“When you get to be the lead singer of the greatest all-female, queer Southern Rock DIY band of all-time, you’re excited about it every day,” says Lauren “LG” Gilbert, the mainwoman (and only constant member) behind Thelma and the Sleaze, during a recent phone chat, which just happens to be on her 38th birthday! The band, originally from Nashville (Although LG clarifies that Nashville isn’t really currently Thelma’s home: “I say the band’s based in Nashville because we started there in 2010, but I live about two hours south of there, and the band is really just me, and we really only even play there twice a year or so.”), has been making music for over a decade now, having recorded releases for the likes of Cold Lunch Recordings, Burger Records, The What of Whom, and DryerBaby Records, and supported acts like Black Belles, Charles Bradley, The Eagles of Death Metal, and Brittany Howard. LG’s also well-acquainted with PHILTHY phriend Tristen, appearing in Tristen’s “Got Some” music video, and having Tristen appear on her debut LP, Somebody’s Doin Somethin, both in 2017.
Thelma and the Sleaze haven’t released anything since 2020’s Sacred as Hell EP, but they did recently release a live video of the band playing a brand-new song, “Black Car,” for Live and Breathing. And they’ve spent much of 2023 on the road, which LG tells me has been profoundly satisfying: “This has been our best year so far, and it just keeps getting better. We’ve built our audience organically… I got to play with L7, which was a dream come true, and we’ve sold-out a few times, which is new for us.” These dates have had the band playing mostly unreleased songs from an upcoming record, Holey Water, which LG reveals to me (exclusively) is set to drop September 1st, with the first single coming July 22nd, and which she says are really working live: “The new songs are just rippers!” Of the record, LG explains, “Our last full-length studio record was more of an ‘80s kind of vibe, and this record is more of a classic sound, a ‘70s-inspired sound. There are doo-woppier moments, heavy moments, punk moments, but it’s all Rock N’ Roll. I love everything Rock N’ Roll!”
This current batch of live dates run through the end of July (with two shows in September, in Newport, KY and Chicago), and includes a return to our very own Kung Fu Necktie on Sunday, July 23rd, which LG has played before and is a big fan of. She also tells me that she’s an especially big fan of Thelma and the Sleaze’s current live lineup, and thinks you will be, too: “This is a special tour, because I have a revolving lineup, and I usually have accompaniment from a guitar or organ, but this time we’re touring as a five-piece, so I have accompaniment on lead guitar and organ, and when I tour as a five-piece, it’s total arena rock! It’s hair, it’s sex, it’s loud!”
Spending so much time on the road, regardless of the current lineup, LG tells me that some sort of consistency is important for everyone’s well-being: “We have many rituals… The goal is to keep the morale high.” This can include having a fun and lighthearted “tour song” (She mentions “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis.) and even maintaining a connection to the divine: “I’ll always lead a prayer. I’ll pray to my higher power, Tanya Tucker… I pray for her guidance, her tight ass, and her big hair!” She also says that she’s a big fan of indulging in as much local cuisine as she can, and Philthy seems to be a favorite of hers: “I usually eat two cheesesteaks when I’m there, but I don’t like the competing ones; they suck… The last time I was at Kung Fu Necktie I had the best cheesesteak I’ve ever had… If the guy who took me there last time is at this show, he’ll have to take me there again…” And it’s not just the cheesesteaks that LG loves about the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection: “I love Philly, I love the cheesesteaks, I love the wide sidewalks, I love the bad girls… They seem to have a lot of bad girls.”
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