by Julia Leiby (@littleconscious)
Hannah Read, the astonishing, bright voice behind Silsbee, Texas-based band Lomelda, talked to me on the phone recently as she walked around her hometown. We spoke about her musical beginnings, her upcoming European tour, and the themes of nature and personal connections in her songs. She learned music at a young age from her Dad, who first taught her "American Pie". “I tried to play music in more academic settings in school and didn’t jive with it, so I did an art class instead," she told me. Read plays with friends now, which she says is “the only way” to do it.
Her hometown of Silsbee, TX is “small” and “deeply Republican,” with a graduating high school class of about 150 people. Read “didn’t fit in or have similar views” growing up, and left town for a few years to attend college at Baylor University. After college, she came back home and is living in a house with four generations of her family. “Post-election, it was more important for me to be here, and be a different voice," she said. Describing Silsbee as “sometimes isolating,” she says she is still sorting out how to feel about it, feeling “disconnected from it in so many ways.” Many of her songs, such as "Columbia River," where she repeats, “I find that I wish I was home," center around wanting to have a place to belong and feel rooted, whether finding that sense of belonging in friends or in the environment around her.
Lomelda released their most recent record 4E in April of 2016. The record was recorded live in a recital hall in Waco, Texas where Read attended school. She has a new record that is finished, which she says she "pieced together herself." Laughing, she said, "I self-edit pretty harshly, but I’m happy with the result this time.” Reflecting on 4E, she said she “wanted to memorialize a time in my life – it’s autobiographical, with a grain of salt.” The opening track "Brazos River,” Read explained, is about a river that runs through Waco, where she was living when she recorded 4E. "[The record is about] mundane moments that [feel] like they meant more than I could say," she told me, apologizing for giving me a convoluted answer, but essentially says that the songs center on “finding meaning in friendship and being together, even if it is insignificant.” The songs on 4E are spare, with just Read’s guitar and voice, but her vocals fill in the cracks and gaps and make them full. Her voice is quavering and trembling at times, and full of power.
On New Year’s Day, Lomelda released a one-off single called "With You" which is a companion to an earlier single, "Are Ya With Me?" Read explained that she “gets anxious with the album cycle nonsense, and it helps mentally to put something out there,” and went on to say she has many secret Bandcamps and voice memo demos floating around the Internet for this reason.
Growing up, Hannah listened to Christian radio with her parents, along with her dad’s favorite bands like Pink Floyd and the Beatles. She didn’t get her own computer until college and says she’s an “avid CD collector” whose eventual dream is to own a record store, which she will organize by geography and genre, like “LA post-country” or “El Paso punk rock”. Two days after our interview, she texts me and says to add that she “listened to a heck of a lot of Jay-Z, T.I., and Justin Timberlake in high school.” Some of her favorite local bands include Austin-based outfit Hovvdy; and she praised her friend Andrew Stevens’ drumming, along with a band from Dripping Springs called Cross Record. She noted an Austin show with Hovvdy and New Orleans-based band Pope as her favorite Lomelda show so far, and that she “hadn’t felt that comfortable and supported on stage before.” Finding community and connection is a major theme in her music, and she said she considers Austin a second home as a place to create and play shows.
On February 21, Lomelda will leave on a short European tour with Montclair rockers Pinegrove. Relatively new to touring, and never having been to Europe before or even having a passport, Read said, “It doesn’t feel real yet! I’ll believe it when I’m over the ocean,” she laughed. “It’s all new, it’s gonna be nuts.” Lomelda’s music is striking and intimate, and navigates the complex emotions of longing in personal relationships and the search for meaning in one’s surroundings with grace and beauty. It won’t be long before they are known outside of Texas’s small scene.