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On surviving a near-fatal car accident and bouncing back to produce new LP with Ty Segall
Everyone is still talking about the car accident that La Luz was in and I think it’s because we would hate to loose such inspirational, dedicated, talented musicians, and overall fun-loving people. The group is close–knit like a family, supporting each other through ups-and-downs. These four women are all powerhouses, each bringing a little something special to La Luz; Shana Cleveland on guitar and lead vocals, Marian Li Pino on drums, Alice Sandahl on keyboard, and Lena Simon on bass. I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak with Cleveland and Sandahl about their latest album, Weirdo Shrine, produced in part with Ty Segall.
The all-female Seattle surf-noir band has restless energy and Sandahl notes that they have been able to harness that and become “playful yet professional.” Weirdo Shrine exemplifies the band’s ability to create a distinctive, memorable, and self-styled sound. The album not only sounds epic, but its lyrics are introspective, taking the group’s power to a whole new level.
There is importance in being able to get people to listen to a song more than once, but the natural evolution of a song is key. Cleveland notes that while writing songs, she sits down without any expectations or goals in order to not freak herself out. By playing guitar and “messing around,” she is able to build a song, which gets multiple listens by building off an organic experience. This organic songwriting experience directly translates into the natural evolution of messages on Weirdo Shrine.
Cleveland’s favorite music is that which can have dark themes but leaves you feeling hopeful; she hopes that the album expresses the collision of lightness and darkness in music. She notes, “It is a dark, foggy album with fun music but doesn’t ignore the darkness of life.” Sandahl is drawn to music that has a happy sound but lyrically expresses “something pretty shitty,” she says. “Contrast is everywhere. Shit can suck, but let’s keep having fun!” says Sandahl. Cleveland and Sandahl agree that they hope their listeners relate to the universal truths such as being in an accident, loosing someone, a horrible break up, etc. because as Cleveland notes, “Emotionally intense moments are creatively inspiring and those moments make you reevaluate.”
In working with Segall, they collectively realized that the goal of the new record was to harness La Luz’s restless live energy and get it on tape. Sandahl expressed that getting to know Segall as a friend touring together translated into a positive professional working relationship. “His style is a little different than what we have done in the past, but that is good for us,” says Sandahl. The importance of maintaining positive professional relationships is important to La Luz but Sandahl and Cleveland take that positivity one step further. Trying to be nice to everyone and building friendships is important! Sandahl expresses the idea that it is important to be good person, not just for the connections; Sandahl notes, “You don’t know who you will cross paths with again.” This disposition and positive energy that they practice in their personal lives seems innate, so it’s not at all surprising that their music is as outstanding as they are.
La Luz has impeccable four-part harmonies and have captured elements of performing live in their recordings. They choose to leave in spur of the moment flourishes that happened while recording because they wanted to get as close to that live sound as possible, and they certainly achieved it on Weirdo Shrine. The album was recorded mostly live, with some vocal overdubs. Recording with Segall was a unique experience for the band because he pushed them out of their comfort zones and into something greater. They did not have sound isolation so the sounds bled into the room, which made for a fuller, dirtier feel. The energy is raw and tangible and gives off the vibe that you’re at a raging surf-city beach party. Those happy accidents Sandahl and Cleveland refer to are not noticeable as “accidents.” If anything, they are the epic moments that make the music human. Sandahl emphasizes, “Segall pushed us not to focus on mistakes and to let them be a part of the charm of the record.” Charming indeed!
La Luz is a young band but their harmonies and chemistry are on-point; their individual quirky charms blend together to make a chill musical experience. Cleveland’s favorite part of performing live is being able to see the audience enjoying themselves. She notes that “sometimes making music can be lonely, but performing live we get to make a connection with people.” Sandahl’s positive energy and genuine love for performing is obvious. Her favorite part about being up on stage is getting to connect with her band mates: “Being up here together…I appreciate those ‘connection’ moments.”
“An important thing in music is sincerity and using your own authentic voice. Don’t do what you think will be popular because it won’t work,” says Cleveland. Sandahl has the same encouraging advice for musicians and seconds the idea that putting yourself out there is frustrating, but no matter the amount of ups and downs, you can’t stay down.
The most resonating thing La Luz offers is their spirit. Through their music, Cleveland and Sandahl are able to articulate that things can change at the drop of a hat and, as Cleveland so deeply expresses, “The most important thing you should do is add your voice to the discussion.” La Luz, we’re hearing you.
Follow on Twitter @laluzers
photos by Andrew Imanaka