La Luz: May the surf-noir be with you

by Halee Hastad 

There is music you grind to, music you cry to, music you can fall asleep to, music you slow dance to, and music you reflect on life to. There are bands and musicians who make music specific to one of these categories, and there are bands and musicians that, in their own right, make music covering multiple or all of the categories. La Luz is one of the latter, and they are making it look effortless.

Formed in Seattle five years ago, the four-piece La Luz has made a name for themselves with their dreamy vocal harmonies, uplifting surf-rock-inspired riffs, and femme fatale exposures.

Shana Cleveland stands as the frontwoman, singing and playing the guitar as well as writing all the lyrics for the band. Marian Li Pino drums and sings. Alice Sandahl is on keyboard, also vocals. And Lena Simon provides bass and vocals.

Cleveland has a laid-back cadence to her voice, explaining that the events that have led the band to where they are today have been “pretty natural.”  It seems most things that have happened in the success of La Luz are a mix of serendipity, careful timing, and determination. This pointed, yet laissez-faire approach is reflective in the sounds and style of their music, which is born of inspirations such as Link Wray, Dick Dale, and The Shirelles.

Now based in L.A., La Luz is sitting on a new album (debut yet to be announced), their first in two years. They are steadily gaining traction after putting out their last, Weirdo Shrine, produced by Bay Area garage rock staple Ty Segall, in 2015.

Cleveland describes this collaboration, too, as “pretty natural.” They had met Segall, who then suggested they go on tour together, which Cleveland said she didn’t really believe at first. Turns out he was serious, and they toured prior to producing Weirdo Shrine with him in a surfboard shop turned studio over the course of a couple of weeks.

This collaboration led to an addition to the band’s sound, a fuzz pedal, which Segall suggested Cleveland begin to use as a way to capture on record what the band sounds like during their live performances.

“I just sort of said to him, ‘Tell me what to do with this thing,’” Cleveland said.

The result? A sound so real it brings to mind the smell of salty ocean air and feels like sand-covered cold beers on a hot day under the sun.

And though La Luz has an affinity for riffs to get you moving, their music isn’t all flowers.

A friend coined the term “surf-noir” to describe the band’s sound, which Cleveland supports while describing how they incorporate the lighter parts of surf with vocal harmonies, but lyrically tend toward a darker mood.

La Luz has signed with Hardly Art, which happened as a result of their “surf-noir” pal linking them with the label. They put out both their 2013 album, It’s Alive, and Weirdo Shrine on Hardly Art. Cleveland said the label has been supportive of the band’s pursuits all along, allowing them to harness and grow with their own unique style.

“They are all about creative freedom, and we like to do things our own way,” Cleveland said. “They have never really told us not to do something we wanted to do.”

And this DIY approach seems to be working for the band, as they have thousands of social media followers, and shows that attract passionate and well-versed fans up and down the West Coast and throughout the United States.

The advantage seems to rest in the multi-purpose effect of their music. It’s equal parts dancy, contemplative, melancholy, and ceaselessly groovy.

La Luz will play at the Shakedown on May 14, a show Cleveland said will feature new songs off their upcoming album, along with guaranteed to get you in a mood sounds brought by siren song harmonies, and, of course, the fuzz pedal.

For more about La Luz, follow them on Facebook or listen in at https://laluz.bandcamp.com.