Go to see Lucero play and you’ll likely find fans from all over the country.
The Memphis bandmates have a dedicated following that will go anywhere to see them. Lucero is heading to Gabe’s in Iowa City to kick up some heat tonight (3/8) at Gabe’s in Iowa City.
“We’ve definitely got folks we see in different places,” bassist John C. Stubblefield said in a recent phone interview. “It’s like, ‘You’re supposed to be in Fayetteville, Ark., what are you doing in New York City?’ It’s always good to see familiar faces in unfamiliar places.”
Where does that connection with the fans come from?
“It’s definitely from coming up from the ultra DIY scene and letting the fans know that they’re really part of it,” Stubblefield said. “We just make the music, you (the fans) are the band, the band of people that holds us together. So many rock bands have that third wall. We don’t. We’ll go out in the crowd afterward, talk to people and maybe have a drink or two.
Most of those fans likely see Lucero as country punk. Others call the veteran outfit a roots rock band. Regardless of those tags, Lucero plays Memphis music.
“Exactly,” Stubblefield said. “The initial joke was, ‘Let’s start a country band to (annoy) the punk rockers.’ But, after we formed, it’s like Sam Phillips said, ‘It’s in the water.’ The blues, the country, the soul, the rockabilly is all mixed up together. You’re born into it so to speak, having so many different influences permeating you. It’s in the sidewalks, in the electric wires, it’s everywhere.
“Memphis music is so many different styles that you can’t put a finger on it. It’s best described by Dewey Phillips. He was a DJ who back in the ’50s said, ‘It’s just good music for good people.’”
Lucero’s 2015 album, “All a Man Should Do,” was recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios. It takes its title from a line in a song by Memphis power pop icons Big Star, and that band’s drummer, Jody Stephens, who joins Lucero, singing background on a cover of that Big Star song “I’m in Love with a Girl.”
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That’s just one of many Memphis music connections for the band. Jim Dickinson, another Memphis legend, produced Lucero’s 2005 album, “Nobody’s Darlings,” and Stubblefield played on Dickinson’s 2002 album, “Free Beer Tomorrow.”
Lucero had horns on its previous two albums, “1372 Overton Park” and “Women & Work,” making a link to the band’s soul music heritage. The next record is in the works at Sam Phillips Recording Service, the studio Phillips built after leaving the studio on Union Avenue.
“That’s really awesome,” Stubblefield said. “He built it in 1960 for $1 million. It’s still an awesome studio. It’s got great reverb chambers. The studio’s kind of like a sixth member of the band. You play differently when you’re playing in those chambers rather than playing and saying, ‘We’ll fix it in the mix.’”
In between recording dates, Lucero is touring, playing more of the shows where the band built its following in some years by working two out of three nights.
“It depends on album cycles, babies being born, this, that and the other,” Stubblefield said. “We’ve done as many as 200 shows in a year. Now we’re kind of working smarter not harder. We’ll be 20 years as a band in April, and we’re really choosing to do things to continue our longevity at this point. Now we’re batting down in the 100s rather than the 200s.”
So, did Stubblefield ever expect Lucero — which also includes Ben Nichols (vocals/guitar), Brian Venable (guitar), Rick Steff (keyboards) and Roy Berry (drums) — to be going strong after two decades?
“We didn’t really think of it in that way,” he said. “You do one album at a time, then one show at time, just kind of focusing on the here and now, but definitely making long term choices and hoping it all works out. It’s a true blessing that it did.
“Dickinson used to talk about the difference between a band and a group,” Stubblefield said. “The original four of us have that kind of chemistry. It’s a band and we’ve stayed together. Some have a frontman and 30 different amalgamations — that’s a group. I’m proud that we’ve stayed a band.”
WHERE: Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 8 p.m. today (3/8)
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TICKETS: $25 general admission, door or Icgabes.com/calendar
BAND’S WEBSITE: Luceromusic.com