It's been a little more than six months since La Luz moved away from Seattle. While it was sad to see them go, their dreamy doo-wop vocals and surf-inspired harmonies hinting at the strange and uncanny seemed like a perfect fit for their next destination: Los Angeles.
Guitarist/vocalist Shana Cleveland, drummer Marian Li Pino, keyboardist Alice Sandahl, and bassist Lena Simon all moved together, but they haven't exactly settled in. They've been touring and rehearsing almost nonstop for their next album (to be recorded in November), and gearing up for a fall European tour.
Though they've obviously been busy and are still finding their rhythm, we checked in with them for a sort of follow-up exit interview, to find out what they miss (and what they don't) about Seattle, and the ubiquity of pupusas in the City of Angels.
So how's LA been treating you so far?
MARIAN: It's a trip. This city is so vast and weird, in good and bad ways. For me it's been a dichotomy of having a million activities at my disposal and not quite knowing anybody.
LENA: I suppose like anywhere we go, we aren't there very long because of tours. Like Marian said, it's interesting to come back to a place that has so much to do every day. Strangely, I find that it's been inspiring me to hole up and work harder.
What are the shows like when you play out there? Do you sort of feel like the new kid in town?
SHANA: Part of the reason we chose LA is that we felt like they really understand us. It's partially because Burger Records is here—they put out our first EP on cassette, so it always felt like a second home to the band.
MARIAN: LA has always shown us a lot of love, just about on par with Seattle. I love the audiences here, and I credit LA with being the first city to show us that our music could be crowd-surfed to.
ALICE: I feel like every time we play a show here, the crowd is nuts! We all went to a Shannon and the Clams show the other night, and they were equally bonkers. People are crazy here! Something in the water.
What's the hardest thing to get used to?
SHANA: I guess that it is just so... sprawling. It feels like everything is sort of hidden away, inside of places, around corners, down alleys. You have to look around for everything.
ALICE: Just the other day, I went to this old marionette theater that was built in the '50s tucked away below the freeway. Or you'll be driving in what feels like the middle of urban nowhere and suddenly see beautiful rolling hills with oil wells and a circus school right next door.
SHANA: It's a really mysterious place, charged with people's wild fantasies. I like the idea that people move here because they've got this crazy dream that they want to realize—like, I don't know, to start a cult.
MARIAN: The weather is pretty great too, even with the constant heat; it's cool knowing that I don't have to halt whatever I had planned just to enjoy a sunny day (like in Seattle).
SHANA: It's endless summer. And I always felt like Seattle is kind of endless fall. And here it's just insanely sunny, which is awesome... and unnerving.
How has the move affected the band's creativity? Will we hear it on the next record?
LENA: Maybe it's the lack of trees, the geography of the LA basin, or the vastness of the city, but I feel more open to all the different genres of music and culture that surround me. You don't have to go far to stumble upon a new sound and let it influence what you make.
SHANA: And there are these huge, vast spaces of emptiness. You'll be walking around the streets and won't see anybody in forever, 'cause everybody drives. And if you walk up into the hills, you won't hear any cars or see any people, and all you'll see is dirt and plants and trees, and maybe you can hear a freeway but it kind of sounds like the ocean. So you can get to isolation really quickly, and that's really inspiring to me.
LENA: There was a guy at the beach sitting on a stoop with an out-of-tune electric guitar, and heavy delay on his vocals coming out of a little tiny PA, playing to no one in particular. It was the most perfect, janky, and genuinely sweet song.
I think I know the answer, but what's one thing LA hands-down does better than Seattle?
SHANA: Mexican food. Lots of delicious Mexican food. Everywhere. In my neighborhood, there are these carts that sell fresh fruit chopped up with lime and chili, and it's exactly what you want to eat all the time. I was eating one of those the other day and thinking: If somebody did this on Capitol Hill, they would make a million dollars.
But there are things you miss about Seattle, right?
LENA: I do miss the mild weather and the cloudy days from time to time, using the Bait Shop as my meeting room, my favorite Thai place (shout-out Rom Mai Thai!), and of course all of my dear friends.
SHANA: I miss Cafe Racer. That's my favorite place in town, I think. And also Trading Musician. Those two places were kind of my go-to spots. They probably have something like that out here, but I don't know where it is yet.
MARIAN: I miss the green, the ubiquity of water and mountains at every turn. The simplicity of a smaller city, and I definitely miss the drivers that would rather be polite than risk your life. I miss the relatively sharp intelligence and progressiveness of the general community.
ALICE: I also miss being able to walk to everything I need.
Wait... why did you leave, again?
SHANA: I don't feel like comfort is the best friend of creativity. And I felt extremely comfortable in Seattle. So that was a big part of it for me. And it just felt really homogenous in some ways, so I was craving... a little more strangeness.
Do you think there's a sort of ceiling a band can hit staying in Seattle, once they've started getting some attention?
MARIAN: It's hard to say. It's definitely easier to exhaust the venues around the area, but I think the internet makes it so that you can have success pretty much anywhere you are. However, there seem to be a lot more industry people in LA that are out and about, just checking out the scene. This could be wrong, but it feels like the LA vibe is a little more ready to consume.
LENA: And to act on it. In Seattle, the audiences feel like our friends that come out to support us, which has this familiar, cozy sensation. Out here, people seem genuinely hungry for the experience of your show, whether it's industry or fans, but it's not like we're looking for some mega hot shot to throw us into the mainstream. It's just a different kind of ceiling, perhaps.
What do you NOT miss about Seattle?
MARIAN: I'm glad I don't have to watch my favorite parts of the city get torn apart. Not having to live through another bleak Seattle winter is a plus as well.
LENA: Yeah, at the very least, LA is big enough to hide a lot of those annoying tech dude-bros and their giant companies bulldozing every cool building in town. And yes, I can do without a week (or more) of straight downpour.
SHANA: I guess the diversity in LA makes everything more interesting. And I don't miss not being able to get a cheap lunch. Here you can just walk down the street and buy a taco or a three-dollar sandwich or whatever. I just feel like that's something that's weirdly lacking in Seattle lately: options for people who don't have a lot of money.
Seriously though, those tacos...
LENA: Guisados all the way.
SHANA: Yeah, and the pupusas. Pupusas everywhere. Pupusas every five feet, it feels like. So good.