Shana Cleveland Talks The Curious Mystery, Touring, and the Seattle Music Scene

Justin Spicer / March 8, 2012
Photo via The Curious Mystery

How apropos to name oneself The Curious Mystery when one is indeed an enigma. The only mystery left to solve is why the Seattle band isn’t on the tip of your tongues. That is likely to change in the coming months with two 7” releases due on Olympia-based K (including a Dub Narcotic Disco Plate session) and a lengthy tour that finds The Curious Mystery traversing the United States (including a trip to Austin for SXSW and Sundays in April spent in residency at New York City’s Ace Hotel).

But how did it all begin? Shana Cleveland, front woman of The Curious Mystery, enlightens us: “Nic [Gonzalez] and I started the band as a duo; we have pretty similar taste in music. So, Nic and I started playing together with Nic doing kind of a one man band thing with some homemade instruments and me on vocals, banjo, and guitar. Then eventually we added a drummer and bass player so Nic could focus on shredding. We’ve been a fan of Johnny’s bass playing for years, as part of Cock and Swan and the Pica Beats. Marian [Li Pino] also plays drums with Johnny [Goss] in the Pica Beats; she’s the newest member and she’s amazing.”

As fluid as The Curious Mystery is, Shana also explains the band is still in a state of growth. “Right now we’re working on singing together. All of our new songs have lots of group vocals and harmonies, Johnny and Marian aren’t afraid of the mic. Nic and I have always sung together on parts but it’s a fairly new thing for us having a rhythm section that wants to join in.”

Those harmonies make their presence known on the band’s latest single, “Be Still,” which will appear on one of the band’s forthcoming 7”s.

Also at work within the band is an aesthetic that blends humor and art into obtuse perspectives on pop culture. “I do a lot of drawing and painting so I end up making most of our posters and designing things that need designing. It’s pretty important to me. I’ve bought records before based entirely on their covers and song titles. If I’m really into a band’s visual aesthetic I usually assume I’ll like the music, or I’ll at least be more likely to give it a listen.”

Shana continues, “For all our videos so far we’ve been lucky to have our friends at So Spun We Spun West put them together. My artistic know how does not extend to video and my video ideas are usually limited to trying to recreate an episode of The Monkees. For the “Night Ride Reeling” video the concept was to kind of cover the New Edition video for “Cool It Now”, but with a character called Space Worm in place of the pretty girl.”

The band’s off-the-wall style lends itself to a unique standing in the Seattle music scene. “I don’t think I’ve seen any bands in town (or anywhere else) who sound all that similar to us, but I think there are a lot of like-minded bands here. Seattle’s music scene is an embarrassment of riches. I’m inspired by a lot of our friends here who make music without too much attention to current trends and what’s likely to get played on the radio. Although in Seattle, I don’t see too many unique bands becoming really popular. Thee Satisfaction is a good exception.”

Now The Curious Mystery is in the midst of taking that style on the road, including an extended stay in New York City in April. “We played a show at the Ace [Hotel] on our last tour, it has this beautiful lobby and they have a Sunday music series which is booked and DJ’d by this guy Chris who dug our band and asked if we’d be interested in coming back to do a residency for a month. So we chose April so we could stop by SXSW on the way.”

New York and Austin won’t be the only lucky towns to witness the magic forming around The Curious Mystery. “In between Ace Hotel shows we’ll be touring around the East coast and a bit of the South,” she says.

Shana and The Curious Mystery are on the precipice of great things, but she is staying grounded. “Last time we were at the Ace, Tre Cool was throwing a birthday party for his girlfriend at the hotel and it was ‘pimps and hoes’ themed or something. We’re hoping to meet lots of famous people there who will give us money and buy us meals.”

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