Local treasure Luca wins again

By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 8, 2005

Most musicians are stuck in a local music scene that is often cutthroat and vicious. New York, Los Angeles and Boston are examples of great music scenes that are marred by frequently flaring tempers and rocky relationships between bands and musicians.

Local musician Nick Luca knows it all too well and is just thankful to be part of the Tucson scene, where bands are far more likely to share members and record together than get into a fistfight.

"You know, I meet a lot of people from other places and they're really impressed by the Tucson scene," Luca said. "It's great the way bands that are competitive bands are not really competitive with each other but just all friends. I used to live in the Boston area, and it was a lot more competition back there and sort of snarling back and forth and that's not cool."

It's modest to call Nick and his band Luca (formerly The Nick Luca Trio) just a part of the Tucson scene. Nick works as a producer, engineer and on-call musician at Tucson's famed Wavelab Studios, while Luca is one of Tucson's top local draws. Nick's roots are deep in the Tucson scene, and when national acts like Neko Case and Iron and Wine pass through, he is often on the scene.

"The studio's really been kind of a way to get out there and meet a lot of people who come through and play on a lot of different recordings," Luca said. "It's a great opportunity to meet people and see how other people work, how they write their songs and work in the studio. I've learned a lot of stuff from that."

Surely, those intimate dealings with greatness have rubbed off on Nick. Luca's latest album, You Win Again, is a fantastic slice of bitter ballads and slightly less bitter midtempo melancholia that is informed by both classic rock and modern indie music.

The new record, as the title suggests, is a loosely themed, bitter diatribe against a jilting lover. As the band began laying tracks, Nick was surprised by the overwhelming amount of material coming out.

"Recording it (You Win Again) was more of a process of just recording a ton of tunes, like 30 songs, and just picking some of our favorite ones and putting it together," Nick said.

Surprising as the output was, Nick never strayed far from the album's premise of tracking a bad breakup. He found writing about such painfully personal things to be easy, if only for hitting close to home.

"It starts out and the guy thinks he's going to win, and it goes up and down, up and down, and in the end she wins," Luca said. "It's certainly based in personal experience. I mean it's not 100 percent autobiographical or anything, but you write what you know."

When it comes to touring, the members of Luca, again, are no slouches. The band toured much of the summer (with Nick doing several solo shows) to promote You Win Again, which culminated in a belated record release party at Club Congress on Aug. 19.

"We were out on the road so much that we didn't really get a chance to get our Tucson thing going until August," Luca said. "That was a great show that turned out to be really fun."

Now that the band is settled in town, they plan on playing some September shows here before jetting off in October for a mini West Coast tour. This, of course, doesn't mean that Luca will slow down on the recording end of things.

Having the distinct advantage of working in a recording studio has gotten Nick excited about already laying down some material for an early 2006 release. Despite all the excess material left over from You Win Again sessions, Nick has plans to work on brand-new songs. And he certainly isn't at a loss for words when it comes to describing the desired sound this time around.

"I think it's going to be all brand-new stuff that we haven't recorded yet," Luca said. "A whole new kind of concept. A little more rocking overall, more upbeat - not that the themes will necessarily be any happier. The music will be a little heavier; a little more rocking; a little more shitkicker; call it Tucsonesque, country-rock, and some more indie rocky kind of stuff. Less spacey, but more song based."

To see the old and the new, check out Luca tonight at 9 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St.; Sept. 24, 8 p.m. at Bison Witches, 326 N. Fourth Ave.; or Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. at Monkey Box, 100 N. Stone Ave. All shows are free and all ages, except Plush, which is 21+.