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La Luz, Will Sprott of The Mumlers Play The Ritz

In Music
DARK WAVE: Seattle surf rock band La Luz bring their latest album—‘Weirdo Shrine,’ recorded with Ty Segall— to The Ritz on Saturday.

DARK WAVE: Seattle surf rock band La Luz bring their latest album—‘Weirdo Shrine,’ recorded with Ty Segall— to The Ritz on Saturday.

On a night drive in 2013, Seattle-based surf-rock group La Luz was driving home from a show when their van spun out on some black ice. The van smashed into a divider on the highway. They were safe but rattled. After calling AAA, the four-piece were sitting in the van awaiting a tow when a semi spun out on the same patch of ice and smashed into their waiting vehicle.

There’s a photo of the mangled van on the band’s Tumblr page. It’s a testament to the lengths touring musicians go to live the life that calls to them—risking life and limb for something that many dismiss as a pastime of youth. Music is serious business.

After surviving the crash, La Luz recorded with famed San Francisco psych-rocker Ty Segall. The resulting record, Weirdo Shrine, is a collection steeped in creeping darkness—think Ventures-by-way-of-Sleater-Kinney. The logic of trauma works through echoes, repeating itself over time in often strange and unexpected rumblings. On many of the tracks, death can be heard, just hanging in the background, nodding along and waiting for the right moment to enter the frame. Even the album’s cover, a psyched-out image of a cat’s cradle against a black background, seems to evoke the fragility and transience of life. “No damn cat, no damn cradle,” says Newt.

La Luz embrace the whole ’60s surf and psych vibe quite openly on Weirdo Shrine. The music video for “You Disappear” features the group playing on a fake French program (the “Ethnic Cultural Hour”) evoking both the ’60s Yeh-Yeh girl movement, with their patterned pants and blouses, and ’80s VHS experimentation. Analog film duplicates of the girls spin into infinity as green-screened psychedelic shapes twirl behind them. The whole thing feels a bit like a collaboration between Francoise Hardy and Robert Ashley, or New York’s gonzo public access programs like TV Party.

La Luz are one of many signees to Sub Pop’s subsidiary label, Hardly Art, which has been making a case for itself as the next Kill Rock Stars, ever since the onetime label of Elliott Smith moved primarily into releasing comedy albums. With bands like Shannon and the Clams, Chastity Belt, Colleen Green, and the Julie Ruin (Kathleen Hanna’s current group), the label has been on a run of strong releases, and Weirdo Shrine is no exception. Segall’s decidedly lo-fi production style gives the album a sense of coming from some alternate past, one where the ’60s happened not in lush technicolor, but in the stark and murderous black and white of Fritz Lang’s M.

The group’s upcoming tour includes a stop at The Ritz. Joining the band is one of San Jose’s proudest indie rock sons—Will Sprott, formerly front man for local weirdo pop group the Mumlers. After spending some time in the East Bay, Sprott relocated to the comparatively cheaper Seattle a few years back, where he linked up with the girls in La Luz for a number of creative collaborations.

Sprott’s appearance at the Ritz marks one of the first times the musician has come back to his hometown for a show since embarking on a solo career. The Mumlers were one of the few bands from San Jose in recent years to garner a serious buzz and command a hefty fan base.

Since moving out of the Bay Area, the singer and songwriter released his first solo record, last year’s Vortex Numbers, which found Sprott combining elements of surf rock and country crooning with his earnest and conversational lyrical style. And if the cover art looks reminiscent of La Luz’s Damp Face EP (recently re-released by Hardly Art) there’s a reason for that: it was designed by their singer and primary songwriter, Shana Cleveland.

La Luz
Aug 13, 8pm, $12-$15
The Ritz, San Jose

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