La Luz are a Gang You'll Wanna be a Part of
A chat with the Seattle quartet about the city scene and a creepy park populated by a man who meows like a cat and another who gives out advice in the dark.
La Luz: Lena, Marian, Shana, and Alice. All photos by Angela Boatwright.
Remember when The Strokes came out and everyone went on and on about how they looked like a gang? The kind of gang that you wanted to be in, but you couldn’t because, you know, you didn’t have a cool name and you were still wearing bootcut jeans. Not that The Strokes were the first—hello, The Ramones, and not even they were originators—it’s just that circa 2001 there really weren’t any bands you wanted to be a member of. Were you gonna buy a red cap, flip it backwards and join Limp Biscuit? Didn’t think so. But I digress. Wearing the right threads and looking like you’re part of a crew is one thing, but gang mentality runs way deeper, you can’t buy it, and that’s totally La Luz’s vibe: the Seattle-based girl group super chill and cool as fuck. Just look at the picture above. Snapped at their rehearsal space at CryBaby Studios in Seattle, singer Shana is so at ease she’s actually asleep.
Musically La Luz’s zonked out, reverb-heavy pop rides in on a rolling ratatat snare which has inspired fans to dub their sound “surf noir” or “black coast.” Labelmates Tacocat described them as “surfing on tears” and I can see their point: songs like “Call Me in a Day” and “All The Time,” from their debut LP, It’s Alive, sparkle with laconically delivered harmonies that sound sultry and assured, even as Shana, Lena, Alice, and Marian flirt with melancholy.
Enthusiasts of both ping-pong, and sandwiches, La Luz are not afraid to pee in front of each other in a dirt backyard, in broad daylight (#truefriendship), and when I was in town shooting the first episode of Made in America, the Seattle edition, the band were kind enough to let me crash their rehearsal before taking me to their favorite bar, The Twilight Exit, for an encounter with an awesome old magician in a spiffy suit. Watch his crazy skills and our dumbstruck idiocyhere, plus find out more about what drew the girls to the city in the first place and why you should watch beware of meow sounds in Seattle parks late at night.
What were you impressions of the city and its music scene before you moved here?
Shana: I first heard of Seattle through grunge and alternative in elementary school and something just stuck with me I just figured after college I wanted a place to move where I could play music and Seattle had just wormed it’s way into my brain from that.
Lena: I ended up moving here from LA to go to Cornish College of the arts. I honestly forgot that Seattle was a city before I move here and then, through Grey’s Anatomy and whatever, remembered that it was a thing. Once I came here I realized how thriving the music scene was.
Shana: Frasier didn’t do it for you?
Lena: No! Somehow things just didn’t click.
Alice: When I moved here a lot of the music I was listening to was coming out of this region—the Pacific Northwest—like Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists.
Marian you’ve always lived on the outskirts of the city right?
Marian: A suburb of the city. It didn’t occur to me really. I was just trying to make my way through high school man! Ha!
Lena you joined in Feb and then immediately you guys went on tour in Europe. How was the experience?
Marian: So much fun. Can’t wait to go back. Lots of food. Lots of bread.
Alice: Too much cheese.
I’m sensing that food is a bonding factor in this band?
Marian: Yeah it really is.
Alice: Sometimes when we’re bored in the van we create our favorite sandwich.
Shana: Hour six in the van… what could we possibly be entertained by any more? Sandwiches.
Where are some of the places you like to eat seeing as your food experts?
Marian: 8oz Burger. I think they make the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. I have a routine, before going there I get really, really hungry, sometimes I just go by myself and hunker down. It’s great. You should go. I’ll take you.
What’s the deal with this trailer park where you recorded your first EP and then also your album? It sounds like a unique space.
Shana: It’s our buddy Johnny Goss’ space. He’s lived in the same trailer park in Bothell—a suburb of Seattle—almost all his life and just nerded out on collecting recording gear. So we went there to record is EP and we liked the way it sounded so much that we went back and did the full length too.
Are there certain parts of town where bands hang out?
Shana: There’s different types of scenes in different neighborhoods of town. A lot of alt county bands hang out in Ballard and then Capitol Hill is everything else I guess! There’s a lot of cool stuff in the university district too where me and Alice live. It’s not a definable scene, but the rent is really cheap so a lot of artist end up living there.
Shana and Lena at CryBaby Studios.
What’s your relationship with labelmates Tacocat?
Shana: They supported us early on. Bree did this huge interview with us where she hired a psychic to read our future. It was great. I don’t feel like we learned a lot. They said we would probably collaborate with Wilco and we were supposed to make a musical theater production.
Marian: She did say we were going to Europe within the year and she was right about that.
Shana: But I think we told her. Like, “We’d really like to go to Europe, is that going to happen?” “Hmmm yes!”
Alice: She just said the same thing over and over for a good three hours. And then Marian ate her nachos.
Marian: I thought they were communal! I waited for a long while and no one was touching it. I didn’t know why it was there!
Nachos are for sharing, so I think you did the right thing. How have you seen the Seattle music scene change since you first got here?
Lena: When I first got here the folk scene was really, really thriving. There’s still remnants of that, but I think it’s died down a bit. There’s a pretty strong underground rap community here too.
According to you and Tacocat there are less beards, people are shaving more, and also more women are picking up instruments.
Shana: Almost all the acts in town have at least one girl in them.
Marian: Wishbeard practices here.
What are some of the places you’d recommend hanging out at?
Shana: There’s a lot of great DIY all ages shows in weirder locations like 20/20 Cycles, and right next door Hollow Earth Radio has shows which is an internet only free form radio station that was started by some of our friends. I would recommend going to a show at a weird space like that or Cairo. And a bunch of other places that I probably shouldn’t name for legal reasons.
This was another thing that Tacocat were talking about—there’s lots of little DIY space but no one really wanted to name names because they’d get shut down.
Alice: Totally that definitely happened.
Your first EP was released on Burger on tape, why did you think that would be a good format?
Shana: Honestly I think part of the reason I made that decision to put out a cassette is because I was hoping it would get on Burger Records. I was listening to a bunch of Burger stuff and getting inspired by that when I was writing the music so I was like, oh I should just dump some cassettes at Sonic Boom.
And it’s still outselling most cassettes there!
Shana: The thing with tapes and that EP is it’s got a really nice warm, vintagey sound there.
La Luz playing ping pong at The Twilight Exit.
Are there any songs on the record inspired by Seattle characters or places?
Shana: There’s one song on the album that’s inspired by this place in Seattle that’s kind of creepy. I was looking for a bus stop once and there’s this dark street with no streetlights for some reason, and I kinda got lost and the directions were all wrong. There’s this drop off into Ravenna Park, which is a massive park in the middle of the city. I was walking by and I started feeling really creeped out and I couldn’t figure out why. And I start hearing this noise, this “Meow, Meow” and I’m like, I wonder where that cat is, it sounds so close. I’m looking all around and I don’t see any cats and then I realize it’s a human.
That is creepy! Was it a he?
Yeah, but I never saw him. He got closer and closer and finally I just ran away.
My God. What did that inspire?
Shana: It’s Alive, which is the title track.
Marian: We still live by that creepy park.
And somewhere in there there’s a cat-man lurking.
Marian: Did I tell you about my experience in that park? I was also there, and I was kinda drunk and I was getting some air and I was wandering around the park and it was really dark and I felt a presence. I was sitting the top of these stairs and you couldn’t see the bottom of the stairs…
Shana: That’s where I was!
Marian: Oh my God! So I’m sitting there and something’s up. So I just say “Hi” just in case. And someone said from the darkness: “Are you happy?”
Marian: I know! And then I had a three-hour conversation with this faceless person.
Alice: That is so creepy! Why did you do that?!
Marian: I was drunk!
Shana: There’s a lot of creepy stories about that park. There’s a comic book called Black Hole and it’s a futuristic story, but it’s from the 70s about these mutant people and they all live in Ravenna park.
Well that’s one to avoid. Or maybe I should go hang out with the cat man.
La Luz Tour Dates
06.18-22.14 - Calgary, AB - Sled Island Festival
06.28.14 - Seattle, WA - Hilliard's Brewery %
07.31.14 - New York, NY - MoMA PopRally
09.19.14 - Allston, MA - Great Scott *
09.20.14 - Montreal, QC - Pop Montreal @ Club Soda *
09.21.14 - Toronto, ON - Danforth Music Hall *
09.22.14 - Detroit, MI - Trinosopes *
09.23.14 - Chicago, IL - Thalia Hall *
09.24.14 - St. Paul, MN - Turf Club *
09.25.14 - Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room *
09.26.14 - Denver, CO - Bluebird Theater *
09.27.14 - Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge *
% - JanSport show w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Craft Spells, FREE w/ RSVP
* - w/ Ty Segall
Next time Kim is in Seattle she will most certainly eat an 8oz burger and go looking for cat man. She's on Twitter - @theKTB
Tacocat on the Seattle Scene, UTI Realities, and Leotards as Chastity Belts.