I won't pretend to have any idea which forces-at-be animate Shana Cleveland's brain, hands, and mouth. But I'm grateful that the Seattle-based musician, visual artist, and writer is so attuned to them, and in so many different ways too. Cleveland is creative as hell, and her work is awesome, is what I'm saying there. Also, I just learned now in looking at her bio that she's had short stories published in publications like Black Clock and the Columbia Poetry Review, so I will track them down.
Every day I look upon Cleveland's work, as I've got a copy of her 2015 Famous Faces calendar, credited to Crawdad Cleveland, published by the possibly fictional record label, Hairdo Records. This month's face is Bill Haley, but I'm eager for June, which is the Shaggs. Cleveland's got a distinct style, mixing a bold, highly graphic and slightly wavering line with subtle watercolor work inside it. A few years ago, she did a series of portraits of beehived 1960s female singers, which all had cute little googly-eyed cute little monster faces living inside their 'dos. You'd have to look twice to even notice the little buggers. It's a subtle trick, but kind of genius. She's also drawn dancing hot dogs, a bunch of show flyers, and the cover for La Luz's Damp Face cassette, which is so strong I wish I had a 5-foot-tall poster of it in my hallway.
In the last month, I've received advance copies of two full-lengths from Cleveland: Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art) by her excellent and beloved garage-pop band La Luz, and the debut Oh Man, Cover The Ground (Suicide Squeeze) by her more folk-flavored combo, Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles. Originally self-released as a limited edition cassette tape four years ago, this music showcases her finger picking chops and has ingenious arrangements throughout. Sometimes it's just her voice and guitar but often the songs get interwoven with lines from clarinet, cello, double bass, or electric piano. I'm glad Suicide Squeeze is putting the thing out on vinyl, as I misplaced the tape in my move. I'm really excited to see what the live show by Cleveland & the Sandcastles will be like. We all know that La Luz is one of the best live bands around, so odds are very good that this will be a killer, not-to-miss show.
Cleveland plays the UFO Factory on Sunday, May 31. It starts at 7 p.m.; 2110 Trumbull St., Detroit; brownpapertickets.com; $6.
Mike McGonigal is music editor of the Detroit Metro Times.