Lealani & Making Waves: Backseat Challenge

Lealani & Making Waves: Backseat Challenge

Last month, our favorite LA-based electronic art-pop artist and extraterrestrial, Lealani returned to earth with her anticipated album, Lealani, SnakeFoot. Weaving stardust into sonic waves, Lealani transports listeners into her world through metaphors and melodies sung over experimental electronic beats. The collaboration with SnakeFoot follows Lealani’s acclaimed 2019 debut album, Fantastic Planet. Join us in conversation with Lealani below as she introduces herself and we welcome her onto the team as our new YouTube host.

 


Can you introduce yourself & tell us about your upbringing and how it shaped your music journey?


I’m Lealani, also known as the alien from Fantastic Planet. I actually just graduated from college for animation and I grew up in Pomona. I think what brought me into music was seeing everyone in the LA beat scene making music, seeing them perform, and I was just like, ‘Wow, I really like these people’s energy on stage.’
During high school, I was in my own punk band, The Pezheads and that's kind of when I started to realize how much I like to perform.  My dad has always really been into music too. So, there's always been records lying around, and we share the same iTunes library; I’d just listen to his music, and he has really broad tastes:  He's into MF Doom, Rage Against the Machine, and more; It’s just a really good taste in music my dad has. I think my whole life I’ve been surrounded by music and I really enjoy making music. 


How did you begin making music?


I started making my own music when I was 12 years old on this beat maker app on the iPad that my dad was playing with. He said, ‘Hey you should download this app too and play around with it.’ So, I started making beats on the app, playing piano, and singing and would then put a drum track on the application. And then I was like, ‘Hey, this isn’t too bad for someone who is 12 years old!’ That's how I started, all through the application. 


Which Punk artists have you found inspiration in?


I really like The Cramps alot, they're like rockabilly punk. The lead singer of The Cramps, Lux Interior, and the way he performs is very weird; He performs as a creature from the lagoon, that’s kind of his bit. I think that stuck in my head, ‘Oh, like he’s a creature and I’m an alien from fantastic planet.’ Another example is Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys and he performs like a mime: He uses all these expressions, hand movements, and body movements-- it really inspires me because I’m like you can use music performance to your advantage as a singer: from the way you look to the way you act,  it all really makes the whole experience. 


What influences your lyricism? 


The inspiration behind the lyrics of my first album, Fantastic Planet was writing from the ages of 12 to 18 and exploring what it feels like to find yourself as a creature on a different planet: I really like space and sci-fi. My writing when I was younger was really inspired by what it feels like to grow up and let go of things. And, from that time of being 12 to 18, it's about teenage angst, what you go through but finding metaphors that are sciency to say it. 
With my new album, I took a college class in poetry and started thinking ‘Well, I think I want to have more flavor to my lyrics’ so I started reading more poetry that helped inspire my most recent album Lealani Snakefoot. Alot of the writing came from feeling directionless, feeling like ‘I'm not really sure where I'm going,’ and then it was also inspired by transformation. And I think that's one of the things I’ve been writing about recently: transformation, changes, directions-- being directionless and direction full. 


What evolution have you seen between the release of your 2015 Pezheads EP and your most current album Lealani, SnakeFoot?


The main evolution I have seen is in my voice control and my lyrics are better too. Especially with the Pezheads: In those songs, I’m like ‘Heartbreak! Love!’ but with the latest album I put out, Lealani, Snakefoot, it's something people can look up on Genius and read through the lyrics and be like, ‘Let me try to figure out this puzzle.’ Of course, I don't want the lyrics to be too challenging or nonsense but I do want for people to figure out the lyrics. 
I think the main difference I also see is I'm no longer nervous on stage. My lyrics are a little better and I think I'm going to keep getting better-- that's one of my goals. Overall, I'm still tweaking my sound but with every album, it’s getting closer and closer. 


Can you tell us about Fantastic Planet, and what releasing your first album meant to you?


Releasing my first album meant the world to me because I had been working on it for such a long time. When it finally came out it was this big relief and it was my debut album: My first step into the music world. I'm really glad that I have Fantastic Planet out because it is very representative of me as the alien from Fantastic Planet-- everything from the album cover to the music in it. 
With the release, I finally felt myself as an artist. Even though there are times when I feel insecure, it did boost my confidence: It was like, ‘Yeah, you know what? I’m not bad at making music, I can keep doing this.’ It was a really great experience and we actually had a release party with Obey, one of the most fun nights of my life. So many people went, I was shocked, and some celebrities went too... {Lealani laughs] Fantastic Planet is just a surreal album with good timing. 

 



What did the creation process of your most recent album Lealani SnakeFoot look like?


My latest album was a collaboration album with SnakeFoot. So, the creation process was different from my first album. Normally, I'm the one making the music, I’m the one singing and writing the lyrics-- it's all me. But, for this one, I wanted a collaboration with someone to try a different process. 
I would listen to SnakeFoot’s demo beats a bunch of times until I could find a melody and then I would sing over it. This latest album really challenged me to pick the beats that were most difficult. I was like, ‘No, I’m going to sing over this beat, I don't care if people think I can't sing over it.’ 
Lealani Snakefoot was a really good learning process and I'm thankful that I got to work with SnakeFoot. It taught me alot about how I sing and I'm excited for what I do with the next album because now I know ‘Yes, I can take my voice over this hard song, it doesn't matter if it's fast or slow.’ To that, I think a lot of people are like ‘Oh, I'll send you a slow beat so you can sing over it.’ But it's like, ‘No, dude. Send me the hardest beat you have’ and I will figure it out. Maybe on my next album, I'll get to make crazy harder beats!