The Seattle surf-rock band La Luz knows how to spook you. Echoing the hazy, classic sound of Phil Spector-produced ’60s girl groups (like the Ronettes), the brooding quartet’s latest record Weirdo Shrine is a ghoulish collection of songs about obsession, death, and darkness. Its timeless, ’60s-prom band vibes make the album prime material for slow-dancing or doing the twist. Like “Don’t Wanna Be Anywhere,” the track they’re premiering with us today, Weirdo Shrine is perfect listening for any decade:
I talked to the guitarist Shana Cleveland and the keyboardist Alice Sandahl about producing their new album, the beauty of creepy inspiration, and weirdo shrines.
HAZEL: Can you tell me about this song “Don’t Wanna Be Anywhere,” what’s it about?
SHANA CLEVELAND: That song is about when you lose somebody. A friend of mine died in Michigan, that I was close to when I was in high school. I was thinking about how when someone dies the world is almost physically changed because they’re not giving back to it and their breath isn’t in the atmosphere. That’s the lyrical meaning of the song, for me. But there’s also a lot of breath in the song. The first line is, “I don’t wanna be anywhere, you have not breathed the air.” A lot of that song is also just like breathing, all four of us breathing, all the aaahs and ooohs and stuff.
How do you write songs as a band?
SHANA: Everybody kind of pitches in. Usually I’ll have a song at the point where I feel like it’s pretty good and then I’ll bring it to the band and we’ll all put in changes.
This is your second full-length album. How would you say the band has changed since the first album?
SHANA: Well, I guess after the first EP we got our new keyboard player Alice and then after the first LP we got a new bass player. Since then we’ve been touring non stop, so I feel like, for the new album, we’ve gelled together as a band. Before it was more like my idea of “I want to make this band!” But now we’re our own unit.
ALICE SANDAHL: When I joined the band it was definitely very serious; from the beginning we took our work seriously. But through the changes, and passing time, and touring—this is now our career, we’re doing this.
SHANA: This is such a huge part of what we do [now]; in the beginning it was a smaller part of our lives.
Ty Segall produced this album, what was that like?
SHANA: It was cool and really natural to work with him. We had just been on tour with him and we had become friends so it was easy. When we recorded, it was fun, it felt like summer recording camp. We were living in his basement and using air mattresses [Laughs]. We had a little home base and would play with his cat. It was so casual. And it wasn’t really a studio, it was his friend’s surf shop, full of surfboards, and he just set up a bunch of gear there. One thing I really liked about it was that there were no dividers between us. Usually when you record in a studio they set up all these booths and dividers so you can’t really see each other while you’re playing—it’s so they can isolate the instruments better when they’re mixing it. But this was all of us in one big room together and we were just playing as if we were practicing.
ALICE: On the last record we wanted a live sound and [with] this one even moreso. Ty was not about perfection or doing a million takes until you got the right one. He sort of pushed us to keep going and not get hung up on small things that might actually be charming on the record, to be push us out of our comfort zone.
What’s the significance of the album title Weirdo Shrine?
ALICE: in the song “Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine” from the album, I was thinking about things that people obsess about in life, like love or religion or spirituality. Things people build up with all this personal meaning, which nobody could understand the way they do. A lot of songs end up being love songs or songs about obsession, like you’re making this weird shrine, like it’s not even a person it’s just this idea of someone that you’ve created in your head that nobody could understand in the same way.
What would you say is the ideal setting for listening to Weirdo Shine?
ALICE: At a live show that we’re playing! In a car, maybe.
SHANA: On the run. Maybe just like alone in the room in the dark with a pair of good headphones on so you can hear all the mistakes and secret screams in the background that you might not catch.
The album feels very haunting and gothic. This record especially, which I know was inspired a bit by Charles Burns’ comic Black Hole plus older tracks, I’m thinking of your music video for “Big Big Blood.” Is sounding spooky something you aim for?
SHANA: I think that’s just what happens! Four female vocalists can be kind of spooky, especially the way that we sing. The way that I sing is sort of slower, I don’t scream a lot; it is more of a spooky kind of thing.
ALICE: I think that it is probably a by-product but a lot of the songs are about dark things. But there’s humor in the dark parts of life too and we try to keep that in, too. You can sense that in “Big Big Blood.”
SHANA: The thing about the Black Hole comic that’s funny is I used to live by the park that the kids in the comic camp out in. When I read it I thought that was so weird because I walk by that park every day. The title track off the first album, “It’s Alive” was kind of based on this time I walked past that park and I heard this creepy cat noise or cat-human [Laughs]. I read the comic after we did that album and it sort of oozed in there. It’s a really cool representation of the Northwest. People ask us all the time whether living in Seattle and the Northwest inspires our music. If it does—because it’s really hard to tell—it’s in that way, that spooky way, because it’s really gray and dark and damp for so much of the year. ♦