2017 has been a huge year for Hannah Read. The heart of the folk rock band Lomelda, Read rocketed into the public eye with her sophomore record, Thx (Double Double Whammy), which was released in September. Known for her standout voice and songwriting capabilities, Read is also a remarkable guitarist and bass player; she has previously toured the U.S. and Europe as a bassist with acts such as Hovvdy and Pinegrove. Soft-spoken and quietly confident, she is genuinely surprised by how her career has taken off so far. “It’s all so surprising at this point,” she laughs.
Read is from Silsbee, a small Texas town with a population of about 7000 people. “My first musical memory is shooting a music video with my brother and sister when I was like four or five, and we put clear green saran wrap on flashlights for the lighting effect. I was supposed to cue the music up and down at certain points, and had to run to the other room and turn the knob,” Read says. Her father played music and taught her the chorus to “American Pie,” by John McLean on a mini classical guitar when she about 10 years old. She was also inspired by her older brother Tommy, “My brother is a collaborator and has always been,” says Read, “he played guitar so I played guitar; and he played songs so I played songs; and he played street hockey so I tried to do that, too.”
As a teenager Read launched Lomelda and as she began to write her own music, she started to take guitar more seriously. “It’s all been really slow and it’s never been a thing for me to learn to be a guitar player, it just happened as a tool for me to write songs,” she says.
In the years following high school, Read honed her musical skills, writing songs and often driving for hours to play shows at noisy bars in Austin and Houston (four hour and two hour drives from Silsbee, respectively). In 2015, she recorded and released her achingly personal rock debut, Forever. Not entirely pleased with her performance on the album, the following year she re-recorded the songs as a live solo performance she released it as 4E. She also began working on what would become Thx. In the interim, her Bandcamp page was discovered by Emily Sprague of Brooklyn indie-pop band Florist, who brought it to the attention of Double Double Whammy. Soon, the label signed Read. “It all happened on the internet.” Says Read, “It’s just this funny DIY / Bandcamp world.
As a songwriter Read is a kindred spirit to musicians such as Joni Mitchell or Conor Oberst, with painfully confessional lyrics and gorgeous melodies. However, she maintains distance from the listener with a distinctly Texas flare that permeates her songs with a wistful bravado and spaciousness. The sparseness and sophistication of Read’s arrangements on Thx create a sense of place and time within the music that stays with the listener long after the song ends, and brings emotion to the forefront. One is reminded that certain music can exist within a temporal and physical landscape, like a country you pass through, as opposed to a purely sonic experience. “They’re great songs to drive to,” I told Read, which seemed to please her, “Good, that was a top priority for me,” she said.
When comparing Forever to Thx, Read says, “I think both of the records talk about the same things. About coming and going and just temporary places in the world…I think with this new record I was just wanting to give those feelings more space, and just a gentleness to let myself or whoever wants to engage with that, feel that, and be kind to that part of being a person.”
When asked how she’s grown leading up to the release of Thx, Read says her life has radically changed. For one thing, she’s had the opportunity to go to Europe for the first time. Over time she’s also been able to think more critically about how she initially put her songs together. “Any and every aspect of my being is pretty different,” she says. “I guess I feel like I’m still in the middle of it—very, very in the middle of it—and I’m curious to see how it goes. I’m about to play these songs every night for five weeks, more or less, and that will be new for me. I’m learning more and more as a touring musician, even though you’re doing the same thing every night your whole world changes every day…there’s always learning.”