching fish and eating them fresh. You were getting the fucking heartbreak right there. "Sweet Little Thing" has 20 guitar tracks on it. We were trying stuff just to see.
The same is with 1372. We had made so many records just to make records, but with the addition of the horns and a new producer that was actually pushing us. Once again it was something different. We were trying things that weren't traditional. With the horns you're pushing it and you don't know how the kids are going to take it because some people don't know soul music. It came out so amazing though, that you get so excited you don't care. You think obviously people are going to love this record because I love it so much. Which isn't always true, but it gets you to a point of saying "I don't care, we love this record."
Those were both situations(Tennessee & 1372) where we were trying something new and it worked successfully. Sometimes your excited about something it translates to tape and that would be those situations. Not that every record we don't love, but some of them you have these song so you make a record versus those where you're taking a step into something you don't know, a leap of faith. Hopefully they're (the fans)going to like it and we're going to like it too.
6) Speaking of the latest album, there was a decisive move toward Memphis Soul with the addition of horns. Was there anything that you did to your guitar parts to adapt to the new sound?
B.V.:Not really. With that many people I actually work less. So I have to make my parts count more. That's something that Ted Hudson who produced us, worked on. He just ground me. He told me "you have to do this" and I'd fight him. It was definitely drinking in anger. In the end though, with the petal steel taking up this register, the piano here, and the horns, it slowly shrinks my workspace down. Some songs I might just pluck a note or two, but it fits. Other songs I do a blazing-ass solo and you pad my way around it. When they take away stuff, what you play means more. That was a good lesson to learn. I really didn't change my guitar parts, not that I don't pay attention to it, but you have to pay more attention to things because you got a lot of shit going on. Everyone has got to stay out of everybody's way and they got to make it count.
7) I read that your father was a Beale Street musician. Do you find there is a legacy of musicianship that runs through your family and do you ever use him as a resource?
B.V.: Oh yeah. He's a great guitar player. My dad still plays on Beale Street. We're shoe repairmen. He's a shoe repairman and owns a shop; I grew up fixing them here and there. I was raised to be a shoe repairman to some degree. He loves the fact that I'm playing music. He's been trying to push me since I was a child. Then it was something I didn't want to do. Then when I decided to do it he got real excited. The Attic Tapes were recorded in his attic. For years I'd wouldn't know how to do something or go to him when my guitar would break. He'd always be my dad about it. Loaning me stuff and not really expecting it back.
He's the guy I can go and talk to about anything when there's no one else. I can talk to him about business or personal stuff and he'll tell me the truth because he's living vicariously. My son's two and a half now and he's bought him a full sized guitar he can't even play yet. He doesn't care if he's a doctor or a lawyer, but he knows he's going to play music. For me not wanting to do it for so long and him wanting me to do it. He gets excited.
He's definitely a resource. I'll go over and we'll pick a little bit together, but we've never actually played out together. We'll just hang out and go to the music room and he'll show me something or I'll do something. I'm actually learning enough now that I can swap with him. He'll ask me where I learned something or how I did it while when I was young I didn't know anything
8) In your arsenal of instruments do you have any special Guitars?
B.V.: I have a Flying V that I played for a while but that I need to work on. I have a friend Travis Perkins that builds guitars. I got hammered drunk one night and and don't remember the conversation we had about this perfect guitar. He went home and started building it. A year later he shows up and it's a Flying V, Burstbuckers, my name on it, and a leather pickgaurd. He built everything from scratch. I play that a lot. I don't like to take it out because it's one of a kind, but then he gets mad. He says I need to tear it up and play it. But if it breaks or is stolen it's not like I can go to Guitar Center. It's gone.
9) Your home base is Memphis so take a second and play tour guide. Where is the best place to:
Get a Tattoo?
B.V.: Underground Art -It's won all the awards and we know Angela who owns it. It's like BBQ sometimes. If you say you like just one, you get in trouble. But I know Angela so I always vote for Underground Art.
Play a show?
B.V.: The Hi-tone Cafe
Buy a record?
B.V.: Goner Records - Is the best used record store with new stuff in it. It mostly caters to us(Vinyl lovers).
10)Name 5 bands you love but who few people have heard of?
Hearts of Palm
William Elliot Whitmore