Alive, not well

La Luz, Six Week Records, Crashfaster, and more

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Seattle's La Luz is ready to break.
ANGEL CEBALLOS

[Update: La Luz was in a car accident during its tour and will no longer be playing these shows. The accident totaled the van, destroyed the gear, and band members suffered injuries. To donate, click here]

TOFU AND WHISKEY Sometimes the unexpected can rip you apart. It can gnaw at your insides, leave your stomach in knots, and twist your thoughts into a confused, messy blur. And sometimes, those rare unanticipated moments can inspire you anew. All the hurt and bewilderment and dark emotions reconfigure and morph into a project, such as an album.

La Luz guitarist-vocalist Shana Cleveland felt this molten wave firsthand and the end result is a striking, blackened surf rock album with four-way doo-wop melodies and churling riffs smacking against the seawall. It's the full-length debut from the Seattle all-lady quartet: It's Alive (Hardly Art). The group tours to SF this week, opening up for of Montreal (Fri/8-Sat/9, 9pm, $21. Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, SF. www.slimspresents.com).

It's Alive was built from death. "When something that dramatic happens, it could either crush you or give you a crazy energy," Cleveland says. "For me it was like, after I came out of just being really depressed for awhile I was really inspired to....I don't know exactly how to phrase it. It's kind of a weird thing to talk about, I guess. It's so heavy."

That heavy moment took place May 30, 2012, when a deranged shooter burst into a Seattle café — Café Racer, where Cleveland and her friends routinely hung out — and killed five people. Around the corner from her house, it's where she first met La Luz bassist Abby Blackwell. On that spring day last year, it's where her friend Drew Keriakedes (otherwise known as "Shmootzi the Clod"), a vaudeville-style singing circus clown, died, slain in the rampage.

She describes him as always giving open, honest performances that made everyone fall in love with him — that performance style informed her own artistry. And the months after the shooting informed her songwriting. Though she also notes an intuition affected the record.

"It's weird because a lot of the lyrics I wrote before the shooting happened and then a lot of them I wrote after. But then when I looked back...I kept seeing these weird premonitions. It just seems like the air was really heavy with this insane event and I was sort of channeling this crazy shit that was about to happen. This sounds kind of New Age-y. But when I looked back over the lyrics I was just like, 'holy shit!' I think I just felt something in the air."

That gloom bled into It's Alive, a record equally inspired by legendary surf guitarist Link Wray, who also lent a darker edge to the style.

"So it's sort of a haunted album. It's kind of cool that it's coming out around Halloween, it seems fitting."

It's the band's first real record, though before it played a single show, it recorded a demo tape called Damp Face. Both were recorded with the group's friend Johnny Goss, who was living in a trailer park on the outskirts of town at the time. Goss, who "accumulated all this really cool old recording gear," took a leisurely approach to It's Alive, hanging out with La Luz and working together to add new vocal overdubs or extra fuzz.

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