Local girl band explodes onto scene with 60's-inspired rock

With the heavy influence of folksy indie and electronic dance pop in Seattle-area music, some festival-goers at the Capitol Hill Block Party may have been surprised to hear the wailing guitar and four-part vocal harmony of a 60's-inspired surf rock group. But there was La Luz, with their choreographed dance moves and hypnotic melodies, standing out amid the sea of bearded men and synth guys behind MacBooks. It's no wonder they're getting so much attention.

Despite the fact that the band itself is just under a year old, the La Luz has been touring almost nonstop, playing across the country, as well as plenty of shows at home. They've been interviewed and featured by important music influencers like CMJ, Pitchfork and KEXP.

But then, all of them -- lead singer and guitarist Shana Cleveland, drummer Marian Li Pino, bassist Abbey Blackwell, and keyboardist Alice Sandahl -- have been making music for a long time. Blackwell is a classically-trained bass player. Cleveland founded K Records-signed band the Curious Mystery, and was later joined by Li Pino, while Sandahl played with college radio favorite the Pica Beats, and also released solo music of her own under the name Alice in the River.

But, the bandmembers say, this is the best fit they're found.

"In past band experience, sometimes, it's not very fun...but I feel like everybody respects each other. Everyone in this group is really talented, and we have a lot of fun," says Li Pino.

"Creatively, too, though, it's been really fun to work with one really strong songwriter -- Shana's kind of the skeleton, I guess. And it's been great to bounce ideas off each other," Blackwell adds.

The band's friendship shows; at a recent performance at the City of Seattle's Lunchtime Concert series at City Hall, the four talked amongst themselves, making group decisions and, at one point, sending Sandahl out into the audience to check the sound...and dance for a number.

"You can dance at City Hall, right?" Cleveland, who performed barefoot, joked.

"Of course you can," Li Pino agreed.

"Don't you want to be that guy dancing by himself just once in your life?" asked Cleveland, prompting the audience to laugh.

Surely, it's their good nature, cooperative effort and collective experience that's helped raise the profile of their first EP, "Damp Face," but it's also that refreshing, Ventures-esque sound, which Cleveland says was something she was interested in exploring from the start.

"I was listening to a lot of old rock 'n' roll, and a lot of doo-wop and soul," Cleveland explains, "and that's kind of the stuff that was a big influence. All of those genres focus on vocal harmonies, which was something I really wanted to do...I wanted something that had that old sound, but was also a little bit new, too."

The vocal harmonies are hard to miss; all four members have microphones, and join Cleveland for nearly every song.

Though they're still shy of their first birthday, La Luz has big plans -- after playing several shows and festivals in Seattle and Portland in this month, they'll be on tour with the legendary (and ever-evolving) of Montreal, a pairing that Cleveland said came together online.

"We've never met them! It happened...through Twitter," she says with a laugh, "I think some people at Sub Pop talked us up."

But mostly, the band is just excited to get to play together and do what they love.

"It's hard to find people you get along with...we're just lucky," Cleveland explained.

La Luz will be at MusicFest Northwest in Portland this weekend. For more information and show dates, check out their website.