Nick Luca Fights For His Life And Wins

Simon McCormack
3 min read
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As he and his band, Luca, traveled the country, Nick Luca found himself with a case of the touring blues. Unfortunately, things were about to get much worse.

“Toward the middle and end of the tour, I could feel my heart beating fast and I was getting really thirsty. But I just thought, you know, you’re on tour, you’re tired, you don’t sleep much and you’re just driving to the next gig,” Luca says. “But once I got home I could barely play. I was falling over the keyboards.”

A musician who’s worked with John Doe, Neko Case, Calexico and DeVotchKa, Luca thought he just needed to sleep it off. His condition worsened and he was finally taken to a hospital.

“By that point I had lost 15 to 20 pounds, and I’m a pretty small guy. I was shaking, my eyesight was going in and out, and I couldn’t breath. If you would have seen me, you’d think, ‘that guy’s in trouble.’ It was the worst thing I’ve ever been through."

Doctors diagnosed Luca with Type 1 diabetes, which can be fatal if left untreated. Now he gives himself insulin shots four times a day and keeps a close watch on his blood sugar levels. For Luca, that’s a small price to pay for what he views as a new lease on life.

“I feel like the rest of my life is a bonus since I probably should have been dead,” Luca says. “If we get to play some shows and have some fun then I’m psyched, because I really didn’t know if that was going to happen again.”

With his life’s most harrowing experience behind him, Luca’s ready to rock ’n’ roll. The band’s new album
Fractions brings Luca full circle, from the frontman’s days in a jazzy, low-key trio to his band’s fully formed, indie pop-rock sound (like an artsy, more experimental Foo Fighters). Luca says his band has finally found its sound after its 2006 release, Sick of Love, gave the group a firm shove in the alt.rock direction.

“I think we kind of figured out how to do rock songs the way we want to do them,” Luca says. “
Sick of Love is a transitional record where we’re still finding our way. On Fractions we figured it out and now we’ve got it.”

Much of the transformation’s credit goes to
Fractions’ producer Sean Slade, whose résumé includes work with Radiohead, the Pixies and Hole, among others. Slade kept the band focused on maintaining the album’s rock edge while keeping the hooks catchy.

As for Luca live, concertgoers might be surprised by the band’s guitar-driven bite.

“We rock pretty hard,” Luca says. “I think some people don’t expect that, but they seem to like it. I think we’ll always have catchy hooks and we’ll continue to be pretty straightforward, like The Velvet Underground if Lou Reed wasn’t so out there.”

Luca plays the Atomic Cantina on Saturday, Oct. 13, with locals Volume Volume, Vertigo Venus and Diverje. The show is 21+ and free.

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