Insistent keys and snare coupled with guitar riffs and grooving bass built up as music group La Luz began playing “Cicada,” one of the songs from their upcoming album, Floating Features. Guitarist Shana Cleveland’s voice wasn’t alone in lyrics for long; other band members Marian Li Pino, Alice Sandahl, and Lena Simon soon joined, cementing the layered harmonies and robust sound by which the group has come to be known.
This surf rock band, stopping to play The Loft at UCSD on their current tour, initially came together in Seattle, but moved down to Los Angeles when writing their newest album. Compared to previous projects, Floating Features was the first to be recorded in a large studio setting with the majority of the material prepared fully before. “We’ve been waiting for this record to come out for a really long time,” says Cleveland, “We recorded it a year and a half ago and we’ve been playing two or three of the songs live for a long time… on this tour we’ll play mostly the new album.”
The four connected effortlessly throughout their set, both within their group and with the sea of listeners. Between playful banter, conversations with the audience, hugging instruments close as they danced, and their Soul Train line tradition, the show was injected with energy or wistfulness; the band emphasized their newer songs, including “The Creature,” a mellow and transcendent piece with soaring synths and echoing vocals. Cleveland reflects, “It’s hard, starting with a blank slate, coming up with that moment where it’s like, ‘okay, that album’s out, time to write a new album… just gotta write a song now…’ and that moment where you’re like, is it even gonna happen?… which is dumb because once you start doing it, it’s going to happen– it happens every time– but it’s hard to start with just that blank canvas.”
“That blank slate can be so intimidating, and it’s even more frustrating when that intimidation defeats you and you can’t get past it,” adds keyboardist Alice Sandahl, “Like, I sometimes don’t have the courage to push forward, but when we do, it’s worth it.”
“And when you hear music in your head, trying to explain that to other people can be really difficult– even if you know what it sounds like, translating it into words is tough,” says bassist Lena Simon, “When that does actually happen and it works, everyone agrees that it sounds good, that is the frustration, the roadblock, and the success.”
“I’ve got a lot of songs that I’ve written for this band that we’ve never played, more songs that we haven’t played than we have played, but I guess the comforting thing about those songs that never make it is that you know they helped you get to the songs that did– it can be like, oh I can’t believe I spent so long on this song that I ended up thinking sucks, but like, you need those songs to get to the good ones,” says Cleveland, “You can’t be afraid of the awful stuff, it’s all part of the process.”
Before La Luz took the stage, garage rock trio Pinky Pinky blew the crowd away with their dynamic opening set. Drummer Anastasia Sanchez’s fervent voice was enhanced by guitarist Isabelle Fields and bassist Eva Chambers; each instrument stood out individually, leaving the audience dancing along with the beat, riffs, and bassline.
Noticeably, this show at The Loft consisted of entirely women artists. “In Seattle, the music the scene is fairly small,” says La Luz drummer Marian Li Pino, “You meet pretty much everyone, you play with pretty much everyone, and you especially remember the women you play with, at least in that era. It feels different now, but it may just be because we’re touring a lot, and we play more shows with women.”
“It does feel like there’s more women in music,” agrees Cleveland, “but I can’t tell how much of that is that promoters tend to be lazy, and they say ‘oh, I have a band of women, let’s get some more women to open up for them,’ which is definitely great, we enjoy it… but it’s also partially out of this laziness… like people see women and think, oh, I need to find some other women to play with those women, because that’s somehow a genre in itself… but ‘women’ is not a genre.”
Listen to La Luz here (Floating Features set to release May 11th)