By Nivedita Iyer
CALGARY — Though only having been a band for two years, Abbey Blackwell, Shana Cleveland, Marian Li Pino and Alice Sandahl of La Luz have been tirelessly touring and honing in their trademark soul-infused surf pop. Their hazy, coastal summer sound recently received a significant nod from garage rock kingpins, Burger Records, who re-released a run of their cassette tapes. We caught up with songwriter and guitarist Cleveland to chat with them about their journey towards becoming a staple for anyone into addictive, ’60s-inspired surf.
BeatRoute: What can you tell me about the music going on in Seattle?
Shana Cleveland: It’s pretty huge, I feel like there’s every different genre of music. There’s a lot going on right now and, mostly, I just know about the kind of shows that we play and some other garage rock bands. It’s pretty inspiring because there are so many people working really hard at music out here. There’s a big culture surrounding the musicians that are really energetic and creative. It’s so great to be around. There are also a lot of really great record labels out here and I think that kind of helps sort of build the excitement around town — like Sub Pop, Hardly Art and Suicide Squeeze, for example. Then there are other places, like Portland, too, where good things are happening. The whole Pacific Northwest feels really vibrant.
BR: How do you approach the way you write lyrics?
SC: My lyrics usually start from being about my experience but they usually end up being a lot more mysterious to me. I don’t like things to be too easily understood right away because then I feel like songs get more boring over time. But, then again, I have a lot of love for old soul and rock n’ roll music and, in most of those songs, all the lyrics are so simple. At the same time, I don’t like to make overcomplicated lyrics because I fell like there’s something sort of exclusionary about that. I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t understand what we’re doing. But yeah, I don’t know, I was a poetry major, so I tend to overthink things and with this band I try to keep everything pretty simple, but still with an element of mystery.
BR: What has your experience been like being a part of an all-female band? Generally positive?
SC: We’ve definitely had both negative and positive experiences, but, if anything, the positive ones I feel outweigh the bad ones. I mean you deal with a lot of sexism from people. Like, the other day, we played in New York City where BrooklynVegan took a bunch of photos of our show. And almost all of the comments were about how we looked. It was gross. At the same time, it’s been really awesome though because there’s been a lot of women and girls who have come up to us and thought it was really cool and have said that we’re really inspiring to them.
BR: Was that a conscious choice when forming the band?
SC: I suppose we could have had a guy in the band. Like, it would have been really easy to get one when we were forming. But, I feel like the more bands out there that don’t have guys in them, the more it will lose its novelty more and the more respect we’ll get from people like sound technicians and even audiences. Because it’s like, if there’s even one guy in the band, the sound person will often direct all questions to them. I feel like there’s an attitude, that it’s always the guy that is assumed knows what’s going on and whatnot with the gear. So, it’s cool to just be these women and we all know what we’re doing.
BR: Have you recuperated from that car crash last year? What happened?
SC: That was a really crazy experience. We were on tour with of Montreal and it was just the beginning of the tour when we got into the accident. We had to cancel the whole rest of the 20-show tour and the van was destroyed along with all of our gear. I mean it’s been almost a year now, so I feel some distance from it, but it was completely soul crushing. But, the cool thing that happened was that our record label set up a place where people could donate and that was the most amazing thing, because we could actually see that people wanted us to get back on the road and that they cared about us. So much support came from these people that we didn’t know all over the world. That was a big, giant moment for the band because it was the worst feeling of depression and then the most encouraging thing at the same time.AB, Alberta, La Luz