La Luz's Shana Cleveland released her wonderful second solo album, Manzanita, today via Hardly Art. Named for the evergreen shrub that grows in California and is known for its medicinal properties, the record was made while embracing motherhood and beating breast cancer. "This is a supernatural love album set in the California wilderness,” Cleveland says. These 14 songs are alive with mellotron strings, otherworldly pedal steel, desert wildlife and insects, big skies and bigger hearts. Cleveland's breathy voice is the perfect delivery device for it all. Give it a spin below.

We asked Shana to tell us more about the inspirations behind Manzanita and her list includes the sounds of actual nature, pregnancy, books, comic books, dreams and more. Read her commentary below.

Shana will be on tour starting tonight in San Francisco, and from there heads to Austin for SXSW. In April, she has a few headline shows, including NYC shows at Mercury Lounge on April 21 and The Sultan Room on April 22, before hooking up with Shannon & The Clams and Destroyer. All dates are listed below.




Pregnancy is the single biggest influence on the record. The songs on Side A were written while I was pregnant and mostly alone in our house on the outskirts of a small town. It was a strange, often psychedelic time and my constant companions were natural elements, the creatures outside, and an invisible growing human that was taking over my mind and body. Most of the songs on the album are addressed to said invisible (and later visible) human.

The White Noise of the Country

I like to write outside. Part of the charm of moving to California, for me was living somewhere where writing outside would be possible year-round. Living in a small town I’ve noticed how the natural world is amplified when you take humans out of the picture. Similar to how many more stars are visible in the country sky, unobscured by city lights. I like to sit outside and just take in the white noise of the country while I write: birds, bugs, frogs, the distant roar of cars and buzz of chainsaws. Being surrounded by these sounds makes it easier to let my mind wander and my subconscious bubble up to the surface so I can feel as though I’m not just in nature but of nature.

Open Gm Tuning

I used this tuning on almost half the songs on the record. "Faces in the Firelight" being one. It just seems to fit my brain, it feels so natural and easy for me to write songs in this tuning. I find picking in open tunings to be very meditative and you’ll find them often on my solo albums, but not so much on La Luz albums.

Caethua - The Long Afternoon on Earth

I love the atmosphere of this album. It starts with the sound of heavy rain and an acoustic guitar. The lyrics feel rooted in the natural world and in a dream world simultaneously. Everything feels very handmade in the best way. This is a record I come back to over and over again throughout the years.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

I read this one day and it really got in my head. It was easy to feel like I was in a sci-fi novel while pregnant and alone in the wilderness and I wrote the song "Gold Tower" as a sort of bridge between science fiction and my strange reality.

The Poetry of Gary Snyder

I was never very interested in nature poetry until I moved to the country. I didn’t get it, it seemed boring. Something changed when I moved out here and now when I want to read poetry it’s usually by poets who are deeply inspired by nature. Maybe I’m trying to make sense of my surroundings. Gary Snyder lives around here somewhere. I like that I can see descriptions of this area in his work and how beautifully he blends ruminations on the natural world with Buddhist spirituality.


Springtime in Northern California is so dramatic and glorious. The land turns from dry and gold to lush and green, there are bugs everywhere, little worms hanging from every new bud, bright orange poppies burst open, entire fields are covered in wildflowers. It’s too good for words and so I’m always writing songs about it. I wish spring wasn’t such a prime time for touring because I’d love to be home for every minute of it. There’s such a feeling of optimism here in the spring and I think of this as a springtime album.

Richard Brautigan

I’m always inspired by the writer Richard Brautigan and the song "Mayonnaise" on this album is a sort of tribute to him.

A melody heard in a dream

About the song "Mayonnaise." I first heard the melody in a dream where someone named Mayo was singing and when I woke up I could remember the melody completely so I sang it into a voice memo. “Mayonnaise” is the last word of Richard Brautigan’s most famous book, Trout Fishing in America, so I thought it would make sense to use the melody in a song about him. I always try to record dream melodies, sometimes they are great and sometimes not good at all, but I love how this song came out.

Comic books

Reading comics is my favorite way to veg out and relax when I’m working on a big creative project. It could be an expensive habit but luckily you can find great small press comics at your local library! I feel like a lot of people forget about libraries, and they are the best. I’m not into superhero stuff, mostly psychedelic or super realist funny books. Here are a few comic books I read around the time of making this record and which I would recommend:

Julie Doucet - My New York Diary

Olivier Schrauwen - Arsene Schrauwen

Michael Deforge - Heaven No Hell

Adrian Tomine - The Loneliness of the Long Distance Cartoonist

Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez - Love and Rockets

3/10 Oakland, CA @ Bandcamp # SOLD OUT
3/14 - SXSW - Austin, TX @ Central Presbyterian Church (Distance Management Showcase) - 10:00pm
3/16 - SXSW - Austin, TX @ Mohawk (Hardly Art / Sub Pop / Saddle Creek/ BAMMBAMM Showcase) - 10:20pm
3/17 - SXSW - Austin, TX @ KMFA Event Space (Qobuz Sessions) - 12:00pm
4/18 Detroit, MI @ Third Man Records
4/19 Toronto, ON @ The Drake Underground
4/21 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
4/22 Brooklyn, NY @ Sultan Room
4/23 Washington, DC @ Pie Shop
4/24 Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA
4/25 Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit Lodge
4/26 Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
4/27 Chicago, IL @ Old Town School of Folk Music
4/28 Milwaukee, WI @ The Back Room *
4/29 Evanston, IL @ SPACE *
4/30 Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi *
5/01 Oberlin, OH @ Dionysus Disco *
5/02 Columbus, OH @ The Basement *
5/11 Fresno, CA @ Fulton 55 +
5/12 Santa Barbara, CA @ SOhO +
5/13 Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy & Harriet's +
5/15 Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room +
5/16 San Luis Obispo, CA @ SLO Brew +
5/17 Petaluma, CA @ The Phoenix Theater +
5/18 Big Sur, CA @ Henry Miller Library +

# w/ Spacemoth
* w/ Destroyer
+ w/ Shannon & The Clams

More From Brooklyn Vegan