A Fiendish Conversation with La Luz's Shana Cleveland
The Seattle surf rock outfit releases its smoky debut LP this weekend at the Crocodile.
There are a number of reason why Seattle doesn’t seem like the ideal breeding ground for surf rock: Lack of consistent sunshine, lack of yearlong warmth, and—oh yeah—lack of surfing. But La Luz has managed to put a distinctly Seattle spin on the sound. Led by vocalist and guitarist Shana Cleveland, a Michigan native who moved to town seven years ago, the ladies of La Luz manage to mix an element of alluring smokiness into the surf rock formula. On October 15, Hardly Art releases It's Alive, La Luz’s debut LP (which is currently streaming over at SPIN), but first, the ladies head to the Crocodile this Saturday (October 12) for a record release party featuring Dude York and a dance off complete with judges and prizes.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Cleveland about moving to Seattle, surf rock, and bummer weather.
The surf rock sound isn’t typically associated with Seattle, so as a songwriter, what do you draw from for La Luz’s feel and sound?
I think actually a lot of my influences were—in one way or another—Pacific Northwest related. When I was writing these new songs, and for the past few years, I was listening to a lot of (Portland-based) Mississippi Records compilations, especially the old stuff like doo-wop and garage rock mixes. To me, it feels like a really West Coast sound; it’s not always specifically Pacific Northwest sound. Like a lot of bands in the Bay Area, like garage rock bands like Shannon and the Clams and Ty Segall and stuff like that, were really influencing me. I think it’s kind of a combination of the sort of dark Pacific Northwest and a lighter California vibe.
How did the recording process change between last year's Pump Face EP and It’s Alive?
Well the EP we recorded really quickly; we did it in an afternoon. And we did the mixing and I think everything else in a couple hours. It was kind of meant to be a demo so we didn’t spend that much time on it. So we spent a lot more time with this one. We got to take a lot more time on the vocals, and just spend a lot more time on the mixing and stuff. Abbey’s a classically trained upright bass player, so she got to play a little bit of upright bass on it, which is cool.
How do you feel like Seattle has influenced your sound?
I guess just getting to see a lot of really awesome bands all the time is inspiring. I’ve probably gone to more shows since I’ve lived in Seattle than I had before, or ever thought that I would. We were talking about this the other day, another interviewer, and I was saying how I felt the weather was really depressing and that was something that could be inspiring, because it kind of puts you in this more intense mindset and makes you want to hibernate and get into your own brain. And Marian and Abbey both grew up in this part of the country and they’re like, “Oh weird, I don’t find the weather depressing like that at all.” I think that maybe it’s more depressing to people who have moved here from other places. Like, I really crave sunshine, so for me I think it’s sort of a blessing and curse. It makes me want to stay home and work on stuff, but I hate it in general.
What originally made you want to move to Seattle? Just a change of scenery?
Yeah, basically. I just kind of like moving around. I was living in L.A. briefly, and my mom visited Seattle and she brought back a copy of The Stranger. I was looking through it and I was like “This place looks pretty cool.” And then I just moved.
Do you have a favorite concert you’ve seen in the past year?
Ty Segall. We played with him in Portland and then got to see him again in Seattle. That was one of my favorite shows. And I really liked the show we played with Pony Time and the Intelligence at Neumos. I think that was, for everyone in the band, one of our favorite shows.
Who are some of your up-and-coming local peers that people should check out?
How do you feel about having your music classified as surf rock?
I don’t know, it’s a funny question to me because I’ve been getting asked that a lot and I never thought about it being a bad thing, but a lot of people are like, “How do you feel about being pegged in the surf rock hole?” I don’t know, it never occurred to me that that would be a limiting thing. I mean, I figure people are going to need to call us something, and I feel like surf rock is better than “girl band.” It’d probably be one of the two.
Oct 12 at 9, The Crocodile, $8