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Make Yourselves at Home

Neighborhood boys Loretto come of age

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Local indie-rock group Loretto could not be a more welcoming group of gentlemen. Zach Elliott, Ryan Ferrell and Austin Boller welcomed Folio Weekly into their abode to discuss music (and stuff) over the cracking of beers and the quiet drone of a stereo.

The boys have been playing together for many years, albeit under different guises. Their previous band was called Honey Chamber, which released five albums over 10 years and had its stickers plastered all over Five Points. After losing some band members, though, Honey Chamber eventually called it a day. Elliott and Ferrell decided to simplify and regroup under the name Loretto, chosen because the lads grew up in the Loretto area and attended Loretto Elementary School.

They recorded the first Loretto album, Sleeping in the Pines, as a duo while drummer Boller took a sabbatical from the kit and worked a seasonal job at Yellowstone Park and the Grand Tetons. The disc is a polished affair. It’s hard to tell that it was recorded piecemeal and at home. Elliott and Ferrell made a project of it, convening and attempting to record one song every week. They both had to multitask. Ferrell engineered the sessions, programmed the drum machine and played bass as well as guitar, while Elliott sang and played keyboard and guitar. Loretto’s influences—particularly Built to Spill and Lou Barlow’s Sebadoh—shine through on the final product, which was released in January 2018.

Fast-forward to 2019 and the group chose to leave home for their next record. With Boller back at the drums, a new, three-piece Loretto tapped local musician, producer and engineer Jeremiah Johnson, an alum of Jacksonville’s celebrated psych-rock group Wudun. Loretto has been playing shows with Johnson for years, but a chance meeting prompted them to record together. Elliott happened to be in the cafeteria at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, awaiting the birth of his second son. Johnson happened to be there also, enjoying the great food. (Shout out to the St. Vincent’s cafeteria.) He ended up inviting the band to record with him.

With the addition of Boller, Loretto has decided to eschew the dense overdubs of Pines for a new, stripped-down sound: guitar, bass and drums. That’s the secret sauce on their new album, tentatively titled Bowl Americana. Well-rehearsed and ready to record with Johnson before he moved to LA, Loretto lay down the entire album in just one whirlwind, day-long session. To add that special touch, they asked legendary New York musician and Shimmy Disc impresario, the mononymous Kramer, to master the recording. They plan on releasing the album on their own later this year.

“I’ve always been an album person,” said Elliott. The others agree with him, noting that they enjoy the process of making an album, promoting it and going back to the drawing board to do it again.

Loretto’s compositions seem to come from a pure place. Having outgrown his youthful tunes evoking woe and lament, Elliott’s new songs are brimming with positivity, inspired by his wife and two sons.

“It changes you,” he explained. “Things are a little different. You see the world in a different way. I tried to have that reflected in a positive way.”

On stage, the group is intensely focused. Their goal is for folks to have fun and enjoy their music. While they love performing on stage, they can’t resist the intimate, sometimes rowdy atmosphere of a house show. Unlike typical venue concerts, a good house gig gives everyone a chance to loosen up and ... make themselves at home. That’s when the everymen of Loretto really shine.

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