Lianna Vanicelli, professionally known as Xelli Island, is on her own now. After being part of a band most of her career, she’s finally gone solo and we are so here for it. Her new song “Bad For You” is out now and she even shot a music video in the middle of the dessert for us. She is a dreamy pop sensation. Her light moody voice paired with psychedelic instrumentals and angsty lyrics give us the ultimate “I got it bad” song.
We got to talk to the Detroit-born, now LA-based singer-songwriter about the mirages on her island, shooting her new music video, and her transition to solo artist.
How has the transition between band and solo artist been?
It’s been both really challenging and really rewarding! I never saw myself as a solo artist but it just naturally happened and now I love it. I had to work through a lot of self-doubt in the first year. But there’s a lot more freedom creatively and in making authoritative decisions.
It’s refreshing to just be myself in this project and make what I love. I don’t have to think twice about song lyrics or ideas for visuals. And to know that nobody else can call quits except me allows me to fully commit to it with no fear.
How was the transition from Detroit to LA? What are some things you brought with you from your hometown?
The transition was by far one of weirdest and most wild years of my life. LA is just so massive compared to Detroit. When I got here, I fully threw myself into what the city had to offer. Went to every show, party, and social event that I could. Got a job waiting tables, met a bunch of people, started playing shows with my previous band, had wayyy too many late night burritos. There were 3 of us crammed into a 2 bedroom apartment and we had to use the living room as a bedroom. It was the only way we could afford living here. It’s been almost 3 years now and each year has been extremely different. It really feels like home now. One thing I brought with me from my hometown is my parking club hahaaa. I still use it on my van whenever I park because living in Detroit does that to you. My friends make fun of me but I can’t not use it.
What were you inspired by when naming yourself Xelli Island? I love this idea of having your own island. Have you imagined what kind of mirages you’d find on yours?
Haha right, having my own island would truly be the dream! I was inspired by a few things when I came up with the name. Xelli is an altered piece of my last name (Vanicelli) and I’m half Filipino so I have island bloodlines that run deep. I also just really relate to feeling like an outlier in a lot of ways in the same way that an island looks on a map next to a bigger body of land. It makes me feel really good about just doing my own thing and being proud of it. I haven’t imagined what type of mirages there would be..maybe like pockets of sound that hang in the air like bubbles and when you pop them they release the sound and disappear :O
Where was the music video shot? What was shooting like?
We shot it out in the desert in Yucca Valley/Joshua Tree, CA. It was like 105 degrees so it was exhausting and we all got pricked by cacti but we had the best time shooting. My friends (Babae Studios) are the ones who shot it and we’ve worked together a lot in the past, they’re amazing! We spent a lot of time looking for bunnies to film and ended up finding a coyote which was so cool. The scenes where I’m walking/singing down the dirt road were really fun and sweaty. I had to take breaks between each take and blast the AC in the car because I was dripping sweat. My favorite scene to film was the chair yoga scene. It was golden hour and we put on Men I Trust and I just vibed out and did some variation of yoga balancing on a chair overlooking the desert. It was so peaceful and serene! I’m really proud of it overall cause we shot it on a teeny budget but I think it captures the feeling of the song perfectly.
When music venues and comedy clubs and restaurants really open again. Where’s the first place you’re going and what are you listening to before leaving?
I would kill to go to a show at the Lodge Room in Highland Park. I really, really miss nights walking down Figueroa St. and grabbing drinks with friends at all of the bars, (Gold Line, Good Housekeeping, Blind Barber, ETA, La Cuevita) before a show or something. ‘Note To Self’ by Jim-E Stack/Empress Of is my jam right now and feels like something I’d listen to before going out. But right now I don’t even remember what alcohol tastes like.
Any new hobbies you’ve discovered during quarantine?
Park hangs have been really great, like why weren’t we doing more of that before? Also cuddling with my kitten Enzo that I adopted a few months ago. He’s my pal. Other than that I started painting on old plant pots and little containers which is really fun and chill.
CONNECT WITH XELLI ISLAND
photos / courtesy of artist
story / Vogue Giambri