It’s been one helluva year for the Lava Cats…and thankfully, they’re just getting warmed up. Since forming in March of 2017, Sheilava has been bustin’ ass developing into one of the busiest and brightest indie-pop outfits around Austin. In just a little over a year the band has released their DIY, debut full-length along with a Christmas-themed EP. They’ve worked on six music videos, created a flashy car commercial and heard their tunes in three different indie films. Earlier this month, they completed their second ‘song in a day challenge’ by creating a surprise indie-western single that premiered at the Southwest Theatre Screening as part of ATX 48 Hour Film Project. The feverish production experience behind Sheilava’s “Lady Outlaw” single helped introduce the weird and wired, indie swing-pop band to several folks who were instrumental in creating Sheilava’s latest and most challenging project, “Cups4Kings”. The band will premier their brand new video on June 19 at Love Goat in conjunction with a birthday bash for their flute-tootin’ frontlady, Sheila V.A.
We were fortunate enough to speak with Sheilava founding members, Sheila V.A. and Jason Garcia last week. Read what the duo had to say about the band’s growth during the first year and what to expect from the upcoming “Cups4Kings” Premier/Birthday Party.
What are the two of you most proud of from the past year?
Sheila: It’s hard to pick one thing. The past year has been a whirlwind and we’ve done more in this timeframe as a band than I’ve ever done creatively and collectively as an artist throughout my entire career, and that in and of itself makes me beam with pride. We all have day jobs and do things outside of this project, yet we are still going places and making our name. I would say I’m most proud that we were able to accomplish so many “firsts” in our first year as a band…. We released our first LP, made a Christmas EP, booked our first festival, had our music featured in three indie films, made our own car commercial, worked on six music videos, had our band featured in three indie blogs, and we performed live on-air for two different acoustic showcases. I am so proud of the commitment from my bandmates and it’s just not enough to say that we’re thankful for every opportunity we’ve been given.
Jason: There’s a lot of things I’m proud of, but I’m probably most proud of our ability to work quickly and still make great music. Some of our songs take a while to perfect and that’s fine. But when we can work fast as well, it makes us more versatile.
What was your favorite Sheilava experience from the first year?
Jason: When we played Pecan Street Festival last year. Sheila got all these decorations and props and we turned it into an experience. People were coming from the other tents to stop and listen and it was really a triumphant moment for us.
Sheila: One of my absolute favorite experiences was seeing so many people come together for our 1-year anniversary show on March 1st. It was eye-opening to see just how much support we had, right there in front of our eyes. I have a love-hate relationship with social media because we wouldn’t be where we are without it, but it doesn’t fulfill you in the same way to see so many fans online as it does to see them in person. The 1 year marker for us was a celebration of everything we’ve worked towards thus far, as well as a stepping stone as to what might be possible in our next year.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far?
Sheila: I’m still learning every day to let go of certain things. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in an idea that I want to be perfect, whether it be something as complex as hosting a live show or something as simple as wanting a specific chord progression to accompany a melody. When I create something and hear it and feel it a certain way, I will often get so wrapped up in my mind that I forget it takes a team to make it happen and their creativity is just as necessary to make it whole.
Jason: The most important thing I’ve learned is to maintain a partnership. You’re not going to have it your way all the time, and you don’t want that. Learning when to stand up for what you want and when to back down, I think has been really important.
Where have you seen the band grow the most since its inception?
Jason: We’ve really grown as performers and with our live performance. Now we’ve got a synchronized light show thanks to the hardworking talent of our drummer Mike Krieger. We played a house showcase recently and it looked like a stage show.
Sheila: More than anything, our sound has grown and changed so much– from our home-studio recording sessions to the style of my vocals and the dynamic contrasts of our writing, and most especially in the added details to our live shows. We’re more confident than ever in trying to deliver both a wiry and electric energy to our audience, and I feel that we’ve really uncovered our sound. I’m proud that it separates us from other indie/pop artists.
Looking back, if you could have done anything differently, what would it have been?
Sheila: At first, part of me wants to say that if I could have done anything differently it would have been to focus solely on this project. Throughout last summer I also performed with a Latin-Jazz ensemble and was also one-half of another acoustic duo. Our drummer played in six other bands at one point and Jason was involved in other music projects as well. But I also realize we wouldn’t be who we are without those other experiences. Every person we work with and everyone we meet as a result of that becomes another opportunity to learn and grow. It affects us individually and therefore influences our sound as an ensemble.
Jason: I would have fought less! We got into a lot of arguments over things that weren’t important, but those were the growing pains of getting to know someone quickly. We’ve settled into more of a rhythm now, and we understand each other a lot better.
Are the band’s goals for year two bigger and bolder?
Sheila: I am thrilled I can say this with utmost confidence. YES! As with all of our goals last year, we have a list of things we want to try and accomplish. One thing I’m dying to check off my bucket list is a tour. There was talk at one point of doing a tour throughout Texas and then we even had someone from Austin Film Society approach us about possibly touring in Japan. Our first goal is to finish our second album “V” which will be our first published work of songs performed live by the full band. It will be a testament to how far our sound has come since Jason and I made our first LP “Nonsense” last year in a bedroom studio with separately recorded tracks. Another huge goal we have alongside the growth of our sound and fanbase is to catch the eye of the Austin 360 Studio Sessions and KUTX. They’ve featured some of the best local music I’ve ever heard and it would be an honor to have that opportunity.
Jason: We’ve shown that we can do a lot of things without much money or time, so definitely I think we can think bigger. We’re expanding our reach and talent pool, so anything’s possible.
Sheilava is premiering “Cups4Kings” on Tuesday. What can you tell us about the video and upcoming Trailer Release Party?
Sheila: “Cups4Kings” is based off a true story of past college days– parties, friendships, love, lust, and ALL of the drama that follows. The name for the song was sparked by the popular game King’s Cup (aka Waterfall, which is also referenced in the song), and inspired by the idea that when people get liquid courage they feel they can do anything, but it doesn’t always lead to the best scenarios. This is the edgiest of our songs and is both witty and catty. We worked on this song more than any other in an effort to create an extreme contrast in sound and style with elements of indie rock, pop, and sultry jazz vocals. Also, I originally wanted to play a show on my birthday because I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than by doing what I love. Throughout our music video shoot we received unbelievable support and kindness from the cast and crew and I absolutely had to thank them for all of their time and creativity by having Sheilava perform live for everyone. I also wanted to give them a sneak peek of everything they worked towards since they only got to see cuts and takes of a live show here and there during our time filming, so in between sets we are going to show the trailer.
Jason: “Cups4Kings” has been our most challenging song to date. When Sheila sent me the first outline of the song it took me weeks to figure out how the rest should go. Previously I’d have come up with something in a day or so, but this song had so many different moods and feels that I knew it was going to take a while to get right. The recording also took some time to perfect, but I think we came up with something pretty cool-sounding. We got a fantastic crew of people to come together to shoot the equally complex video, so I’m excited to see the trailer myself. I think it’s going to be a great example of what Sheilava is and will be going forward this year.
For additional Sheilava info and updates, give them a follow here and be sure to catch them June 19th at Sheila’s Birthday Bash/”Cups4Kings” Premiere here.
Photos courtesy of Capture House Photography