Singer-guitarist Shana Cleveland, who leads the terrific, recently transplanted Los Angeles-based band La Luz (formerly of Seattle), has an intriguing set of inspirations, influences and inclinations.
We recently chatted with her ahead of her band’s show Wednesday at the Bunkhouse Saloon. While we had Cleveland on the line, we asked her about what she’s been listening to lately, what movies she’s been screening, and what authors have captivated her.
Not surprisingly, given her presumed proclivity for music made in the previous century, Cleveland’s Entertainment Diet includes a ’50s doo-wop band, a documentary about a legendary bluesman and a book with a tale that takes place inside the narrator’s head.
“One album I’ve been listening to all the time,” she says, “is this record by this classical guitar player called ‘Haitian Dances.’ It’s all instrumental guitar tunes, and it’s just one of the best records I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Cleveland picked it up when La Luz was on tour in Geneva, Switzerland, and has been listening to it ever since. “We stayed in the house of a guy that runs a record label from there,” Cleveland says, “and his label put this album out, and he gave it to us when we were there.
“This other record that I’ve been really into is by this band that I’d never heard of before, but the cover was so amazing that I had to buy it. It was five bucks. It’s called ‘The Aquatones Sing for You.’ It’s on some record label called Fargo Records. It’s from 1958, and it’s just kind of a classic doo-wop album. It’s been pretty inspiring to me. There are so many vocal harmonies, it’s kind of hilarious. It seems like somebody told them that they all had to be singing at all times. So there’s just like this insane amount of harmonies on every song. I’ve been really into this record. You’ve got to check them out. I’d never heard of them before.
When it comes to movies, Cleveland’s a big fan of French New Wave films. “That’s kind of my favorite genre,” she says. “What I tend to be drawn to is really slow-paced movies. Actually, just last night, I watched a really good documentary by Les Blanks. That’s another person I’ve been kind of … I’ve just been watching everything that I can find by Les Blanks lately. This was kind of a series of short documentaries that he made about Lightnin’ Hopkins. Those are all really amazing. And then another documentary by him, ‘Gap-Toothed Women.’ And, let’s see, I watched Eric Rohmer, a French New Wave director. The movie that I just watched was ‘The Collector.’ That was good.
As for the written word, “I’ve been reading this book by Jeanette Winterson called ‘Written on the Body,’ that my friend gave me right before I left,” she notes. “It’s really beautifully written. It all kind of takes place in the narrator’s head, and you don’t know whether this person is a man or a woman. It almost feels sort of eerie and surreal because there is not much grounding it. It’s all just sort of an internal monologue. But yeah, this book is really good. And then I have ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ by Mark Twain. That’s what I’m going to bring on tour and start reading.”
Cleveland is also drawn to the work of Richard Brautigan. “What I like about Brautigan is sort of similar to what I like about French New Wave cinema, where there’s not very much action,” she says. “The story’s are really quiet, but they feel sort of surprisingly, philosophically, deep. Just sort of quietly deep, in a way that I like. With Brautigan’s stories, the writing is so simple, and the plots are so lazy.