Crowd Surfing with La Luz: Video and Interview
Since the 2013 debut of It’s Alive, there’s been nothing but excitement and anticipation for what La Luz will do next.
The years in between have taken La Luz through foreign cities in weird bars during tours that have helped shape them into the rock icons that they’ve become. Their contagious sense of humor, impeccable talent and genuine sincerity is what magnetizes these four to one another, and what captivates thousands of fans all over the world.
The first day I met La Luz was in June of 2013. We were at my house in Portland, OR for an interview which would be published two months later in the third issue of She Shreds. For some reason we thought meeting at eight A.M was a good idea. First off, if you’re in a band don’t ever schedule anything before 10 A.M., but to make this long story short, we were all delirious and half awake talking about Elvis over mimosas and migas (I mustered up the energy to cook breakfast and am now convinced that that’s the real reason we’re still friends). We ate picnic style in the park, laughed about things I’m sure weren’t that funny, made small talk about tour and said goodbye after taking a group photo in front of their van. The experience was just how you’re imagining it: awkward but amusing and comforting.
Just over two years later, sitting in the green room of the Wonder Ballroom with Marian, Lena, Shana and Alice, I couldn’t help but get sentimental. We began our conversation by reminiscing on the past and talking about how dreamy it would be to have Angel Olsen as your personal photographer, then moved on to reflecting on the past three years and getting stoked for the future.
She Shreds: Let me just start out with the question, how long had you been a band when we met?
Marian Li-Pino: That would’ve been two years ago, right?
Alice Sandahl: It’s fun to think about it. It’s crazy to me that that was just two years ago. It feels like so much longer. And thinking about how we became friends i never thought we’d be like—
Marian:—I’m so glad that happened. That we became friends.
Marian: This whole article should be about how happy we are that we all became friends [laughs]. It would’ve been a year by that point. When we met you.
Marian: About. We’d been a band almost one year when we went on that tour. More like 8 months.
I remember learning about y’all and being like “oh my god,” and then hearing and seeing “La Luz” everywhere. There was just so much excitement. At the time that you all started what were you thinking? What were your goals, what was your line of vision like? If you could write a letter to yourselves now, two years ago, what would it include?
Marian: I think at least for me, I really wanted to tour Europe. I remember that and I think I personally just wanted to be playing to more people and touring a bunch.
Alice: That’s probably the same letter that I’d have. Touring places like Europe—out of the country and bigger crowds.
Shana Cleveland: One of my big goals was just to meet and play with a lot of the bands that I liked because I felt like I didn’t have a lot of friends that liked the same kind of music that I liked. You guys didn’t even really. [Laughs]
Marian: Then we saw the light.
Shana: But I could just never find people that I could go to shows with, and I really wanted to be playing…like I wanted to play music that people could dance to. I saw Ty [Segall] play and I was just like, “I want to play shows where I can play with bands like that!” Not just like, “I want to play with Ty,” you know?
Shana: And Shannon and the Clams. It was like, “I want to play shows like this.” And I never thought—I mean, I’m not going to say that I never thought that I would play shows with those people because secretly I did. I was like, “I want to start this band and probably I’ll get to actually meet these people!” [Laughs]
And then I figured that we probably would, you know? Because I was like “I think people will really want to hear this band.” It’s a way better band than I could’ve imagined because in my imagination I didn’t have all of these amazing musicians involved. [Laughs]
I don’t know, it’s weird how much being focused and single-minded—you can really kind of get what you want. I feel like even though your guys’ goals are different than mine, it’s like we can all kind of get things that we want because we put so much energy and brainpower into it.
Marian: Now that you’re mentioning it, I remember wanting to play in a band that was really exciting live and had the stage presence that was really fun to play with and had funny banter and was like—
Shana:—and just having fun.
Marian: Yeah, over time I feel like definitely that was our goal but it was harder with other band mates sometimes, especially when we didn’t know what we were doing.
Shana: It’s weird how many people don’t know how to have fun.
Marian: Yeah. [Laughs] I think that’s been a huge thing that’s happened where it’s like “Oh my god I’d always dreamt of being in a band like this.” I didn’t think my band would be crowd surfing while playing their instruments or just having so much fun.
Do you think that if you didn’t have that accelerated attention, at that time where maybe it was the most necessary at the very beginning, you know, would it have been different? Would you have felt differently?
Lena: I think it forces you to take more risks. I mean me, personally, anyway. Since I’ve been in the band I’ve been watching the shows, the audience members, everything just grow. The attention keeps getting bigger and bigger and it kind of forces you to just go a little bit further.
Marian: It just seems like you can feel the energy that’s out there and then you’re like, “Whoa they want to do something, you can feel it.” Especially L.A. Oh my god. Yeah, they’re crazy. We should be crazy. If people weren’t reacting that way I feel like it’d be different. It’d be totally different. They definitely helped us get here.
Shana: I mean, yeah we totally feed off of the audience. I don’t know, you feel that they’re excited and it makes it more exciting.
Alice: Right. It’s hard to even like, search for a memory of a show where I haven’t felt a big surge of energy.
Alice & Shana: There’s very few shows.
Marian: That’s true.
That’s pretty amazing.
Lena: It’s almost easier to pick out the shitty ones, because there are so few.
Marian: I feel like Shana especially will come up with—she came up with this little train and then last night she was like, “We should have them soul-train but crowd surf soul-train.” So they just made an aisle of crowd surfers and it totally worked. It’s also nice to have the audience do—or want to do—whatever you’re asking them to do. And then you’re like “You trust us!”
Shana: “We love you!”
Do you ever wonder like, “Why do they trust us so much?”
Alice: We were looking at each other like, “I can’t believe it. Oh my god, it’s working!”
Marian: And it was really orderly and it worked really well.
Shana: I feel like, and I don’t know if this is true, but I feel like part of it is maybe that we’re not intimidating to people. Like, our whole thing is Luzers, you know?
Alice: I don’t think our stage presence is intimidating either.
Marian: You know how sometimes you’re chill but people are afraid of you and you don’t realize it?
Shana: But we’re goofy. [Laughs] That’s like an age-old thing, where you’re talking about those bands in New York who are all trying to out cool each other. That’s like a thing with bands—that a lot of them are really trying to seem cool and that’s just not what we’re doing.
Shana: We’re Luzers.
Marian: Yeah, we’re like anti-cool.
Shana: It’s like, “It’s ok I’m not going to look like a dork in this situation.” I hope that it’s a welcoming environment.
Alice: I think you’re right.
Shana: That’s what I always want. Every time I go to a show and it’s like [the band playing] is having the least fun show ever because they’re all afraid to dance and everyone is afraid to do something weird—or if they do it’s to just to be seen doing something weird, you know? It’s like an oppressive environment [laughs]. So, I don’t know, I mean I hope that we create something that feels safe for everybody.
After three years of touring and crossing things off of your initial goal list, do you all have new ones?
Marian: Well, now I want to go to Australia and I want to play bigger venues.
Alice: Yeah, I feel like it’s been kind of cool to watch that goals change through the years.
Marian: Yeah, you just keep reaching. I just can’t believe it keeps happening.
Alice: I feel like in the beginning we all sat down and were like “Where is the end goal?” But it keeps on moving up. I think I sort of feel, from a business standpoint, that I’d like to see us start to be even more financially lucrative for our livelihood.
Marian: Totally. Shana, what’re your new goals because you’ve like, met and hung out with and are friends with all of these people that you were influenced by and now what?
Shana: I really can’t think of any others.
Lena: Maybe Macklemore or something.
Shana: He’s great but he’s not a really inspiring figure to me, personally.
Lena: Kurt Vile?
Shana: Nah, Kurt Vile is cool, but no.
Shana: I mean to me it’d be like Ty and Shannon, really. I think that those are like, my two musical idols as far as rock goes.
Marian: It’s so amazing how nice they’ve been.
Shana: I mean my goals are mostly, you know, I just want us to keep putting out records and keep getting bigger would be nice.
Marian: I mean, why not?
Shana: I don’t want you people to be dirt-poor. I’d want to be comfortable.
For me seeing you all grow—and specifically during the Ty and La Luz tour that I was part of—and looking back at these videos it’s like…that tour was really special to me because I feel like you all somehow let loose—you started crowd surfing, you became more confident, I don’t know what it was but there’s something about that time that seemed significant.
Marian: Yeah, I agree. I absolutely felt that. I think it was like really inspiring to play for huge, more excited crowds—playing for Of Montreal’s crowds is definitely different than playing for Ty’s crowds. But then there’s also a hand in [Ty Segall’s] general energy. It was like he wanted us to go a little nuts and I think we wanted to go nuts.
Marian: Did you cry at all watching the videos?
Haha—no, I was more like “Wow, you can really see the growth in a band through these videos.”
Alice: That’s so cool.
For me knowing that that was your first crowd surf, or knowing that was the first time you all played to 1,000 people…it’s just crazy because that’s the difference between La Luz then and La Luz now—it’s just a totally different experience live. I was wondering if you all felt the same way and if that was something that was important—for you all to make sure that people know that you’ve evolved.
Alice: Yeah, I think that’s hard to really articulate but [this album] definitely feels a little bit more mature.
Lena: I think maybe the goal for the band in the beginning was like you were saying, was to have fun on stage and to just be this approachable thing and as the first record was played out with touring and we were developing new material and working with Ty and going on tour with Ty it was kind of like, okay we can really embody that and turn that into the next record and capture that energy of the last year into something that’s permanent now, and then who knows how that’s going to grow.
Marian: I kind of did feel like a different energy going into the first album than going into the second album. I felt more secure in who we were as a band and in what we’d done and who we were and what our presence was like. I felt more intention with the second record. Whereas the first we were kind of still new.
Shana: I don’t totally feel like the Ty tour was a total game changer for me personally. It was definitely a really great experience and one that I treasure [Laughs] but I feel like just all the tours leading up to that had that effect on me. Even with our tour with Entrance Band. I was really inspired by a lot of what they did and like, I’ve had a lot of experiences and just like growing to that point and getting more confident over the years. That tour was great because it was big venues and rowdy crowds and we realized that we could do that. That was definitely a big one, but to me it doesn’t really stand out as like we were a different band before. I feel like it was kind of part of the direction that we were going in.
Fabi: Just part of your growth…
So, when I talked to you about the album three months ago, you were saying that the lyrical content came from multiple experiences. Did anything in the past few tours change the energy or the idea behind any of those songs?
Shana: You mean, did I write them with one thing in mind and then once we played them they became something else in my mind?
Shana: No, I don’t think so. Not lyrical content.
Shana: From when I’m writing them in my room and from when the band plays them it’s like they grow and change, but not lyrically so much.
Lena: It’s like when you read a book and then you see the movie and then you’re like “Oh, that’s not what I was expecting but that’s someone else’s view on it.”
You know, my favorite song is “With Davey”. [Laughs]
Marian:—you fucking love that song!
I love that song!
Marian: When we were recording it, Ty kept rewinding this one part and it killed Davey a little bit for us.
Lena: Just for you.
Shana: It’s still my favorite song.
Marian: Really? I thought…I know someone else was like “Oh my god, I can’t listen to Davey for a little while.”
Well I imagine this little monster going through alleys and you all being like, [whispers] “Should we do this?”
Like, “Should we follow him?” And the little monster being like “Yeah, come on.” And then you all follow him and end up in this weird place.
Alice: You should write all of our music videos from now on.
Lena: Can you write and direct the videos for our entire album?
Marian: Oh, that would be rad!
Were there any points in the process of creating Weirdo Shrine where you felt sort of overwhelmed by people’s expectations?
Shana: It was more like a thing that I was supposed to be feeling than what I actually felt. I’ve always been 100% confident in what this band can do. That kind of attitude is what gets us far. We all feel that. I mean, I think we all feel that way. But it’s almost voices saying like, “You know, you probably should be nervous about this.” [Laughs]
Alice: I mean there is a pressure on the sophomore album, you know? But once we started recording—well even in the writing process—I was like “This shit is going to rule.”
Shana: I was definitely at one point like, “I don’t know if this album has as many hits as the last album.” Because the first album had “Call Me In The Day” and “Sure As Spring” and people really liked those songs. Then I was trying to think of what the hits were on this one and I feel really—I couldn’t really see any obvious hits but then when I listened to it I was just like “This is clearly a better record than the first record.”
Marian: I feel like it’s definitely stronger and I’ve definitely oscillated over—like I had kind of a journey with this record because I’m such a perfectionist as a drummer and Ty is like “There’s no time to really be a perfectionist with tape.” And so that was really hard to deal with. But when I had time to step away from it and come back to it and listen to the old album, I think this album has way more hits, personally. It could be because we’ve played the other songs so much. That’s the thing, it’s really hard for me to tell. Where it’s like “oh, I love this because it feels fresh and it’s exciting and it’s fast and it’s catchy,” and not to say that the old album isn’t but it’s just like, we’ve been playing them for years [laughs]. So, I have no idea.
Shana: Perspective is everything with your own material. You have to be able to force yourself to wonder what someone who is not me thinks—it’s so easy to just focus on like “Ugh.” I feel that way with watching videos of us or something.
Marian: Right. Yeah because you know that we’ve practiced a million times and then when something is not quite right it drives you crazy, but actually over time I’ve had a bunch of our songs come up on my iPod and every time I end up just listening to the whole album and I’m like “Oh, I really like that. I like how the album flows. It’s cool.”