Watching a performance of Tyler band Lucas For Sheriff is like hanging out with a group of best friends as they tell stories from their souls. They want to make a personal connection to audience members, members said. Many of their songs come in the form of a musical story, which may end sadly, and tunes that have a more personal vibe.
"These are my best friends," said vocalist, rhythm guitar player and frontman Lucas Kelm. "These are the people I hang out with. I don't hang out with a whole lot of other people, and I think the camaraderie (makes our shows) almost become a gathering of friends."
The current four-member lineup has been playing together for two-and-a-half years, but the band was founded eight years ago by one man, his guitar and a bumper sticker.
Kelm, 31, of Tyler, said a man named Lucas was running for sheriff in Washington state and a friend sent him a stack of campaign stickers. He put one on his guitar and the name stuck.
Kelm has been the staple member of the band since it hit the scene playing folk music eight years ago, and while other members have come and gone, he has remained.
"There was a span where I didn't have people to play with and I did solo shows," he said.
While performing as a solo act, Kelm started playing with longtime friends for fun. Each member had been in other bands before and decided to give the configuration a go. The group couldn't be happier, and Kelm said the music they are producing is at its peak.
"Even before I was in this band, I was a fan of the band," said 27-year-old bassist Robert Woodard. "I would go and see Lucas For Sheriff play. There's just something about it that's different and has a special vibe that really draws you."
Marc Beevers, 23, plays lead guitar and sings, and Cory Burk, 24, keeps the beat on the drums.
The talents and interests of the members changed the sound from folk to Americana, a genre that mixes traditional music genres in American culture including folk, rhythm and blues, blues, rock and roll and country.
"I equate it to ‘roots rock and roll' — its got a good home cooking vibe to it," Woodard said.
The sound is continually evolving as members added in electric instruments, and play around with different methods of song writing.
"I've been playing electric the last year or so — getting a little bit louder …" Kelm said. "Marc is such a good guitar player so I try to match him — trying to get more energy and be louder."
Most of the band's original music list was written by Kelm years ago, but nowadays both he and Beevers are the primary songwriters.
Kelm said his songs are generally stories that are not based on personal life experiences, while writing the tunes begins with the lyrics, with the melody following.
One of the songs he is most proud of is "The Grapes of Wrath," which presents a unique take on the book's protagonist, but from his family's perspective. Kelm also co-wrote two songs with Woodard's wife by adapting her poems and adding music.
The pair transformed her poem "A Man with No Name," into a song, which is about a traveling man who falls in love instantly with a woman met in a bar.
Beever said his songs generally start with him pacing in circles and thinking until the lyrics make sense and follow a progression. Then, the music comes into place, following the same progression of thought and rhythm.
Beever said his songs usually have a bit of a personal touch, but he often likes to form hypothetical scenarios and solutions.
Band members said they were excited about the sound and direction Lucas For Sheriff is headed in. They said musically, they are at their peak and are having fun coming up with new ways to write songs.
"I don't know what kind of person I would be (without music)," Kelm said. "It's in my lifeblood."