Lucero singer, brother col­lab­o­rate on short film for ‘Among the Ghosts’

Boston Herald - - THE EDGE - Jed GOT­TLIEB —­tlieb@boston­her­

Broth­ers Ben and Jeff Ni­chols spent the early 2000s learn­ing how to make great art. Singer/song­writer Ben started Lucero, a band that re­mains equally com­fort­able with joy­ous Mem­phis soul and in­tro­spec­tive, in­tense South­ern Gothic rock ’n’ roll. Film stu­dent Jeff honed his craft at Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina School of the Arts, ahead of writ­ing and di­rect­ing such indie hits as “Mud” and “Mid­night Spe­cial.”

Back then, when the two had the time, the Ni­chols would col­lab­o­rate.

“Each year in school he had to make a short film and just for fun I would drive out to North Carolina and act in it or score it or help in some way,” Ben said.

Even­tu­ally, their ca­reers took off.

Lucero be­came par­tic­u­larly busy record­ing a dozen al­bums and per­form­ing hun­dreds of shows — Ben and his band keep their life on the road go­ing with a show at the Par­adise tonight. But with the new al­bum, “Among the Ghosts,” Ben wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. He sent the LP to Jeff and asked him if any of the songs spoke to him as the topic of a short film.

“I did men­tion that the song ‘Long Way Back Home’ was in­spired by his kind of sto­ry­telling, his kind of film­mak­ing,” Ben said. “So that might have put the seed in his brain. He also told me af­ter lis­ten­ing to ‘Among the Ghosts’ that ‘Long Way Back Home’ was the most lin­ear story, so he nat­u­rally grad­u­ated to it.”

The results of the broth­ers’ new col­lab­o­ra­tion lands squarely be­tween mu­sic video and short film. Star­ring the al­ways in­tense Michael Shan­non (best known as boot­leg­ger Ge­orge Mueller in “Boardwalk Em­pire”), “Long Way Back Home” tells the story of three broth­ers whose greed pulls them to­ward a vi­o­lent end as the Lucero song cuts in and out. It works as both as a stand­alone piece of art and a teaser for an al­bum full of sto­ries of fam­ily ten­sion, love sep­a­rated by dis­tance and soldiers adrift in the world.

“With this record, I was try­ing to fo­cus more on the craft of song­writ­ing,” Ben said. “In the past, Lucero’s lyrics have been mainly au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, maybe to a fault. Writ­ing a song from a char­ac­ter’s point of view or about a sit­u­a­tion I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced per­son­ally, these are ex­er­cises I haven’t done much in the past. It was time to branch out and write songs that felt more like short sto­ries.

“It was time to write stuff out­side of com­plain­ing about women or whiskey or typ­i­cal Lucero stuff,” he added.

Re­cent records have fea­tured the band with lots of Stax-style horns and pi­ano re­call­ing the Sun Stu­dio sound. This time out, the band changed their ap­proach to match the new ma­te­rial.

“We’d done three records with a pro­ducer named Ted Hutt (who has worked with the Mighty Mighty Bos­stones and Street Dogs), and those records are great. They helped us ex­plore our Mem­phis roots and we had a lot of fun do­ing that,” Ben said. “But with this record, we wanted to sim­plify ev­ery­thing. We did it as a five piece, we did it live on the stu­dio floor, and we kind of let the songs flow.”

Ben wants to con­tinue his song­writ­ing ex­per­i­ments. He hopes his brother can help out again down the road.

“If I could make video with him for ev­ery song, I’d love that,” Ben said. Then he laughed. “That is, if I had the time and the money.” Lucero, with Brent Cowles, at the Par­adise, tonight. Tick­ets: $27.50, tick­et­mas­

NEW DI­REC­TION: Lucero, whose new al­bum is ‘Among the Ghosts,’ will per­form tonight at the Par­adise.

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