Xelli Island is the independent dream pop project of vocalist, songwriter and shapeshifter Lianna Vanicelli. Having fronted one band after another since she was 14, Vanicelli tired from the conflicts of a group dynamic and has found strength and a clear creative direction as a solo artist. Her island is something of a mirage; a melodic, lyrical haven to the unbridled human spirit and travails alike.
Hailing from Detroit and a blue-collar upbringing, the prideful half-Filipina made the leap to Los Angeles at the end of 2017 with barely enough money to last two months. It is from her unique, down-to-earth perspective of establishing a creative life in Detroit’s music scene, the whimsical, eye-opening experience of visiting loved ones in The Philippines since childhood, and finding her purpose early in life that Xelli is able to write from a place of charming yet humble wisdom. Her music is an honest reflection of both the inner and outer world that she moves through with lyrics detailing the beauty and the struggle of navigating through life, love, and this imperfect society we co-habituate today.
The project is a serendipitous result of Xelli working closely with producer and long-time friend Jon Zott. They have been co-producing and co-writing the songs since summer of 2019, with additional collaboration from bassist Mathew Hofman. Vanicelli is careful to avoid songwriting that feels too formulated.
Her upcoming five-track EP Meet Me at the Waterfall sees the songwriter touching on love and loss in all aspects. She explains, “Not just romantic love, but learning to appreciate what’s in front of you. How powerful love is, how it lingers, how it hurts.” The message behind the immersive EP narrates how we’re all human and that being a human can be a strange experience. Vanicelli continues, “I love melding really human experiences with dreamlike sounds that make you live in those moments for a few minutes.”
Leading single “02 20 20” features quirky soundscapes and a colorful melody which provides the backdrop for Vanicelli’s unique, ethereal voice. The artist reveals how nature is a constant inspiration for her music, both lyrically and sonically. She confides, “I just feel like we’ve moved so far from nature as humans, so I tend to weave it into lyrics and sounds because it’s still very much a part of us and it’s this really comforting theme in a world where it’s so easy to get caught up in the unnatural things.”
Then there is “Bad for You” – delicate, falsetto vocals, an upbeat rhythm and shimmering synths emit a feel-good track, wrapping up all the best parts that Vanicelli has to offer and delivering it in an infectious and sentimental package.
Meet Me at the Waterfall is slated for release later this year.