WILKES-BARRE – After enough people told Kiley Lotz she should record songs she and her band Petal plays live, they went to a friend’s garage in Scranton’s Hill section to do exactly that. That session resulted in the band’s “Scout” EP, which Lotz put online after having a little under 200 copies made.
“There wasn’t the intention of getting discovered or anything like that it was just kind of for fun,” Lotz said. “Then somehow the songs got to Jeff (Casazza, founder of Run for Cover Records) and he reached out to me about a year after I put them out. We started talking about working together. It was really surprising and exciting.”
Lotz wasn’t comfortable leaving college before finishing, so she didn’t pursue music further until graduating from the University of Scranton in 2013 with a degree in theater. She took her education to New York and found work as an actor, but as Petal continued to become a larger part of her life she began devoting more time to the band. Lotz is currently playing shows throughout the United States in support of Petal’s first full-length, “Shame,” released Oct. 23.
“I wrote shame over the course of three years during my move to New York,” Lotz said. “I was going through a lot in that transition just with the intensity of living in New York City and being diagnosed with a mood disorder, so I was kind of writing about how that experience was impacting me and the people around me — they felt a weird residual shame from that.”
As Lotz wrote more about the topic, her honesty helped her realize she wasn’t the only one dealing with a secretive shame about a variable that may be uncontrollable. Her new perspective afforded her a new thesis: people are so willing to own and share the successes in their lives, but a person’s hidden aspects that may be difficult to deal with on a daily basis are the things that make them compassionate and powerful.
“I think when people see the word shame and they see the cover of the record they might have a different idea of what it’s about, but I hope that once they listen to it they realize it’s about putting that negative thing out there about your life and embracing it in a way that makes you stronger, compelling and important,” Lotz said. “I think a lot of people shy away from feeling like they’re important because it’s considered selfish and stuck up, but I think having a sense of self-worth is totally good and appropriate.”
Bringing such personal material to a hometown show like the one Lotz will play Nov. 27 at The Lamp Post in Wilkes-Barre has the potential to be nerve wracking — according to Lotz, it is. Her fond memories of the local music scene and bygone venues like Test Pattern and Cafe Metropolis outweigh that feeling. She’s excited to share the moment with people who inspired and encouraged her.
“It’s where I started and it’s where my friends encouraged me to play my songs for other people, so it just feels good to come home and play a show,” Lotz said. “I feel a lot of very sentimental feelings about the scene I was introduced to in high school and now to come home and play a show with those people is great because I can’t imagine my life without those experiences. It’s nerve wracking to put those very vulnerable feelings out there for people who might know me, but it’s mostly very positive feelings.”
Lotz said she used to sing so much around the house it was “almost unbearable.” She channeled that enthusiasm into piano and choir until her high school years at Scranton High, when her brother Austin’s musical endeavors inspired her to take her songwriting seriously. She pursued classical piano at Lebanon Valley College and found it creatively isolating. She transferred to University of Scranton’s theater program and collaborated with other musicians through Petal. With the release of her debut full-length, Lotz is less isolated than ever. Her honesty as a songwriter about flaws, perception and people is on full display during the 12 tracks that comprise “Shame,” and on Nov. 27 she will put those songs on display for the scene she grew up in.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO:
What: A hometown show for Run for Cover Records act Petal that’s also the launch of Kingston native Evan James’ photography zine Quarry.
Who: Petal, Haze, Adam LcIlwee, Past Life and Evan Paris
Where: The Lamp Post, 47 N Franklin St, Wilkes-Barre (enter through the door on the left side of the building)
When: Doors open at 7 p.m., music starts at 8 p.m.
How Much: $8