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Today, Melbourne/Naarm alt-country gems The Smith & Western Jury have released their long-awaited debut studio album, Hotel Texas. Inspired by lived experiences, Hotel Texas takes listeners on a captivating journey through tales of pain, love, and loss, imbued with raw authenticity and heartfelt emotion in the face of adversity.

Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips sat down with The Smith & Western Jury’s Sam Lombardi & Simon Torcasio over a zoom call to chat about the band’s career and the  creation of their new album ‘Hotel Texas’.

With their album now out, The Smith & Western Jury have announced an extensive album tour starting next month, along with some special performances later in the year.

The Smith & Western Jury will welcome new additions to their touring rhythm section, drummer Aaron Barnett (formerly of The Getaway Plan & Deez Nuts) and bassist Kevin Orr (Romeo Moon). Both musicians bring a wealth of experience and dynamic energy to the band, ensuring a live show that is not to be missed.

The four-piece hit the road from July 12, kicking off at one of Naarm/Melbourne’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll bars, Lulie Tavern, before dates in Karuna/Adelaide (SA), Peramangk/Macclesfield (SA), Wadawurrung/Ballarat (VIC), Dja Dja Wurrung/Trentham (VIC), Gadigal/Enmore (NSW), Mulubinba/Adamstown (NSW), Dharawal/Wollongong (NSW) along with a very special appearance at Out On The Weekend at Seaworks Bunurong Country/Williamstown. See dates below.


The Smith & Western Jury might be a relatively new name to your ears, but when it comes to the members themselves? It’s far from their first rodeo. Lead singer Sam Lombardi was a teen pop-rock export in a post-Avril Lavigne world circa the mid-2000s, while guitarist Simon Torcasio played in punk bands around Melbourne. Their long-time friends & rhythm section, who played on the album, Danny Bonnici (bass) and Matt Marasco (drums), both played in cult punk-metal faves Pagan.

Needless to say, the high-lonesome sounds of this twangy, dust-kicking, saloon-playing band is a far cry from their prior musical pedigree. As songwriting duo and real-life couple Lombardi and Torcasio explain, however, that’s more or less the entire point. “We’re not 18 anymore,” says Torcasio. “When we started this band in 2018, the idea was to do something just for us. We did the grind as best as we could, and took it as far as we were able, and we burnt out on it. Now, we want to do things our way.”

“Even though we’d grown up listening to heavier music, we’d fallen in love with country,” says Lombardi. “We went to Nashville, and we were super inspired by all the bands we heard in bars over there. We’d been writing together for ages, but that trip made us want to do something about it. When I wrote that line about being from out of town, it’s me saying that even though I didn’t grow up on country music and wasn’t originally a country singer, I still want to give this my best shot. This is our version of country music.”

Hotel Texas has been a long time coming for the band – but not entirely for the big C-word reason you may be thinking. In 2019, Lombardi was diagnosed with a condition known as vestibular migraines, which can cause dizziness and vertigo for up to days at a time. “I’d seen specialist after specialist to try and get it under control,” she explains. “I’d be doing great for months and then have entire weekends where I couldn’t even walk.”

To make matters worse, Sam learned through a routine test that she’d had a stroke at some point that had gone completely undetected, then discovered she had a rare autoimmune disorder known as Behçet’s disease – exacerbating her issues with migraines. “Obviously, I was an anxious mess,” says Lombardi. “But we were persisting with the band all the same. That’s the one thing Si and I enjoyed through out all of that shit, and we didn’t want to give it up.” That resilience runs through the core of the band’s debut album, which comes as a concoction of wholehearted effort and pipe dreams coming true.

Originally beginning work on the album at Belgrave’s Merrigum Studio with producer/engineer Benjamin Edgar, Hotel Texas was eventually shipped overseas to the great state itself – Floresville, Texas to be specific, at Cherry Ridge Studios. This Texan sojourn did come with a caveat, however: As far as Lombardi was concerned, it was against doctor’s orders.

“Even though it scared the shit out of me, I still wanted to go” she recalls. “The last few years had been really shit, this was our album and this was our holiday. My mentality was ‘who the fuck knows what’s gonna happen next year?’ ”

Once safely in Floresville, Lombardi and Torcasio completed the album under the watchful eye of acclaimed producer Tommy Detamore. The pair were long-time fans of his work, and initially reached out to him as a shot in the dark. To their surprise, it worked.“Tommy had produced this album by Jesse Daniel that we really loved called Rollin’ On,” Lombardi explains.

“We contacted him, and he emailed back saying he loved our sound. We jumped on a Zoom call with him, and he turned out to be a super-kind soul, we knew we were on the same page instantly.” In addition to producing the album, Detamore also played pedal steel across its 10 tracks.

With Detamore’s wisdom and expertise, the pair finely crafted the deeply personal and heartfelt songs of Hotel Texas.

“Every line on this album can be traced to a time, place or event,” adds Torcasio. “Sam has lived this album, and I’ve been there with her through all of it. I felt a real duty of care as a guitar player on this album – I wanted to give her words a chance to breathe, and give the album a bit of space as well as that extra twang.”

So, after a considerably bumpy ride, The Smith & Western Jury have arrived at the destination of Hotel Texas. They welcome you in, and hope you enjoy your stay – after all, they’re here for a good time, not a long time. “Who knows what the hell’s gonna happen in the future?” reasons Lombardi. “I don’t know if we’ll ever put this much work and this much heart into another album. When you’ve been through what I’ve been through, it changes your perspective. You’re not 16 forever. If you’re gonna do it, fucking do it.”

Hotel Texas, is out now here. Hotel Texas (single), is out now and is available on all streaming platforms here.


Friday, July 12 – Lulie Tavern, Naarm/Melbourne

Friday, July 26 – Shotgun Willies, Karuna/Adelaide (SA)

Saturday, July 27 – Three Brothers Arms, Peramangk/Macclesfield (SA)

Sunday, July 28 – 10 Gallon Hat, Karuna/Adelaide (SA)

Friday, August 16 – The Eastern – Wadawurrung/Ballarat (VIC)

Saturday, August 31 – The Cosmopolitan Hotel – Dja Dja Wurrung/Trentham (VIC)*

Friday, September 6 – Enmore Hotel, Gadigal/Enmore (NSW)

Saturday, 7th September – Adamstown Bowlo, Mulubinba/Adamstown (NSW) (on-sale July)

Sunday, 8th September – La La La’s, Dharawal/Wollongong (NSW)

Also performing at Out On The Weekend

Saturday October 12 – Seaworks, Bunurong Country/Williamstown (VIC)


*Acoustic duo

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