[INTERVIEW] Life on Planets Breaks Down His New Infectious EP, 'FEELS INTL', + More
Rising from Baltimore's underground scene, Life on Planets (LoP) has cultivated a sound so exclusive and unique that it is irreplicable. From the mind of singer-songwriter, musician, producer, and DJ Phill Celeste, this project welds elements of R&B, bossa nova, reggae, house, and hip hop together into infectious anthems. The innovative adventurer has traveled across the world to showcase his genre-fusing abilities, from the Caribbean islands to renowned clubs and festivals.
Now Life on Planets has turned onto the next chapter in his artistic journey, with the release of his funkadelic EP, FEELS INTL, on Fool's Gold Records. We loved the four-track compilation so much that we made it our mission to link up with LoP to talk about it and other aspects of his musical identity.
Check out iEDM’s exclusive interview with Life on Planets below.
iEDM: How has growing up in Baltimore impacted your taste and passion for music? Is there anything particular within the city or its musicians that helped you discover your identity as an artist?
Life on Planets: When I lived in Bmore it was a crazy melting pot of so many genres all happening at once. I would see noise rock, hip hop, and indie bands all in the same night sharing the same stage. Bmore shaped my taste for genre-blending and eclecticism. Thanks to seeing so many different people all enjoying different vibes together, I am unafraid to mix sounds or take chances.
iEDM: What is your perspective on the connection between music and storytelling? Are there any artists that you have learned from on the subject of storytelling through music? How do you aim to provide a story in your tracks?
LoP: I believe that music can tell a story just with a vibe. And like any form of art it can be different for lots of people depending on their interpretation. With all my songs, I picture a movie playing out and I describe the scenes. Epic storytellers for me are Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and Tame Impala.
iEDM: Your new EP, FEELS INTL, takes listeners on a hypnotic journey through sound. How do each of the four tracks fit into the compilation’s overall vibe or theme?
LoP: These tracks are a reflection on touring and its different aspects. The title track is a reintroduction to Life on Planets. That song where I pull up on stage and tell'em what's good. Alot of people have been following the journey but there are new ears as well as a new direction in sound and I feel like “Feels INTL” really drives it home.
“Love You Down” is about falling in love at the club. When you’re dancing with someone you really see their spirit shine and that kind of non-verbal communication is why I make dance music. “No One’s House” is the anti-after-party party anthem. No shade on the afters but it's always a toss up on which way it’ll go.
“Tha Team” reflects the community and the people I’ve met in the scene and the irony of the respect I get from being in this club of misfits and weirdos.
iEDM: What is your favorite line or phrase in the title track of FEELS INTL? How does it encapsulate the entirety of the song and its message?
LoP: I have so many favorite lines in this track but I think “Feels international, don't know what it is…” speaks to this notion of anything from someplace else being special. It could be a four dollar ring but it's from Ecuador.
I’m still the same guy who used to play on the streets in Bmore but when you hear I’ve played overseas the perception of what I do changes greatly. After my first Europe tour, people from back home really started paying attention. Our value goes up when people know that other people value us. So when something or someone feels international, there's another level of interest there.
For a hip hop persona, it's the perfect brag, “I be out in other countries”. But what I’m really speaking to is the phenomena of something exotic or foreign being special just because. My artistry being taken more seriously because I travel, rather than because of the quality of my art and how strange that is.
iEDM: What was the intended purpose for the simplistic, percussive bassline used in the beginning of “No One’s House”? How does it establish a sense of balance with your vocals?
LoP: I had really been thinking about Rick James and wanted to capture a sense of live bass playing with a synth. The line just hit me like lightning and I knew that was it. When that bassline hits people just understand; I wanted something funky and groovy and easy to dance with. It is all about that bassline, so the vocals leave a lot of space for it to come in and dance.
iEDM: What element of production in “Love Ya Down” do you feel is the most exotic and far from your original style? What effect does it have on the whole song?
LoP: Between “Love Ya Down” and “No One’s House” you’ll notice these bouncy key/rhodes sounds holding a constant rhythm throughout. I had been listening to a lot of deep house a la Norm Talley and Karizma and wanted to experiment with a droney sort of vamp holding the middle, kind of like a funk guitar but more electronic.
On a lot of other LOP songs that was the purpose the guitar served, but with this change I can sort of play around more with accents or melody on the guitar and give the tracks more of a club feel.
iEDM: “THA TEAM” closes out FEELS INTL with catchy rhymes and a groovy instrumental. What sparked the idea for this track and why did you decide to wave in the progression of echoing synths throughout?
LoP: I was sitting writing with a homie who is a popular DJ and thinking about how often people hit me up to talk to him or get something from him. Then that thought crossed with the braggadocio of rap crews like Wu Tang, lifestyle rap, the dance scene, and it all came together into this song about groupies, scammers, and people who want in.
While “Feels INTL” was about this experience of being validated for travel, “Tha Team” is about the infamy that comes from having a crew and how that can create this larger than life picture for people.
iEDM: What is your process in regard to sampling with 808s and 909s to create the drums you use in your production? Can you cite an example of this relative to forging FEELS INTL?
LoP: I take drums from different packs and run them through effects to get what I’d like out of them. I’ll layer a bit but prefer to manipulate a few samples into what I’m hearing in my head. Ableton’s Drum Buss and Spectral Resonator were my friends on “Feels INTL”, as well as some fun experiments with delays and ping pong.
iEDM: What is a main recurring challenge that you face when planning and executing a hybrid live set? What are a few ways you have been able to overcome this?
LoP: It always comes back to the flow. It's simpler when it's just my music but playing tracks I’d like to DJ and fitting them in between in a way that makes sense can be tricky. I have songs of my own ranging from more disco to more hip hop and faster house, and I want to play them all while still changing it up every show.
It helps to break down each vibe into a section and fill it in from there while still padding it with a few extra tunes just in case it's not time to switch it up or I wanna vamp a bit.
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iEDM: You are trapped on a tropical island with just your laptop, microphone, and the natural environment around you. What is a rough outline of how you would proceed in making a song, and which objects would you utilize from the island for its instrumental?
LoP: I’d take the sounds of the water and get a nice side compression going, love to do that with white noise. The splashes will be like my hats. I can hear coconuts on rocks for a snare, probably variations for percussion. Sand in a coconut for shakers and then I’m probably sampling my voice for the rest haha.
Start writing lyrics about all the dope food and animals and hopefully an undiscovered tribe waiting to take me in on the island.
iEDM: What are your top fashion trends right now? What is your outlook on the direction that rave fashion is heading in and its contribution to the world of dance music?
LoP: Baggier cuts of pants, colored glasses, any kind of hat that's not a baseball cap (docker caps, berets, kufis, whatever people don’t really rock) I have been dressing more and more in a classic sense, think dress boots, slacks and tucked in shirts.
I think at the rave there’s a tendency to go over the top or not at all and there’s a middle ground somewhere. On a larger scale, however, there is a level of freedom to dressing that didn’t really exist years ago and it is exciting to see where it goes.
iEDM: You have claimed dancing, tai chi, yoga, and acrobatics to be some of your hobbies outside of music. How do you think components of tai chi and yoga can flow into dance, especially when at the club?
LoP: Not only are the tai chi sequences great at house tempo but the mindset of flowing and setting aside the mind, fixating of the body helps to just flow and not worry so much about the moves or if you look cool.
When I’m really working my body and practicing my movement a lot, it becomes so much easier to do the moves that are in my mind and avoid injury from doing crazier moves.
iEDM: Can you elaborate on your role with BUFU? How did you come to join this LA-based collective and what is the shared vision amongst its members?
LoP: I joined BUFU because I was looking for community in LA. I don’t see other people of color in the dance scene as often as I’d like and it is awesome to be able to come together and talk about music and the struggles we face.
BUFU seeks to connect people of color worldwide across the dance community and find ways to increase representation from the festival stage to the club.
iEDM: You are a master of fusing multiple genres together. What new genres would you like to work with in the next year? Which artists from these areas would you love to collab with?
LoP: I’ve been a fan of Afro and Amapiano sounds for a long time but have never really tried my hand in those worlds. Would love to collab with DJ Stokie, Keinemusik and Mele!
iEDM: What upcoming projects can you foreshadow for your followers to get excited about? Are there any touring ventures in the near future that you want to highlight?
LoP: Have some music on the way on Desert Hearts that is club focused with some dope remixes. Excited to see how that does. Walker and Royce are helping me finish up a few tunes to drop on their label later this year.
Also, some dope collaborations with Soul Clap, Lubelski, Kiinjo and Pat Lok/Party Pupils coming soon, to name a few.
Photos courtesy of Life on Planets
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