When you think of surf rock epicenters of the world, Seattle is most definitely not the first city to come to mind. But that’s exactly where La Luz got their start, emerging from Seattle’s grunge-soaked scene with an old school sound all their own.
Reminiscent of lazy afternoons spent catching waves and girl groups of days gone by (think: The Shangri-Las go to the beach), La Luz are made up of Shana Cleveland on guitar, Marian Li Pino on drums, Alice Sandahl on keyboard, and Lena Simon on bass. We caught up with the foursome after their spirited performance at Sasquatch! Music Fest to find out how their sound, summer, and killer style.
Image via Paste
ModCloth: Let’s talk about how you guys got together. Where’d you find each other?
Marian: Shana and I were on tour with The Curious Mystery when she came up with the idea to start a surf rock band. After the tour was over she asked me to join and we started looking for other girls. I knew Alice from playing with her in The Pica Beats, and Lena is a famous musician around town.
Lena: I am not! I just have a hard time saying ‘no’ to good projects.
Your music’s been described as punk, rockabilly, and lo-fi (among many others), how would you describe your music?
Marian: Old school surf-rock girl group.
Shana: And there’s some garage thrown in there.
Alice: Fun, emotive, and dance-y.
You’re a surf-rock-influenced band that hails from Seattle, which isn’t exactly known as a surfer’s paradise, why do you think you gravitated towards that sound?
Shana: I dunno, that sound is deep in my blood. Early rock and roll is where it’s at. It seems like a no-brainer — Seattle’s not good for surfing but it’s got plenty of west coast vibes.
Are there secret surfing spots in Seattle that we need to know about?
Lena: I’ve heard of some spots south of Seattle, closer to the Oregon coast. I have seen a few surf shops in Ballard, though I’m not sure if people actually can surf in Seattle. I have yet to see a wave.
Shana: I have seen more surf shops here than actual surfers. There are lots of people standing on surfboards on still-watered lakes in groups, though, for some reason. Lookin’ for dates or something?
Let’s talk about your musical influences! Who do you like?
Shana: Surf stuff like Link Wray, the Ventures (from Tacoma!), and Takeshi Terauchi. Twangy guitars in old country and rock and roll. Bo Diddley. Old soul music with lots of vocal harmonies. The Shangri-Las. Mexican and Latin-American garage, like Los Saicos. ’60s French Pop, France Gall, Francoise Hardy, etc.
Image via Seattle Peach
What are you currently jamming to? Any new favorite bands to recommend?
Shana: The Growlers are a go-to tour van favorite. We were touring with The Entrance Band awhile back and got hooked on a bunch of their songs. Lots of sick local bands like Rose Windows, Chastity Belt, Tacocat, Dude York, Pony Time, Will Sprott. The Shivas and Guantanamo Baywatch from Portland.
Alice: Everything Shana said. Plus, I recently got tuned in to The Physics, a local hip-hop trio, and I can’t get enough of their record Digital Wildlife. I tend to obsess on one record for a bit, so that’s what I’m doing … over, and over, and …
Marian: I just got the Chvrches album and cannot stop listening to it. I literally can’t. And I’m glad that I can’t.
We hear you put on an amazing live show — anything new you guys are trying?
Marian: I am currently trying to teach Alice the drum parts for one of our songs (and conversely I need to learn her keyboard part) so that I can get away from the kit and dance or crowd surf.
Lena: You guys need to start seriously working on that, I want to see that happen. I have started climbing on top of my bass amp and jumping off, though I think I should keep practicing this move. It isn’t yet mastered.
Shana: We gotta get crowd-surf-cam up and running again.
Alice: Still trying to master the art of crowd-surfing. And yes, trying to learn Marian’s drum part.
You had quite a scare last year on tour — your van was totaled. How has on-the-road life changed for you since then?
Marian: To be fair, we weren’t driving when we got hit by the semi, so in terms of caution, there isn’t a whole lot we can change about sitting on the side of the road. However, I think we’re all a lot more anxious on certain drives, and I definitely get nervous around semis. Overall we try not to think about it and put on a brave face as much as possible.
You just played the Sasquatch! Music Festival a few weeks back, what bands were on your list to see?
Marian: SO MANY AMAZING BANDS!!! Die Antwoord, Phantogram, the Growlers, Mac DeMarco, M.I.A. (ultimate idol), HAIM … and on and on.
Lena: I’d never been and I was so stoked to see a lot of my friends bands play to thousands. All the bands Marian said, Kithkin are always fun to watch, Washed Out, Kid Cudi …
Alice: Good music, good food, good cocktails. All out in the middle of nowhere.
Image via Line Out
We’d love to transition to your fashion for a second. What’s your fashion ethos when you’re touring?
Marian: We all kind of seem to have a few solid tour outfits that we wear the whole time. And enough shoes that we utilize a shoe bin. For me, I choose something that is loose and not too warm to play in onstage, since I usually work up a sweat on the kit.
Lena: We also tend to accidentally match or end up in black and white (which is my staple color scheme). I have to wear short sleeves or roll up my long sleeves, as my bass playing is not to be interfered with.
Shana: I just try and stay cool. And not match with Alice as we have a few of the same items of clothing — and I often ask myself what Anna Karina would wear.
Alice: Comfy-cute shoes, some high=waisted pants, and plenty of crop tops are my essentials. And then I think I have, like, two sweaters that I rotate between.
What advice would you give to young female musicians trying to find their sound?
Marian: Go with your gut.
Lena: Play what you like and learn from it, then write something that feels comfortable, add an element of experimentation, and see how it makes you feel.
Shana: Every time I feel like I’m in a songwriting rut I make myself learn a new instrument or even just a song in a style that I don’t usually play. It’s a good way to open up your brain to new ideas.
Alice: Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing! Write lots of shitty songs and lots of bits of songs, songs you love and songs you hate. Just keep doing it. It’s the only way to get better and the only way to figure out what “your sound” is.
+ What bands are on your radar? Sound off in the comments!