Digging through records is a great way to discover bands, and this is how I came across La Luz. After procuring La Luz’s It’s Alive from Albatross Recordings and Ephemera, I took it home, dropped the needle and then soon began to uncontrollably gyrate to the surf-soulful sound of the first track, “Sure is Spring.” So, when I found out that La Luz was coming back to Salt Lake on Sept. 10 at Urban Lounge and that they released their new LP, Weirdo Shrine, through Hardly Art on Aug. 7, I felt that it was time to get the particulars surrounding all this excitement from guitarist and founder Shana Cleveland. “I feel like it’s pretty similar to the last album in a lot of ways, but I feel like we’ve kind of come into our own as a band more,” says Cleveland. “The first record was probably [composed] of half songs that I kind of wrote before we started the band. This album was obviously written after we’ve been together at least a year and a half or two years … It feels like who we are as a group and what my idea the band should be at the beginning.”
There are certainly some notable similarities between It’s Alive and Weirdo Shrine, which Ty Segall produced. The new album is still full of soulful surf rock n’ roll and is as infectious, but the soulful quality is vibrantly heavier in Weirdo Shrine. “The record was recorded with the intention of trying to get it [to] what it sounds like when we play live,” Cleveland says. “Ty when recording used a lot of boom mics just to capture the sound of the room instead of isolating all of the instruments. To get a really crisp sound, we went more towards just trying to capture the energy.”
Apart from the recording style, Weirdo Shrine offers several themes that define the album. Although, one particular theme truly stands out for La Luz’s new album: death “You get this idea if I can’t have this person I’m going to die,” says Cleveland. “ I was sort of thinking about the intensity that you can feel with infatuation or obsession or intense love and how it feels like a life-and-death situation, but it’s really … in your head.” However, the intensity of love is not the only inspiration for material for Weirdo Shrine. Cleveland says, “Also in different way just having—the band having—this recent sort of brush with death where we were hit by a semi-truck and we all—in that moment—felt like we were going to die … It was that kind of experience that makes you really think about life and death a lot—whether you want to or not.”
With all the right ingredients present to make this 11 solid soul-filled rock n’ roll tracks, all that was missing was a producer. The search for one was not long as Cleveland sound found the perfect person to help fully realize Weirdo Shrine’s potential— garage rock legend Ty Segall “He basically suggested himself,” says Cleveland. “That seemed like a great idea because I really like the production on a lot of his albums.”
La Luz has worked with Segall before. In the fall of 2014, La Luz toured with Segall across North America to help support his new album Manipulator. When the tour reached Montreal, Segall made a friendly wager to keep things interesting. “He was always encouraging us to make our live show crazier,” says Cleveland. “Pretty early on during our second or third show, he told us that whoever was the first one of us to crowd surf while playing our instrument, he would pay $150. So the bet was there from the beginning and then it was sort of a race against each other to see who was going to get the nerve to do it—and I think Lena [Simon] officially won that one.”
With La Luz’s return to our Salty Shores rapidly approaching, I am curious to what fans can expect from their performance with Color Animal and Will Sprott. “We always try to come up with something new,” says Cleveland. “We usually get ideas in the van about how we can … up the ante on shows. When you play as many shows as we do—I feel like we played probably half the days last year … Out of 365 days, I think we played 150 or like almost 200 shows … So when you play that many shows, it gets kind of boring to just get onstage and play your songs and then get back in the van. We’re always trying to come up with things like the soul-train line that we do sometimes.”
After this US tour, La Luz is scheduled hit Europe for a string of dates, so while the getting is good, readers, be sure to check out their gig on Sept. 10 at Urban Lounge and dig their new album, Weirdo Shrine—you’ll be glad you did. ¡Viva!