La Luz has an unfortunate connection to northeastern Oregon.
In November 2013 the band wrecked their van on Cabbage Hill after hitting a slick patch. After exiting the vehicle to survey the damage, a semi-truck hit the same patch of ice and plowed into the van, destroying all their equipment.
The Seattle by-way-of Los Angeles band La Luz returns to Pendleton to play the Great Pacific on Tuesday, May 31 as part of a fundraiser for the Rivoli Theater restoration project. The four-piece band fuses a garage-y take on surf rock with ’60s girl group vocal arrangements a la The Shirelles.
Currently on tour in support of their latest album “Weirdo Shrine,” keyboardist Alice Sandahl was able to answer some questions for me from the back of their tour van while in Calgary, Alberta.
How did you come to join La Luz?
I was in a band several years ago in Seattle for quite a while with Marian, the drummer, in a band called The Pica Beats and that band broke up but we remained friends. Mary Ann was in a band with Shana [the guitarist and vocalist] — a very incestuous community in that town. Everybody is in a band with everybody. When their band Curious Mystery broke up Shana and Marian wanted to start this project and they invited me to play keyboard.
La Luz relocated to Los Angeles this past December. What prompted the move?
I don’t know what prompted it. The answer for all of us was just looking for a change. Seattle had really supported us a whole lot and gotten us to where we were. It had gotten to the point where we were on the road a lot and felt like we needed a bigger scene. I think a lot of it was personal too. We had been in Seattle for a long time. Some of us really wanted out and some of us really wanted a change. Seattle is a great town but change brings growth. So we’re in LA now and figuring out what that means for us.
How have you adjusted to your new home base and how has it affected the inner workings of the band?
I don’t feel like we have been there quite long enough to adjust. Because we actually were all finally down there in mid-February. We were only there for two weeks then we went on tour. The adjusting process for me has been slow. Lena grew up in LA so she’s fine. Obviously weather is the easy answer.
It’s put the band as even more of a focus in our life because we made this move together. I felt like it was a priority and now I feel it’s even more of a priority. Figuring out how to work this whole business we’ve developed in a new city and continuing to thrive.
In the past you’ve worked as an elementary school music educator. How has that come to influence the work you do in the band?
I don’t really know how much that influences me in the band. I think the opposite would be true. Working in bands in Seattle really influenced my work as an elementary school teacher. I though it was really important to connect kids with the music they were surrounded by in their town. I did a lot of work with local musicians a few years in a row. I did a small choir performing pieces by local musicians. It was important for me — even as a study — to bring that into the classroom and look at more mainstream music and its importance in the creative process for children.
La Luz has had a less than pleasant history with Eastern Oregon: In November of 2013 the band was involved in an auto collision on Cabbage Hill. Do you have any trepidation about being back in the area?
Only when the weather is questionable and that’s just something that’s not just in Eastern Oregon. That’s how we make decisions around our tours and driving now. We really don’t travel once its gets into the cold season and we don’t travel at night. We just don’t go through areas where it’s going to be a little sketchy. I think it’s always hard for us going past that spot, even now. It hasn’t been that long since we’ve had to drive that route. It’s always kinda hard because you know that’s where it was and you’re anticipating that route where it got a little scary. The trepidation is there but it’s not debilitating. We’re happy to be there in Pendleton and support the Rivoli fundraiser.
What are the band’s plans after wrapping up this current tour?
We have got a lot of writing and work to do. We have some plans to do recording into fall. We’ve got some new tunes and we’ve worked out some demos. Once the record comes out we’ll hit the road hard again and dig into our new home for a bit.
J.D. Kindle is a Pendleton musician and the executive director of the Oregon East Symphony. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org