The Many Faces of Shana Cleveland

words: Lauren Rearick

Shana Cleveland is a creative tour de force. 

She’s an active member in two very different bands, a writer of short stories, the designer behind playing cards that feature “Obscure Giants of Acoustics Guitars,” and the artist of an annual calendar of hand drawn “Famous Faces.”

Growing up with musically-inclined parents provided a natural inclination towards the arts, but her own musical endeavors came later in life, thanks to a surprising teacher.

Photo: Le'Donne Morris

Photo: Le'Donne Morris

At the age of 23, Cleveland began pursuing music. After studying photography in college she wanted to switch up her focus, choosing an instrument that neither of her parents had ever played.

“I wanted to learn bass and I was really into grunge,” Cleveland said. “I started teaching myself by listening to bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana.”

Despite being self-taught, Cleveland went on to found two bands early in her musical career, the Curious Mystery and a solo endeavor of sorts, Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles. 

The Sandcastles are a rotating cast of backing musicians, with different members joining Cleveland in live settings and for the 2011 recording of Oh Man Cover the Ground. 

Suicide Squeeze Records released the debut LP last year, its release coming just as Cleveland’s latest endeavor, La Luz was taking off. 

Balancing the two bands and their identities is something Cleveland is conscious of during the creative process.

“Usually I’ll start writing with electric [guitar] for La Luz and acoustic for the Sandcastles,” she said. “It’s just as simple as that. The Sandcastles came before La Luz and was created when I was in a pretty different mindset."

She describes the creative atmosphere for the Sandcastles as quiet and introspective, with the recording sessions taking place in her basement. There were few practices before recording and for some participants it was their first time playing the songs, but that was intentional. 

Though she eventually hopes to continue her writing and work with the Sandcastles, La Luz has taken off, and their busy schedule along with touring has prevented that from happening, for now. 

La Luz was founded in 2013, with Cleveland joining forces with three of her friends to record a debut EP - Damp Face. The EP came to epitomize what La Luz would be, and was released before the band ever took the stage. For fans that never caught the Damp Face wave the EP will be rereleased on a 7".

“I still really love that record,” she said. “It really felt like what the band should be about, and our band still feels really true to that sound.”

Since that release, the band has gone on to release two more records and are at work on a third, with their current tour including a stop to record new material. 

Hitting the road is something the songwriter looks forward to, and as fans of La Luz have come to know their live shows are the stuff of legends, and dancing.

“When you’re writing music you’re in such a vacuum and writing is such a lonely process,” she said. “Touring is a great way to meet people who appreciate your work and it’s a good reminder of why you do it.”

Each of her creative undertakings are unique and special, inspired by her surroundings and the faces she meets along the way. For Cleveland, the process of creating isn’t a job. It’s part of who she is, and there’s still so much she’d like to do.

“It’s kind of a weird thing to be your own boss,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever really get to a point where I’m not making stuff.” 

And her ultimate creative dream would tie everything together. 

“I keep thinking how I’d love to build a house one day,” she said. “I’d like to build a beautiful compound where all my friends and family could stay and we could have shows there.”

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