We Are Upstate NY With Songwriter and Rocker Shana Falana
Inside+Out is thrilled to present an exclusive interview with Kingston songwriter and record maker, Shana Falana. Known for darkly kaleidoscopic songs, Shana beautifully merges elements of psychedelia, punk, and shoegaze to create her unique and mesmerizing style. After spending twelve years in a two-piece band with partner, Mike Amari, Shana share’s her latest passion for collaboration with Shana Falana and The Crawlbabies and her upcoming show called “The Goddess Party.” Read on to understand our absolute fascination with Hudson Valley local, Shana Falana!
INSIDE+OUT: Where are you originally from and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
Shana Falana: Hi! I’m originally from the Bay Area in California. I was part of a very vibrant music scene there in the 90s that all but died after the ‘dot com’ crash in the early aughts. I was searching for another creative scene and I chose Brooklyn. I quickly started recording an album with a producer who had a studio upstate in Stone Ridge and that’s when I saw the Hudson Valley and fell in love!
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live + work + play music here?
I mean….top of the list it’s so beautiful here! I pinch myself driving around, that I even get to live here! And the community I have now is also top of the list. It did take me years to find ‘my people’ I will say. When I moved upstate from Brooklyn in 2008 I was like “where are all the weirdos!” and I was living in New Paltz! You had to be invited to little happenings, you had to dig in under the surface to find the cool stuff. Now there are so many events, they’re often conflicting.
I’m a house painter and I get to see who is moving here, and my clients have all been really awesome creatives that are also socially conscious and participate in local politics. I feel like even though we are in a housing crisis and things are incredibly challenging for us in the Hudson Valley, there are also so many beautiful people that have just moved here!
How did you get your start in music?
My mother is a songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist and I think it was my destiny to play and sing. I started writing my own songs in Bozeman MT, in my college years. I was actually compared a lot to Natalie Merchant of the 10,000 Maniacs (at that time) and have since gotten to meet her living here!
What are some of your favorite musicians and who would be your dream come true to play with?
Oh wow…. PJ Harvey, Lisa Gerard (of Dead Can Dance), Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Mimi Goese (Hugo Largo) and Kim Deal (The Breeders!) – my list hasn’t changed in 25 years.
Tell us about your latest album, Darkest Light, and the concept behind it.
We kind of worked backward from the song entitled, “Darkest Light”. Remember this was 2019, pre-pandemic, deep into our fascist government. The lyrics in “Darkest Light” are phrases I heard from Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale, which sort of foretells our present time, unfortunately. An overarching doom feeling was in the air and I addressed it with “Everyone is Gonna Be Okay” and “Go Higher” (a Wiccan chant that I altered, pun intended…hey I’m here all week lol). “Go Higher” was also just recently used in the show The Summer I Turned Pretty.
Darkest Light is described by Falana as “druggy music by sober people.”
Musically, this album (in particular for me) was also about giving nods to my favorite bands. I was so stoked when Alex Maas of the Black Angels (the inspiration for “Come On Over”) Instagram messaged me about liking one of the songs on the record Right Now is All We Know. He told me to ‘keep going’… I’ve always loved that phrase.
What is the best part and the most trying about being a musician today?
The best part is that as I age all I want to do is play more and more music! I have been in a two-piece band for the last 12 years and now collaboration is calling to me and I am creating a few new projects that I’m really excited about. Shana Falana and The Crawlbabies (my band and another band combined) have been playing shows out locally. There are five of us in the band and I barely play guitar, instead, I just run around singing into the crowd. I also started a new group that hasn’t performed yet called, “The Goddess Party”. Currently, there are a solid 30 of us, my vision is to have 50 (so get in touch if you want to sing with us). We have a show for May 26th at Opus 40. The most trying part is singing indoors with a group of people safely during a pandemic! Otherwise, all good!
How do you market yourself?
I use social media for shows but I am not the best at marketing. My partner, Mike Amari (who did the programming at BSP, the most perfect music venue ever in Kingston for 10 years, RIP), does our booking, promotion and managing. Since he works in the music industry as a talent buyer it just made sense. I do also have a small ‘team’ for album releases, but I have no idea if releases are even promoted the same way they were three years ago!
How do you get your bookings, and where do you typically perform?
Last year, I did a string of ‘solo shows’ and I booked them all myself just reaching out directly to the promoters! There were some really crafted music series that happened last year. I played at Utility Bike Works in Kingston put together by Masha Badinter and crew, and then there was a ‘Jupiter Nights’ series put on by Allie Young out at Basilica that I loved. I take the time to go onto Instagram and do some research. I think promoters really appreciate it if you understand their scene, venue and series.
Do you have future plans for the band or other projects/collabs on the horizon?
The Goddess Party! Come sing with us, I want 50 or more of us singing and we’ll most likely be playing Tubby’s sometime in the Spring.
You co-founded the podcast, I Want What She Has with Theresa Widman. What was the impetus for it from your POV? What did you learn from this experience of podcasting?
Yes!! Well, Theresa and I make each other laugh a lot and originally we joked that we should have a podcast of us laughing together because it would make you laugh, too. I remember we crafted it during the ‘pussy hat’ and #metoo movement days in 2016. We heard that Radio Kingston was looking for shows to air and after a 2-second interview, they scooped us right up! I would make audio clips for the show taken from docs on feminism, women’s marches and Kathleen Hanna in, “The Punk Singer” or L7 in “Pretend We’re Dead.” The title is in reference to an AA sentiment that when looking for a sponsor you find someone that has what you want, thus “I Want What SHE Has.” I’m proudest of the interview I did with Erica Chase-Salerno from her hospice bed at her home in New Paltz. She was beloved in our community, and she was in the final days of her cancer. I sat at her bedside and recorded as she and I reminisced about her life and her very unique take on her own death. It was an incredible honor to have had that time with her and to record it for all her friends and loved ones.
What do you do when you’re not making music?
Well, I just started a new company called “Wall Environments.” I’m creating murals using metallic and rust materials, also Venetian plaster-inspired painting and some lime washing. I’m a super paint nerd, I’ve been painting houses here for a while now and at first, I was thinking that these would be exteriors, as there are so many black houses we’ve painted now, what’s the next thing gonna be?! But I think it works best inside for now, here’s my new website.
You made an awesome music playlist for us last year. We’re sharing the link below for everyone to check out.
Which Hudson Valley places do you most frequent?
These days, Pakt in Kingston has been hosting some incredible events with Queer Conspiracy (plus her menu is amazing). The Avalon Lounge in Catskill is a great venue but also has amazing Korean food if you haven’t been. I went to a lot of events at Opus 40 last year, Mike is overseeing the programming there now and it’s really been fun going there!
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
A BATHHOUSE! An affordable bathhouse that serves the community.
What would be your dream local Staycation?
Church Des Artistes Guest House in Kingston!
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