Formed around the guitar playing and songs of Shana Cleveland, La Luz formed with the intention of blending surf music with garage rock while giving it a mystical dash of psychedelia. Early releases were punchy and raw, capturing the band as they sounded on-stage and showcasing Cleveland’s fast fingers and way with a whammy bar. As they evolved, the surf receded in favor of more muscular playing and production as on 2018′s Floating Features. By the time of 2021′s self-titled album recorded with producer Adrian Younge, the band had become full-fledged psych rockers who had learned the value of space and dynamics.
La Luz were formed in the summer of 2012 by Cleveland, who had previously recorded with the Curious Mystery and Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles. Looking for a group to fulfill her vision of a band who were equally at home playing upbeat surf and moody garage, Cleveland joined forces with Alice Sandahl on keys, Abbey Blackwell on bass, and Marian Li-Pino (another former member of the Curious Mystery) on drums, with all four sharing vocals. Adopting the name La Luz (Spanish for “the light”), the new group wasted no time getting into the studio (in this case, a makeshift recording setup in a trailer), releasing a four-song EP, Damp Face, before the year was out. In 2013, La Luz issued 7” singles on Suicide Squeeze and Mississippi Records, and soon the Sub Pop-distributed Hardly Art label came calling, reissuing the Damp Face EP and in October 2013 releasing their first full-length album, It's Alive.
La Luz soon hit the road to promote the album, and in November 2013, they were returning home from a gig when their van skidded on a patch of black ice, swerved, and was struck by a truck. The accident destroyed the van and much of their gear, and left the musicians with minor injuries; a tour with Of Montreal had to be canceled. In the aftermath bassist Blackwell left the band, but by March 2014, La Luz recruited a new bassist, Lena Simon, and went back on the road. In early 2015, La Luz started work on their second album, recording in a surfboard shop in San Dimas, California, with Ty Segall serving as producer and engineer. The finished product, titled Weirdo Shrine, was released by Hardly Art on August 7, 2015, and the group headed out on an international concert tour in support. When they returned home after the tour, the foursome decided to pick up stakes and move to California, penning an emotional farewell to their hometown on social media. Once there, they began work on their third album, 2018′s Floating Features, with the help of producer Dan Auerbach. The LP was their most polished and ambitious work to date, boasting a fuller sound, some folk-rock influences, and richer vocal harmonies. After a full slate of touring dates, Li-Pino left the band and the rest of the group scattered. Cleveland moved to Northern California, Simon to Florida, and Sandahl stayed in Los Angeles. When they regrouped to record their fourth album it was with renowned hip-hop and jazz producer Adrian Younge. They were joined in his Linear Labs studio by drummer Riley Geare, who had worked with Unknown Mortal Orchestra among others. Together they whipped up their most psychedelic album to date, exploring the freedoms of the studio while dialing down the surf influences in favor of more vocal harmonies and introspection. The resulting self-titled album was released by Hardly Art in October of 2021. ~ Mark Deming & Tim Sendra