Shana Cleveland was listening to '60s garage rock when it hit her. "They all had interesting vocal harmonies with cutting, twangy guitar sounds," she says. "I didn't see any current American bands doing that."
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to a pair of musician parents, Cleveland says music was her whole world growing up. "My parents were in a band called Night Shift. They were a blues/country/classic-rock kind of band that played in bars where people danced. I was always watching them practice." To emulate Mom and Dad, Cleveland even went so far as to form her own band as a child. They were called the Unicorns and would open up for Cleveland's parents every now and then.
But after the Unicorns, Cleveland stayed away from performing music for a while. After college, though, she moved to Seattle and formed the band the Curious Mystery. Then in 2012, she had her epiphany that led to forming La Luz, an all-girl group with drummer Marian Li Pino, keyboardist Alice Sandahl, and bassist Lena Simon.
Last year, La Luz released its second full-length album, Weirdo Shrine, and the band already has plans to add to its catalog with an album it hopes to release this year. "We're going to record some demos for it on this tour when we're in Nashville," Cleveland says. "Lots of the songs I wrote for it are about dreams. I guess that's a recurring theme in this album. There's definitely a shift in these songs, but I don't know how to describe it."
La Luz comes to Gramps on May 4. It will be the band's third time playing Miami, having played Gramps this past summer and Churchill's a year ago.
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Though rock ’n’ roll is where she made her name, Cleveland has also found some success in writing and illustrating. Her tour diary was published in a Seattle newspaper, and her drawings have shown up in national magazines like The Believer. "I like to do a lot of different things. I'd get uninspired if I just played guitar all day." Her current artwork focuses on portraits of old musicians like Buddy Holly and the Shirelles.
It makes sense that someone whose music is steeped in the sounds of bygone eras would try to retrace the vessels that made these sounds. Fans of La Luz can only hope this quest doesn't ever lead Shana Cleveland to quit her night job.