By Emily Savage
Seattle surf rock quartet La Luz began as a lonely, Link Wray-inspired solo project in a bedroom, as many great acts do. After a shaky demo surfaced on blogs, the band formed into a foursome and began playing live shows (yep, after its haunting first tracks were already out there).
In the short year or so since its inception, the all-lady quartet has released an EP (Damp Face), and risen above the fluffy initial web buzz with an LP full of Shangri-Las four-part harmonies, seriously skilled surf guitar riffs, and this innate sense of doom filtered throughout its sweet sound.
And there’s a reason for that anxiety.
Word spread quickly in the indie music community after a semi-trailer truck smashed into La Luz while the band was out on tour a few weeks back. The group’s van was totaled, the gear was smashed, and the four women suffered injuries.
Later, the band released a statement, which included these words: “Last night was probably the most terrifying experience of any of our lives. But we’re ok!… We lost a lot of things (pretty much everything we had) and got pretty banged up when we were hit by a semi on our way to Seattle last night, but we’re just awfully glad to be alive.”
It gave me chills. A week before this freak accident, I talked with the band’s talented lead singer and songwriter, who is also a visual artist, Shana Cleveland, and she told me about premonitions, bad vibes. She had written much of the band’s spooky, surfy, wailing debut full-length, It’s Alive (Hardly Art), before another tragic incident last year. And while the songwriting began prior to the moment – another occurrence that ripped apart her world – and continued after, she’d felt something buzzy, something eerie in the air and whipped that into song.
The moment was a shooting spree at a Seattle artists’ café she and her friends frequented, around the corner from her home, during which a kindred musician spirit was killed, as were others.
“When something that dramatic happens, it could either crush you or give you a crazy energy,” she told me at the time.
She later added: “It just seems like the air was really heavy with this insane event and I was sort of channeling this crazy shit that was about to happen. This sounds kind of New Age-y. But when I looked back over the lyrics I was just like, ‘holy shit!’ I think I just felt something in the air.”
Gives you the creeps, right? And then you listen, to the bone-chilling, girl-group style songs of It’s Alive. Like final track “You Can Never Know,” with it’s chain-dragging guitar and lilting group harmonies, Cleveland’s cry rising above it all — and you can’t pull yourself away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR A transplant from Long Beach, Calif., Emily Savage a.k.a. Tofu and Whiskey has been messing with your Bay Area media since 2008. Her most recent gig was music editor for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She’s also been SF editor of Poor Taste Mag, photo editor of J. the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, and staff writer/clubs columnist at the Grunion Gazettes. She’s written freelance pieces for SF Weekly, SOMA Mag, Metro.Pop, the Bold Italic, etc.