Shana Cleveland (La Luz)
Time can be crippling. It weighs over us, forever looming. In New York’s Union Square, fifteen giant illuminated digits ring up some mysterious tally from the façade of a shopping center, prompting both tourists and locals to wonder what final calculation this ominous installation heralds. Winds up it’s just a novel reinvention of the clock, with the seven numbers on the left counting the hours, minutes, and seconds that have lapsed since midnight, while the seven numbers on the right count down to the next midnight. In the middle, a digit spins in a blur, counting off hundredths of a second. It’s an art piece meant to make us ponder time and it’s relation to the city. But mostly, it just makes people anxious.
Shana Cleveland is a rare artist who seems dismissive of time. She’s been performing with a rotating batch of musicians tagged as The Sandcastles for over six years, and yet Oh Man, Cover The Ground is their first proper album. It would be easy to chalk up the delay behind the debut to a slacker lifestyle—Oh Man, Cover The Ground’s laid-back vibe certainly suggests an extremely casual approach to songcraft. But Cleveland is no slacker. In the years since she first started playing out under her own name, she’s helmed a number of other music projects; most notably her revered Girls In The Garage-inspired band La Luz. In her downtime, she’s crafted a set of 37 trading cards dedicated to obscure acoustic guitarists and a calendar of drawings depicting rock bands of yesteryear. The glacial pace of Oh Man, Cover The Ground’s development has little to do with work ethic and everything to do with doing things in a way that feels right. “I don’t really think of it as a proper band,” says Cleveland. “The line-up has been different for almost every show depending on which arrangements I thought would be best for the atmosphere. Some shows I played alone; some with bass, clarinet, and backing vocals; some with the addition of drums, cello and piano. We’ve played shows really selectively throughout the last few years—just sticking to shows that I thought sounded really interesting. Like, I’d rather play these songs for people in their bedrooms or in a field at night than on a three band bill at a bar.” In an industry fixated on striking while the iron is hot, getting an artist in front of as many people in as short of a time as possible, Cleveland’s insistence on atmosphere over arbitrary numbers is a bold move.
Oh Man, Cover The Ground’s softly-stated melodies and breezy air operates on it’s own sense of time. Though the songs still settle comfortably into three-minute parcels, their gestation bucked at the convention of pop music’s stringent time format. “I’m really into meandering, fingerpicked open-tuned acoustic guitar, like John Fahey and Robbie Basho,” says Cleveland. “I started playing guitar in that style during a year right before I moved to Seattle when I was lonely and bummed out in the San Fernando Valley and found solace in spending long afternoons fingerpicking slow moving improvisations.” This casualness is evident in the music—you can hear it in the airy ambience of album opener “Butter & Eggs”, the gentle piano and strings accompaniment on the title track, the particularly Fahey-esque explorations of “Itching Around” and “SPATM”. But even the timeline of the album’s development seems to defy the ephemeral haste that permeates so much contemporary music. The bulk of Oh Man, Cover The Ground was recorded in 2011 in Shana’s basement. “I wanted it to sound casual and kind of loose like my favorite folk albums, so we didn’t practice much before recording and a few of the musicians were playing the songs for the first time.” Four years later, Suicide Squeeze Records is proud to announce that these recordings will finally be available to the public.
Time is of the least concerns for Shana Cleveland and that insistence on operating outside of its pressures and tedious reminders has enabled Cleveland to make something that feels, well… timeless. Oh Man, Cover The Ground came together according to its own clock and calendar, and consequently feels removed from the bustle of everyday life. “I think these songs have a lot to do with the weirdness of being inside your own head all the time in the outside world. Sort of an internal monologue of thoughts I have but wouldn’t say. It’s about laziness, and lust, and wanting to eat other people’s food when it looks better than mine.”
Jess Cornelius, the New Zealand-born, Australian-raised, and now Los Angeles-based songwriter has a desire for personal authenticity that is reflected in her songs as they explore womanhood, relationships and the contradictions of existence—all delivered through her startling voice.
Her latest single, “No Difference,” was featured by NPR’s All Songs Considered, as well as Paste Magazine, Brooklyn Vegan, Hype Machine and Uproxx, who called it “a striking stateside introduction,” while Gorilla vs Bear called it “beautiful and emotional” and added it to its Best Songs of 2019 playlist.
The track was “Song of the Day” on KCMP The Current, and added to rotation on national Australian radio station Double J and Perth’s RTRfm, as well as featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday and Indie Arrivals playlists.
Renowned for the seductive state of ease and intensity she occupies in live performance, Cornelius has won crowds the world over playing alongside Courtney Barnett, J. Mascis, Vance Joy and Laura Marling, and enthralled audiences at coveted festival slots such as Meredith Music Festival, Laneway Festival, Falls Festival and SXSW. Shape-shifting through a variety of roles, Cornelius charms and displays an intimidating command of her own songs, delivering powerful performances of brutal simplicity and rawness of feeling.
Jess Cornelius grew up, at least musically, in Australia, where she released three critically acclaimed albums with her Melbourne-based project Teeth & Tongue. Rolling Stone US named Cornelius a ‘New Artist You Need to Know’ and the Guardian praised her “instant-classic potential”, and “songwriting so assured it seems Cornelius has finally found her niche.”
In 2017 Cornelius put Teeth & Tongue on permanent hiatus and released her minimal and devastatingly honest debut EP Nothing Is Lost on Dot Dash/Remote Control, recorded by Cornelius live in single takes on Christmas Day during the stinking hot Melbourne summer. Then in 2018, Cornelius ‘upped sticks’ and left her adopted continent for the geographical and creative expansiveness of Los Angeles.
With “No Difference,” Cornelius gives a taste of the lushly fleshed out and fully-realised new material to come, recorded in Los Angeles with collaborators Steven Urgo (War On Drugs), Stella Mozgawi (Warpaint), harpist Mary Lattimore, Emily Elhaj (Angel Olsen), Stephanie Drootin (Bright Eyes), Jesse Quebbeman-Turley (Hand Habits), whistler Molly Lewis and producer Tony Buchen, including special appearances by Justin Sullivan (Kevin Morby, Night Shop) and Laura Jean Anderson.