Shana Cleveland of La Luz Shines a Light on the Upcoming New Album, Floating Features

Interviews, Local Music
Jake Uitti
photo by Vikesh Kapoor

Shana Cleveland, lead singer, guitar player, and principal songwriter in the surf-noir band, La Luz, has a lot on her plate. Just back from a trip to New York City, Cleveland, who now lives in Los Angeles along with her bandmates, has a list of errands to catch up on. And, in May, the group -- comprised of drummer Marian Li Pino, keys player Alice Sandahl, bassist Lena Simon and Cleveland -- will head out on the road for yet another national tour, celebrating the May 11 release of their latest LP, Floating Features.

In preparation for the release, La Luz recently dropped their latest music video for the album's lead single, "Cicada." The video, inspired by the opening credit sequence from a telenovela drama, is theatrical and weird, humorous and odd. It speaks to the numinous-yet-familiar style of La Luz, which formed in Seattle about five years ago. Given all this upcoming action, we wanted to catch up with Cleveland and ask her about the new record, video and the upcoming tour.

How did you come up with the concept for the new "Cicada" video?

We were sitting around brainstorming and someone had the idea of doing a theme song for a TV show, making the whole video a really long theme song. And we'd all watched that "Too Many Cooks" video a lot and loved it. So my roommate, Diana, who plays the good girl love interest in the video, she sent us a ton of telenovela opening credits. Our favorite one was the show that translates to, "Two Women, One Truck," or, Dos mujeres, un camino. We were really inspired by that opening theme song -- there were lots of characters with their backs turned and then they would whip around really quick and face the camera. And we loved the idea of names constantly scrolling across the screen. 

We worked harder on this video than any other, it was kind of insane. We just kept adding more and more ideas. We did ten days of filming on location. One location we went to was -- this feels like a really L.A. video to me -- we went to this soundstage that we rented out for the day. There was every sort of cheesy soap opera location: a restaurant, bar, jail, which we wanted to use but didn't end up using. There was a hospital and an office. We used almost every location we had available. And on another day, we drove out to these sand dunes and did an ATV chase. Every crazy idea everyone had, we just did it in the true spirit of a soap opera theme song. 

Does it portend more videos in telenovela series?

We're always coming up with ideas for soap operas in our house. We intended to do more of it, but in reality, once the tour schedule starts there's no time to do this shit anymore. 

What can you say about the new record?

We finished recording it over a year ago and we're excited it's finally going to come out. To me, it's a really California record. The two main themes of the record are the inspiration from being here in L.A. and the dreams that I've had over the time I've lived here. They've really entered into a lot of the songs. "Loose Teeth," "Mean Dream," "The Creature," those three are just ripped from dreams that I had. "Walking Into The Sun" is a song that I dreamed and woke up and tried to translate from my dream mind into my waking mind. It's pretty much exactly as I heard it when I was asleep. 

L.A. feels like a really dreamy place to me so these two themes make sense. It's the place where people go to chase down a dream. Also, it's just hot all the time. So, to me, it feels woozy and psychedelic in a general way. I feel like there's a lot of people out here who, if they have some weird idea, the way the city is set up, there's endless possibilities. You can shoot a video in a hospital here in an afternoon. This isn't possible everywhere. 

Does the band feel rooted in L.A. now?

It's a nice home base. We didn't move out here with any Hollywood dreams. But since we travel so much, it's a nice place to come back to. It's very pleasant and inspiring at the same time. I don't know if I feel at home anywhere, though. 

La Luz just came back from a tour in Australia -- what did the band learn there?

To me, and I think for all of us, the most inspiring thing about that tour was the band we were traveling with, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. They're a really inspiring band and they have a real cool setup. They have their band and they incorporate their friends and family into the tours. They have friends who do their lights, one who does their sound, one who does their artwork and videos. There's another guy who works in their store because they have their own record label in Australia. It's just cool to see a band working together so well and be such cool people and make such interesting music. I don't want to fangirl out too hard, but it was one of the coolest things. And just getting to see Australia was great, I'd never been there before.
What's the plan for your album release? Any Seattle gigs coming up?

I don't know where the album release is going to be yet but we're going to start to tour, I think, the day it comes out. Seattle will be pretty early in the tour. We'll head up the west coast and be there in May, though we haven't officially announced that yet. We're going to try and do an all-ages show there and do a 21-plus show, too. 

As an artist, what does it feel like you're working toward creatively these days?

It's hard to put into words. I'm always interested in art that feels like you're being specific and ambiguous at the same time. It's always good to have something people can relate to immediately and then have other levels be revealed over time -- other levels of mystery. That's always an artistic goal I have. But, yeah, I guess we just want to keep making music that interests us. 

Floating Features will be released on Friday, May 11th via Hardly Art Records.

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