interview: Shana Cleveland
For her latest solo release, Shana Cleveland has turned to something cosmic as inspiration. This Friday, the always creative artist will release Night of the Worm Moon, a record inspired by one fateful night that featured an appearance from a solar eclipse. Ahead of the album’s impending release, we chatted with Cleveland about aliens, inspirations, and how that eclipse proved to be a perfect happy accident.
p.s. don’t miss this album. it’s truly something special.
The Grey Estates: Let's just really get into it. What are your thoughts on there being life on another planet? With an album that was inspired by so many celestial and otherworldly things, I just gotta know. And if there was life on another planet, would you want to live there?
Shana Cleveland: There's probably life on other planets but I doubt it looks anything like what we have imagined. Most alien depictions I've seen are so unimaginative, they look like human fetuses: quiet, tiny little pale bodies with oversized heads. But maybe I'm just projecting because I'm pregnant right now and I feel like I'm part alien. I'm open minded, I believe in everything and nothing at the same time. I would never wanna live on another planet though, no way! I like traveling but man, this planet is strange enough for me. I could happily spend a thousand lifetimes exploring all the micro-galaxies of California.
Alright, back to the tunes. This record features a lot of familiar faces from your past work, projects, and friends. What was it like getting to create with them? How did you land on which artists you wanted to collaborate with?
When in doubt I always call up my friend Johnny Goss. He recorded "Worm Moon" and my first solo album and "Damp Face" and "It's Alive" for La Luz. He's a wizard who only cares about making music and probably would be fine never leaving his home studio if it was possible to meet all his human needs there. My partner in most things Will Sprott (Shannon and the Clams) played all the keyed instruments and some guitar, when we tour this record it'll just be the two of us on guitar and synth. A few of my favorite musicians in Seattle came by to flesh things out: Kristian Garrard on drums, Abbey Blackwell (the original La Luz bassist), and Olie Eshleman on pedal steel.
Going into this album, how do you feel that it differs from your past solo work? And what have you learned along the way and wanted to do with your solo work as opposed to what you do with La Luz?
To me my last solo record felt like hazy sunshine, like I just took a nap in the afternoon and woke up a little blinded by the sun and a little stoned. This is more of a nighttime record. I used a lot of open D tuning on "Oh man..." and I use a lot of open G minor on this one, so it's naturally darker. I'm still looking up at the sky in these songs but it's mostly full of stars and comets and far off city lights. The main difference between these songs and La Luz is that they're more introspective, more meditative. La Luz for me is about making a connection, where as these songs are where I go to tune into something within myself, which I hope is relatable in a different way. I'm a loner but I still really wanna connect with people through music.
From La Luz to this solo work, you've always really embraced these amazing visuals and really unique, colorful ideas for videos and even this album cover. Where did you draw inspiration from for this release? What sights, sounds, foods, etc. helped you create this album?
California inspires me a lot, the ocean and mountains and fires and weirdos. Musicians who create their own worlds like Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane and Michael Hurley. This record cover was designed by Ardneks, a great Indonesian artist, and I love the way he captured the sort of soft sci-fi feel of the record.
With recording taking place during a solar eclipse, do you feel that occurrence provided a special inspiration for this release, and if so, how? Have any of your past recordings or musical creative periods occurred during something so special?
The eclipse happening then felt really in line with the themes of the album, so it was a happy accident. When we were recording the last La Luz album in Nashville a comic-book-villian was elected president, that was weird.
What would the dream Shana Cleveland merch item be?
Maybe an ice cream sandwich!
What advice would you give our readers?
Life is short, do the worm
What do you hope that the future holds for you next?
Well I'm really stoked and nervous to go on tour for this record and I'm working on another solo record that I'm excited about. Hopefully La Luz will work out our next album early next year. I just moved out to the country and I wanna build sculptures and see what I can grow out here. I'm also looking forward to giving birth to this alien.