(l-r) Marian Li Pino, Abbey Blackwell, Shana Cleveland, Alice Sandahl
Not thirty seconds into "Sure as Spring," the lead track from the all-girl quartet La Luz's debut album It's Alive, the Seattle-based garage rockers begin unfurling the kind of watery guitar lines and ghostly girl-group vocals that conjure that mistswept Pacific Northwest small-town weirdness of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. But according to lead singer, songwriter and occasional poet Shana Cleveland, the group's Link Wray-laced Phil Spector jangle was never meant to evoke anything but shaking asses on a dance floor.
"I always had the intention to write really fun, happy music," said Cleveland, who along with drummer Marian Li Pino, bassist Abbey Blackwell and keyboardist Alice Sandahl formed La Luz just over a year ago. "And I didn't realize we made this dark, noir-ish sound until we finished the album and were listening to it. It just came out that way."
It's Alive was recorded with friend/producer Johnny Goss in his cement bunker studio attached to a laundromat in a trailer park, where they cultivated a warm "live-to-tape" sound that reverberates through the album's 11-song track list. The result is a record that feels almost dislodged in time, a uniquely haunting -- albeit occasionally unintentional -- spin on the innocent guitar-driven pop of the late '50s and early '60s, nudging the sock hop vibes of Dick Dale and the Shirelles into a darker parallel dimension.
La Luz also makes room on the album for old-school dance floor burners ("Morning High" and the instrumental "Sunstroke"), showing off an energy that trickles down into their wild live shows.
"We love doing the 'Soul Train' at our shows," explains Cleveland. "We split the crowd in two and make them dance toward the stage. By the time we're done, everyone's loosened up and ready to dance. It's like a different crowd."
It's Alive is out October 15th via Hardly Art.