Q&A: Shana Falana Turns Darkness into Dream Pop on “Lie 2 Me”
Shana Falana lives in New York’s picturesque Hudson Valley where she works painting houses, volunteers in her community, and collaborates on music with her partner and musical collaborator Mike Amari. By the guitarist/songwriter’s own accounts, life is good, but the path to get to where she is today came with many twists and turns.
Raised in California, Shana Falana spent time in San Francisco’s D.I.Y. scene and sang in a Bulgarian women’s choir before following her heart to New York. By 2006, Falana found herself grappling with addiction and money woes when she lost part of her index finger in a work-related incident. Under usual circumstances, that might be considered entirely unlucky, but the settlement money she received after the accident provided her a period of financial stability that allowed her the time and space to finally overcome her addictions and find new focus in her life and music.
Much of the music on Shana Falana’s second album, Here Comes the Wave (Team Love) were conceptualized in the years that followed and refined over time. Produced with D. James Goodwin (Bob Weir, Whitney, Kevin Morby), the record shows the duality of Falana’s “then and now” in its diverse moods, lyrical themes, and sonic palette that incorporates shoegaze, gothic pop, and rock. But while many of its songs are at least outwardly exuberant and dreamy, its first single, “Lie to Me,” treads darker waters, starting with a trudging, bottom-heavy riff before exploding into a trippy mass of guitar feedback, Moog, and anguished, layered vocals.
Check out She Shreds’ exclusive premiere of “Lie 2 Me” below and read on to learn more about how Shana Falana’s background in traditional music has continued to impact her songwriting, channeling difficult times and emotions into music, and how giving back to others struggling in their lives has helped her stay centered in her own. Here Comes the Wave comes out on October 21 via Team Love Records.
She Shreds: Before you launched your latest project, you sang in a Bulgarian Women’s choir. How did that experience of that affect your musicianship, especially where ear-training or harmonics are concerned? Do you draw on much of your experience singing in that group when it comes to your rock-based projects, past or present?
Shana Falana: Singing Bulgarian music definitely changed my life forever. I learned about dissonant harmonies and drones, I learned how to sing in a different language, I experimented in the group writing my own harmonies and guitar parts re-arranging the songs from Medieval into Bulgarian into circle singing. It opened me up to be experimental. It was a very supportive group of women. I miss it, honestly. You can hear it in my harmonies and choices on guitar but also many of my songs are built on loops and parts repeating, which I think is a result of the choir.
Some of the most iconic guitarists of all time, from Django Reinhardt to Tony Iommi, among others, have suffered the loss of a finger, only to make it a part of their signature style. How has losing part of your finger affected your playing or songwriting, if at all?
Well, luckily it was on my right hand, and so I just had to get used to holding the pick different. I was already into open tunings, and big strum-y chords, so I didn’t have to adjust too much. Plus, finger-picking is just hard, so now I don’t have to worry about learning that.
In a twist of fate, the settlement from that accident gave you the opportunity to take your life into a new direction. Can you tell us a little about that process and how it has impacted you creatively leading up to Here Comes the Wave?
As an addict, I knew that if I didn’t get sober before I got that settlement money, I would have blown it all on drugs and alcohol, and died of an overdose or something, so in the interim I got sober and kind of got my life together. It was a good amount of money, it totally helped me clean up my debt, and allowed me to take my time and work with Kevin McMahon (Swans, Titus Andronicus, Widowspeak) in his studio upstate to make the “In the Light” EP, and release it on my own. Right as that came out, I met my partner and drummer Mike Amari. We started touring and we ultimately ended up releasing our first LP Set Your Lightning Fire Free on Team Love records last year.
How does the song “Lie 2 Me” fit into it all?
I wrote that song about a decade ago, when I was still in Brooklyn, and I was just feeling like my muse had lead me from San Francisco to NYC, and then disappeared. It’s about the frustration that can come from chasing your dream for years and years but not getting very far. Overall, this record is a little darker and heavier than our last one, and this song kind of holds it all together. It’s the black in my rainbow.
What guitar and amp do you use on Here Comes the Wave? What additional effects did you use to build “Lie 2 Me,” especially the huge-sounding instrumental section at the end?
I always use my Gibson SG ’68, and we used a Fender Twin Reverb for most of this record. Mike had the idea of this song descending into chaos at the end after me shouting “Did you lie to me?” over and over. He worked with our producer Dan Goodwin to blend the end of my guitar parts, feedback mostly, with Moog synths that were run through some effects and overdrives. I love the way it came out, and the way it connects into the next track “Brainy Fox.”
Many of these songs were born out of your own story of overcoming addiction, and now you work to help women do the same. Can you tell us a little about your work, and how it impacts you personally and creatively?
Well, I’ve been doing service work for about five years, going into long term rehabs, detoxes, and jails—mostly women-only facilities. Working in those places, I hope to achieve the same things as with my music and performing on stage, which is to give people confidence in themselves and to believe that they have the power to transform their lives. You would not believe how much some of these women have had to overcome just to stay alive, and so every week when I do this work it helps keep me centered and focused on what is actually important in life.
If anyone out there is having trouble managing their life because of drugs and alcohol, I highly recommend seeking out a 12-step program, but if that’s not your thing, SOS, Life Ring, and RECOVERY are great resources as well.