Artist Spotlight: Shana Cleveland – Our Culture

Shana Cleveland is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and visible artist identified each because the frontwoman of the surf rock band La Luz and for her softer, extra haunted solo work. She grew up in Michigan and went to high school in Chicago, nevertheless it wasn’t till she relocated to Seattle in her mid-20s that she began taking part in in bands. Since releasing her final solo album, 2019’s Evening of the Worm Moon, Cleveland efficiently underwent remedy for a breast most cancers analysis and moved to rural California, the place she lives together with her accomplice, the multi-instrumentalist Will Sprott. On her mesmerizing third LP, Manzanita, which was written whereas Cleveland was pregnant and shortly following her son’s beginning, we discover her immersed within the nearly psychedelic expertise of recent motherhood and the wilderness, keenly reflecting on their unusual joys and mysteries. A springtime album of wondrous, surreal magnificence, Manzanita anchors in Cleveland’s fingerpicked guitar fashion and hushed vocals, with layers of keyboards, upright bass, pedal metal, and drums wandering alongside her, directly ghostly and mild. A way of post-apocalyptic menace programs by the track ‘Gold Tower’, nevertheless it additionally reveals the album’s true nature, considered one of peaceable, loving give up: “I wish to be yours, completely.”
We caught up with Shana Cleveland for the most recent version of our Artist Highlight sequence to speak in regards to the making of Manzanita, parenthood, her connection to the pure world, and extra.

In an announcement accompanying the one ‘A Ghost’, you stated that the album might be subtitled ‘What to Count on When You Are Open to the Mysteries of the Universe.’ Which is clearly meant to be cheeky, however the true irony is that you simply by no means know what to anticipate, and there’s no great way of packaging that.
Yeah, that’s the joke, proper? It’s like, the extra open you might be, the extra you notice you don’t know what’s occurring. Being pregnant was a giant awakening in that method for me. As an artist, I’ve been actually pushed to create and to tour – I don’t have a boss, so I’ve to form of be my very own boss and all the time put a bit of strain on myself to get issues executed. And once I was pregnant, it was the start of beginning to notice that I wasn’t in management as a lot as I assumed I used to be, beginning to relinquish management, and likewise let go of the thought of what was occurring or what was going to occur sooner or later. I discovered that, as an artist, to be actually releasing and an actual reduction, in a method. With this album, I needed to pay tribute to that openness and the sensation of being not simply okay with uncertainty, however actually having fun with the uncertainty.
What implications did that freedom have, whether or not in your inventive life or extra typically?
I don’t know, I believe I’m nonetheless figuring it out. I’ve all the time been fascinated about thriller – once I go to an artwork museum, I’m actually interested in work that I don’t perceive. Once I learn poetry, I don’t wish to try to perceive it. I actually take pleasure in simply taking one thing in and seeing the way it sits, not worrying about making an attempt to determine it out. That’s why these specific classes of being pregnant resonated with me a lot; I believe I used to be already fascinated about that. To truly expertise it and never simply have or not it’s an concept, to truly be uncontrolled, and to have this big thriller – being pregnant is so attention-grabbing, as a result of we will form of say what’s occurring with so many issues that occur in our lives, and no one is aware of what’s taking place with being pregnant. Is it gonna be a boy or a lady? Is it gonna come out with all its fingers and toes? Is it gonna come out in any respect? Is it gonna work, you recognize? [laughs]After which, what’s that particular person going to be like?
I used to be simply excited by this sense that I may exist within the thriller a bit of bit extra. That’s actuality – there’s this phantasm that we’re in command of issues, and the fact is that all the things’s form of like being pregnant. We don’t really know the place we’re going to be tomorrow and what’s going to occur. In a method, that was form of comforting. It was a step in direction of feeling extra comfy with the thought of demise, which makes it extra thrilling to be alive.

Being confronted with the load of that actuality, did you discover it difficult to then channel that into your artistic course of? Was it totally different from different belongings you’ve gravitated to songwriting-wise?
I’m undecided if the method was totally different. I really feel like my course of has all the time been to form of let go of management. Once I was youthful, I studied the Surrealists and was actually fascinated about the way in which that they had been making an attempt to let go of their aware thoughts, to faucet into the unconscious as a supply of inspiration. To me, that simply made lots of sense. I really feel like I’ve been doing that for a very long time, simply making an attempt to get to a state the place I’m not as crucial. I really feel like I’ve by no means written a great track once I was in a crucial mindset or overthinking mindset. I received’t labour over a track; it seems like if it’s being laboured over, it’s most likely not working or not true.
Manzanita revolves across the pure world, and also you’ve additionally referred to as it “a supernatural love album.” It looks as if you had been particularly conscious of the permeable boundaries between the pure and the supernatural.
Yeah, I really feel just like the nearer consideration I pay to nature, the stranger and extra mysterious – I imply, to me, it feels psychedelic, as a result of I don’t know what’s occurring on the market. [laughs] I believe if I watch one factor intently for a very long time in nature, it’ll all the time do one thing stunning, and it’ll all the time present me one thing I haven’t seen earlier than. Dwelling in a metropolis, you don’t actually ever have a lot of an opportunity to pay that shut consideration, and that’s one thing I’ve loved out right here, having this sluggish tempo the place I’m in a position to look deeper on the pure world.
There’s undoubtedly lots of watching and observing on this album. In an interview across the launch of Evening of the Worm Moon, you stated you needed your subsequent solo report to be simply guitar and vocals, however after all you do have a band taking part in with you on Manzanita. I really feel like if it had been a extra conventional guitar-vocals album, one would get the sense that you simply’re extra simply an observer, however with the way in which that each one the devices weave collectively, it’s extra such as you’re part of that magnificence, taking part in it. I don’t know if that was a part of the intention.
Yeah, it was. That’s nice to listen to. I nonetheless wish to make a report like that, simply because I like information like that, simply vocals and guitar. However I believe that these songs felt simply so set in a pure surroundings as a result of I wrote them exterior, they usually had been so impressed by these environment that it didn’t really feel proper to not attempt to create that environment ultimately. We purchased all these different devices in, nevertheless it was all the time with the intention of portray that backdrop, having them be extra summary. Like, there’s a pedal metal, however I believe that it’s extra atmospheric than country-western. There’s an upright bass, and typically the upright bass is doing the very same factor because the synthesizer.

Generally it’s nearly just like the pedal metal, upright bass, and synths are all strolling collectively, and considered one of my favourite songs in that respect is ‘Gold Tower’, which builds to this heartfelt declaration: “If I allow you to down, bury me to the bottom.” What went into the making of that monitor?
That track was one I wrote whereas I used to be pregnant, and I really feel like there’s lots of dynamic between the verses and the refrain of that track, as a result of it’s this very mild, nearly like I’m singing to myself on the verses. I had simply learn The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, which I’d by no means learn earlier than. It felt so attention-grabbing to me to learn science fiction out right here within the wilderness. It simply felt prefer it might be actual. I assumed: This might be set right here. With none buildings or people, you may form of think about something taking place. I used to be a bit haunted by that guide whereas I used to be writing that track. The gold tower was form of an imaginary science fiction factor within the distance of, like, my yard. [laughs] Singing to my son when he was nonetheless in utero, I needed to refrain to form of really feel like science fiction, as a result of that’s the place my head was at. There’s lots of buzzing, scorching synth noises. I needed this declaration of affection within the face of complete uncertainty, simply saying “I’ll die for you” to this particular person that you simply’ve by no means seen earlier than. I assumed that that second ought to really feel unusual and a bit surreal, as a result of it felt like: Why do I really feel like I’m prepared to provide all the things to this invisible being? That, to me, appeared so in step with fantasy and science fiction.
The songs on aspect A had been written earlier than your son was born, and those on aspect B had been written shortly after, however that unusual feeling doesn’t appear to go away.
Yeah. I consider the track ‘Babe’. Once I wrote that track, with the lyrics, I needed it to really feel nearly like a horror movie at first. Simply speaking about, you recognize, “I’m watching you.” However that feeling behind my head went from science fiction to horror, I believe, after he was born. [laughs] I used to be like, This quantity of affection is definitely terrifying. That was the style change in my thoughts.
Aspect B additionally struck me as considerably quieter and extra solitary. Is that in step with your headspace on the time?
It is sensible that it could sound like that. These songs on aspect B, I imply, I used to be extra alone, though I used to be surrounded by folks. It was such a wierd time as a result of me and my accomplice, Will, had simply moved out to the nation pretty lately, and I didn’t actually know many individuals on the town. He was on tour typically exterior of the nation, on a regular basis it felt like, whereas I used to be pregnant. That feeling of being alone and pregnant – it simply actually felt like I used to be in a position to join with nature in a method that felt actually significant to me. There was form of this bizarre consolation in being pregnant of simply strolling round with this different particular person on a regular basis. [laughs] I actually did take pleasure in that. Individuals on the road can be like, “Trying good!” Individuals give this esteem to pregnant ladies typically. It nearly felt like being taken out of society and put into this different place the place I felt much less lonely. I felt like I might be whoever I needed to be and everyone was similar to, “You’re doing nice.” After which after you have got your child, you’re simply form of thrust again into the world of the person once more.

It’s attention-grabbing that your accomplice, Will, who was away for lots of the writing of the album, additionally performs all through it. Despite the fact that the songs come from this place of aloneness, there’s a sense of companionship within the music, and even moments which might be straight about that companionship, like ‘Faces within the Firelight’.
I really feel like there’s all the time two phases to the writing course of for me. I like to write down alone, after which it’s nice to take it to different folks. And Will’s all the time the primary individual that I take my songs to once I’m prepared. However I form of must get to the purpose the place I really feel like they’re executed earlier than I’ll even play them for him. There’s that solitary course of, after which there’s the collaborative course of, which is way shorter, as a result of working with Will is so intuitive. We simply know one another so properly that he simply understands the songs. And particularly writing songs which might be so private – though he wasn’t bodily there for lots of the time I used to be writing the songs, I used to be speaking to him daily. We’ve simply been collectively for thus lengthy that it’s simply a simple collaboration. And with the opposite musicians, it’s related – it’s not as intimate, however I’ve labored with everybody else who performs on the album for like a decade in varied capacities. With Will I’ll work a bit of bit longer, however within the studio, everybody’s listening to the songs for the primary time and taking part in actually intuitively. I really feel like that has all the time labored rather well for this music.
On ‘Ten Hour Drive By West Coast Catastrophe’, you ask, “Will you discover a technique to love this world?” It’s a kind of strains that’s addressed to your son, however I’m curious if, inevitably, you’re additionally asking that query for your self.
I really feel like I ask myself that daily. I believe that once you’re a father or mother, particularly of a kid so younger – I’m positive that this relaxes in some unspecified time in the future down the street – you’re fully targeted on this child. Like, there’s this scrumptious deal with you can have and there’s solely considered one of them, you’re gonna give it to the child. You’re not gonna eat it your self. And that’s a very new expertise in my life. I really feel like I’ve been me-focused for my whole life. [laughs] I don’t have any siblings. I simply have been actually targeted on myself. One of many nice awakenings of getting a child was realizing that it was potential to really feel that method about one other human being. To consider their wants and their high quality of life earlier than mine. So, I don’t know if I considered that for myself at the moment. I actually was simply targeted on him, however I do really feel that method as properly. I do have that very same query.
You should get requested about how your course of differs from album to album, from working with a band to working solo. However with Manzanita, it’s inconceivable to not speak about a shift in your complete philosophy and life-style on account of that have.
Yeah, that’s what this report is. That’s why I needed to lean into it being nearly an idea album about being pregnant and beginning. There’s a pair songs on the report that aren’t about my son, however solely a pair. It simply felt like such a robust time, and I used to be fascinated about what it could be like to actually put my focus there and never forged as large a internet as I would normally do for a report’s supply materials.
Having had some area from the album, what would you say are the secrets and techniques or classes you took from this course of?
The belief that I’m of nature, not simply in nature. And that – I really feel prefer it sounds so tacky – however I’ve simply been so obsessive about love because the time that I used to be writing these songs. Simply feeling like that’s an important factor, and the place the place I wish to put my focus. I believe I’ve a higher capability for love, and never simply love for my son, however for folks – it simply offers you a lot extra empathy, turning into a father or mother, should you’re open to it. I’m positive it doesn’t do this for everyone, however for me, it’s like an explosion of empathy.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.
Shana Cleveland’s Manzanita through Hardly Artwork.