At first glance, Sammi Lanzetta could easily be mistaken for Ilana Glazer’s punk rock twin. That becomes even more apparent once we begin chatting, and she tells me that’s one of her favorite comparisons. At 21, Lanzetta’s one of the newest signees to Richmond-based 6131 Records (with a new EP hitting last week), and has an interesting history with Virginia’s music scene — Richmond in particular — which is also home to her friend Lucy Dacus, another rising name.
From an early age, Lanzetta had an interest in the music scene, despite sarcastically mentioning that the NoVa (Northern Virginia) hardcore arena was “so welcoming and inclusive.” When she was in high school, she would trek down from her hometown of Woodbridge, Virginia to attend various shows. “Going to Richmond was the cool thing to do when I was in high school,” she said, before reminiscing about one of her first shows there. “I remember going down with my friend Nate to Gallery5 before I knew [what it was called]. I didn’t realize it was Gallery5 until I moved here years later. I saw one of their silent films where a band was playing behind it and I thought, ‘This place is amazing!’” Strange Matter was another venue she frequented with her friends, who were VCU students.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t know about the D.C. music scene. I just knew that there were a bunch of bands in Woodbridge, and they were all white men and very mean to me.” Through her own experiences in high school, she was met with an unwelcoming DIY scene that left “a bad taste” in her mouth, so she didn’t get involved. This all changed when she moved to Richmond. The first band she saw after moving there was Toxic Moxie.
“They’re really good friends of mine now, but at the time, I was just like, ‘Who are these amazing people?’ This awesome and badass girl named Sera [Stavroula] was fronting the band and she was just so awesome. Her vocals were crazy, and I was like, ‘Yo, this is tight!’ I had never seen a woman in the DIY scene like that. If I did, it was very sporadic. I didn’t connect to it as much.” After seeing them perform, she was inspired. Priests, Frankie Cosmos and Courtney Barnett were artists she started to dig into more after that show; another reminder that accessible representation is always important. “I just saw guys do it for so long, and I finally saw people who felt similar to me [and] in my vein.”
Richmond has been an extremely supportive area for Lanzetta, in stark contrast to her experiences with the NoVa scene. She recalls her time performing with Venus Guy Trap, and how excited she was to perform in her hometown. As she puts it, “This [was] my time to shine, and show everyone I’m in this badass band!” Except it wasn’t. Venus Guy Trap was billed last, and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Their set got cut short, and the other bands took most of the crowd back to their homes for a party. But to her, that’s not important now. “There’s so much talent here [in Richmond]. There are so many good people in the music scene, and mostly I think everyone is just rooting for everyone here. It’s a very supportive community.” She mentions how she saw her friends in Blush Face perform at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, and how excited she was to see them. “They’re so good! They’re gonna do so many good things.” If you take a look at her Twitter feed, a common theme shows up: supporting artists around you.
Signing with 6131 also has helped put her at ease. Between panic attacks, crippling self-doubt, and weird moments where she wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue being an artist, they’ve been there to support her. She’d heard horror stories from her friends in bands about how labels are evil, but her experiences with 6131 have been anything but that. She would go around, asking artists on their label if they enjoyed their roster spot; the artists she spoke with had nothing but nice things to say. And when recalling the final decision, “I felt like the universe had gifted me with something really awesome and I’d be stupid not to accept it.”
“The other day, I was telling my drummer Caleb [that] I don’t know what the fuck we would’ve done if we had released this on our own, because I get emails every day where I’m like, ‘What does this mean?,'” she explained. “I forward it to 6131 because I don’t know. I didn’t know I had to sign up for an artist account on Spotify. I didn’t know that I had to sign up for BMI rights to streaming. There’s so many things that I have no idea about. I’m so thankful that they’re here to email me every day reminding me what I should do.”
Our talk shifted focus a little, getting into a discussion about some of the female stars in the music scene today. She recalls a time when she saw Lucy Dacus perform at a venue called Our House. “She was playing and the sound in there is just not flattering to anyone, but somehow she just sounded like an angel. I was watching her, and this was the first time I had seen her live. I whispered to my friend: ‘This girl’s gonna be famous! She’s gonna be so famous! Just watch.'”
From there, we go to entitlement, especially in the music world. She’s seen men who complained about how quickly Dacus blew up, despite them being in the scene for a long time. “I hate that attitude. I hate that attitude where people think they deserve it more. I see bands in Richmond every week, where I’m like, ‘This band is better than bands I see that are extremely successful.’ But it’s not about being the best. I think you should just support people for what they’re doing and for who they are. There are so many good bands, and I don’t think anyone deserves it any more than anyone else does. It’s just about what you’re doing, who you are.”
And ultimately, this leads into the discussion about being compared to other female artists. Lanzetta is flattered that she gets compared to artists like Dacus, and even Margaret Glaspy, but feels that “people are just quick to lump female musicians together.” She continued, though, exclaiming, “I also think that women are running rock and roll right now!” Despite that, there’s a small part of her that wants to shout, “We don’t all sound the same!” When she played with Venus Guy Trap, she had a joke where people would throw dice into a Yahtzee cup. “On every side of the cup were bands like Paramore and Sleater-Kinney.” People would shake the cup just to say, “Hey you sound like this person!” She’s excited that people listen to at least one other female-fronted band, but it’s hard. “On one side of the coin, I do look up to those artists, because I feel like they made it possible for me to feel like I was welcome in the scene to make music, but on the other side of the coin, I’m not trying to be like those people. I don’t want people to think I am trying to be like them.”
Truth be told, she doesn’t even know how to describe her sound. “I’m just going for this whole anxiety rock thing. All of my mental vomit is just in a song. I don’t really know. I wasn’t trying to go for any sound specifically. I was in Venus Guy Trap, and it was more grungy and on the heavier [side of the] spectrum. Then I started listening to more indie rock at the time, and wanted to start writing more lyrically-driven, softer indie songs. That was kind of it. In having a band join me, it created itself. I let it happen.”
This whole process has been “scary and weird” for her, but she’s found her way through it all. “I really thought we were just gonna put out this EP, and that 20 people would listen to it, and then I didn’t think anything was going to happen. I woke up this morning and I had like 20,000 plays on Spotify. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want this!’ I have no idea what’s going on, or what’s going to happen, but hopefully good stuff!”
Throughout October, Sammi will be bouncing around the East Coast playing shows in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. After that, she’ll be playing with Diet Cig on some of their East Coast dates at the end of November and early December.