Asheville’s Tongues of Fire are still a young band, but vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Lowell Hobbs has already absorbed some time-worn lessons.
For instance, twice now, the band has invested many months, untold amounts of money and healthy doses of hope to perform at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Tex.
“We’ve never been accepted officially, but that has not stopped us,” Hobbs said. “It’s interesting being one of the bigger bands in Asheville, like our shows are usually packed, and then we’ll go down to SXSW and it’s like being thrown into this sea. I spent like six months working every contact I had and just begging people, and get like three showcases and maybe one of them is good. It’s definitely really frustrating and we’re very burned out, but we’re not gonna stop.”
That determination is all over the music of “Everyone Hates Us,” the debut album from Tongues of Fire. The band performs Jan. 20 at the Mothlight in West Asheville.
“I’ve not found myself being ambitious about anything else in my life, honestly,” Hobbs said. “I’m constantly on 100 percent with this project. I really believe in myself, you know, as corny as that sounds. It’s super exhausting, but if you’re passionate about something, that’s the way to go at it.”
Hobbs grew up in Old Fort, graduated high school five years ago and moved to this region when he enrolled at UNC-Asheville to study music technology.
“I graduated college, but just kinda pulled myself through it,” he said. “I got a 1.8 (GPA) this semester. I have the degree, so it’s fine.”
Hobbs connected with drummer Eli Raymer and the two have anchored Tongues of Fire through a rotating door of other musicians.
“We’ve had about eight different bass players over the years,” Hobbs said. “We’re at the point now where we’ve got people who are just really hard working in the band and we’re all on the level where we want to make this work.”
Hobbs cites a handful of obscure bands as influences, and he said he wrote the early music for Tongues of Fire primarily with a mind of how they would sound in performance. Hobbs’ mother died from cancer during the making of the album, and while he said that isn’t reflected in the lyrics, he can hear it in his recorded performance. He said the lyrics he has written over the past half-year bear the weight of his loss.
“I’m trying to be more in touch with my emotions, because that’s not something I was every really taught to do or something I’m super comfortable with,” Hobbs said. “I don’t want to push my feelings and emotions to the side and be repressed in my life or how I write, so I’m just trying to embrace what’s going on and use that to write better music.”