Band To Watch

Band To Watch: Lomelda

For as long as she can remember, Hannah Read has been using music to find common ground. She picked up the guitar at an early age to be more like her brother and sister, who both played, and she had her dad teach her the chords. One of the first songs she learned was Don McLean’s classic “American Pie,” and she’s been playing music pretty much ever since. The name Lomelda dates back to high school, and the project has taken on different iterations over the years. In its current form, Read serves as the magnetic center for muscular and vulnerable folk songs. In 2015, she released Forever, an emotionally intense slowburn that garnered her a fair amount of fans, among them the members of Pinegrove, who took her on tour earlier this year and who she’s opening for this fall, shortly after the release of her forthcoming new album, Thx.

“Music connects me with people who I wouldn’t have an easy way to talk to otherwise,” Read tells me from Phoenix, AZ, where she’s taking a pit stop on her way to visit California for the first time. It’s a long drive from her hometown of Silsbee — the small Texas town where she grew up and currently resides with her family — but Read likes the open road. You sort of have to when you’re from a place where long drives are usually the only way to get around, especially if you’re interested in pursuing music as passionately as Read is. There were a few other bands around growing up — “Everybody needs some rock ‘n’ roll in their lives, even small town Texas folks,” she jokes — but the four-hour trek to Austin has become a regular facet in Read’s life, especially after Lomelda started in earnest while she was in Waco for school a couple years ago and before she moved back home.

It makes sense, then, that the music Read makes as Lomelda is a perfect fit for the open road. The first single from her new album, “Interstate Vision” (which you can listen to above), turns the act of driving into a spiritual event. “Headlights scare me into visions/ I saw an angel fly on bright white wings guiding me home,” Read sings dryly, treating the beautiful mundanity of the highway the same as she would a spectacular and otherworldly apparition. It’s not really the road itself that Read loves, though, but what it represents: the idea of going somewhere, coming from somewhere, heading towards something. Her music is grounded by a constant search for home, the sort of stasis that comes only after a long journey. Lomelda’s music is about connection, and roads are the tissue that holds us together, the topography that links not just locations but people.

“Writing about those things… It makes sense that it comes from the fact that I grew up in a fairly isolated place,” Read says. “Growing up, I’ve always found that I connect to elsewhere. Everybody goes through that when they grow up and meet new people and want to connect with them. They have this moment where they’re like, Oh, you didn’t experience my childhood. You don’t know what that was like. There’s an automatic distance no matter what. That’s unavoidable, right? I’m always me, you’re always you. There’s a distance no matter how open and close you can get with someone. But that’s what’s worth everything, right? You try to rage against being far away from people. Try to get close. That’s the goal.”

Lomelda’s upcoming album, Thx, was written during a period of a couple months when Read felt like she was mostly living out of her car. Appropriately, all the songs deal with distance — even the song titles themselves (“From Here,” “Out There,” “Far Out”) are markers of place and time. Most of them are about heartbreak, the way that space can divide people physically and emotionally. They’re about the moment a geographic separation becomes too difficult to maintain. “Not like I want to keep you out or keep it in, just keep it up/ Isn’t that hard enough?” she sings on one track, frustrated at how intimacy can dissipate between state lines. There’s an intense vulnerability on display throughout Thx, one that Read doesn’t feel like she has enough perspective on yet to articulate: “To write a story, you have to be a god figure, right? Kind of out of it, above it all to make sense of it. But I’m pretty deep in it still. It’s a little embarrassing for me because it’s so personal.”

Thx thrives on immediacy, placing Read’s towering voice and open-hearted lyrics front-and-center. It gives you the impression that you’re almost in the room with her, a conscious choice made when she recorded the album last year with drummer Zach Daniel and her brother, Tommy Read, who co-produced Thx alongside her. It’s pared down from her debut’s widescreen arrangements, more bare-bones and minimal. “We wanted it to sound like you’re hearing drums and you’re hearing the vocal and everything else is decorative and doesn’t even really need to be there. That’s where I felt like the power came from,” she says. “Just producing it to be as close and as clear as possible so that there’s no hiding anything.”

Read is singing these songs in a grandiose fashion, but it sounds small and intimate and accessible. The project is rooted in folk music in a way that feels timeless, but Lomelda is very much engaged with the present. Even the name of her new album, Thx, is anachronistic with how the music itself sounds. That’s intentional: “In songwriting, it’s very easy to switch out of conversational vocabulary and into something that’s a little more disconnected from real life,” she says. “But titling it Thx makes sense to me… That’s what I really want to say if I boil it down, and that’s how I would say it if I was telling my buddy, which is kind of the goal.” Read finds common ground with people through a sense of friendship and camaraderie, something that comes across clearly in her music. Lomelda is meant to bridge the gap between a small town and the rest of the world, forging connections based on our collective shared experiences of love, loss, and distance.

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Tracklist:
01 “Interstate Vision”
02 “Bam Sha Klam”
03 “From Here”
04 “Thx”
05 “Out There”
06 “Far Out”
07 “Nvr”
08 “Nervous Driver”
09 “Mostly M.E.”
10 “Only World”

Thx is out 9/8 via Double Double Whammy. Pre-order it here. Check out Lomelda’s forthcoming tour dates with Pinegrove and Florist here.

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