Lucero’s Ben Nichols writes the type of songs that have the quality of being specific and personal, but also open to individual interpretations. A tune like “Can’t You Hear Them Howl” from the Memphis band’s 2015 album All a Man Should Do references the frantic energy of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” with its arrangement, but paints a picture of paranoia that could be dealing with the specter of addiction as much as the unsavory characters terrorizing a town.
The same can be said of Lucero’s ambitious new video trilogy, which is available in its entirety below. What began with the December release of the “Baby Don’t You Want Me” video is now extended through the videos for “Can’t You Hear Them Howl” and “The Man I Was,” all directed by husband-wife team Adam and Sarah Heathcott (who operate as Endless Endless). What emerges is cinematic and mysterious, the kind of thing that requires examination and multiple viewings to be able to form a coherent theory.
“It’s kind of true with almost every song — at least every Lucero song — the lyrics can be taken different ways and to each individual person the lyrics could mean something different,” agrees Nichols. “Just from talking to folks at shows, I know that 10 different people can have 10 different ideas of what a song’s about.”
Initially, the “Baby Don’t You Want Me” video starts out as a pretty standard document of life on the road for Lucero: the guys are hanging out, soundchecking and finally playing the show. But there are some intriguing visuals sprinkled throughout, like the red ribbon and apples. Eventually, Nichols becomes part of a more fictionalized narrative that leads into Parts Two and Three.
“Can’t You Hear Them Howl” departs with the band’s day-to-day reality entirely, jumping to the snow-covered wilderness in Colorado. A lone woman is tracking something through the snow, using the red ribbon from the “Baby Don’t You Want Me” video to mark her path. Eventually the red apples make an appearance as well, turning up in a climactic moment. Even here, a sliver of reality pokes through: the tattoos on this hunter match those of Lucero’s merchandise sales person from the “Baby Don’t You Want Me” video.
“It was actually my merchandise girl Mary who went up to Colorado with them and was in the ‘Howl’ video,” says Nichols. “Now, whether in this fictional world of the videos, whether it’s supposed to be the same person or not, I don’t know. I don’t know how Adam and Sarah would weigh in on that. I think it’s really cool that it is the same person cutting the ribbon in both videos. What our merchandise girl is doing in the snowy Rocky Mountains in the middle of winter, I don’t know.”
The video for “The Man I Was” goes even further out, focusing on a lone man who starts the video face down in the snow. Tied to his hand is a note that says “Sorry” on one side and “Run” on the other, which turns out to be the same slip of paper Nichols receives from an audience member in the “Baby Don’t You Want Me” video. In this case, the character clearly seems to be running from something and still ends up back where he started — a nice counterargument to the song’s message of change.
“I have a feeling that cyclical pattern that is pretty obvious in ‘The Man I Was’ was definitely intentional on Adam and Sarah’s parts,” says Nichols. “And yeah I think they picked that up from the lyrics in the song. Which I think lyrically the person speaking is probably hoping to break out of that pattern and is hoping to move forward and not keep repeating the same mistakes or the same life that he’s lived in the past.”
In both videos, there’s something lurking just out of frame, adding a feeling of creeping unease and matching the tone of both selections.
“Both songs sonically have a darker element to them,” agrees Nichols. “They’re not light songs and so I think having that element in the video is appropriate.”
As to what it all means, Nichols is a little more uncertain. One possible explanation, he says, is that Parts Two and Three could reflect an inner struggle of isolation for him.
“I think that kind of change and that kind of shift in environment, it could signify a number of different things,” he admits.
The scope of this project now has Nichols, who’ll return to the road with Lucero this weekend in Florida, thinking about doing something even more ambitious. Nichols’ younger brother Jeff is the respected filmmaker behind Mud and Take Shelter and the two are talking about the possibility of collaborating when there are new Lucero songs recorded.
“I may actually try to at least start thinking about a visual element as I’m writing each song and as each song comes together and maybe try to do something more ambitious, where there’s another series of videos or a longer video with a more in-depth story, almost like a short film,” says Nichols. “There’s a number of options. With Jeff and his cinematographer, we could maybe step it up a notch. I’m really proud of this video series and it’s got me excited to go even further in this direction.”