Soul Clap ask WTF Are We Doing to the World?
on Their Hopeful New Album
Soul Clap ask WTF Are We Doing to the World?
April 22, 2021
on Their Hopeful New Album
As musicians, Soul Clap’s Eli Goldstein and Charlie Levine have two decades of experience behind them, with a multitude of releases on mainstay house labels Crosstown Rebels, Wolf + Lamb, Classic Music Company, Fool’s Gold, and Crew Love; and gigs at many of the world’s most important clubs and events, including The BPM Festival, Watergate, Amnesia Ibiza, Elsewhere, and many, many more.
As climate activists, Eli and Charlie have taken their ecological message far beyond social media platitudes. Eli has worked as an ambassador for DJs for Climate Action since 2015, and Charlie is involved with Can You Sea Change, an audio/visual installation that raises awareness about the destruction of our oceans due to climate change.
Last year, they also co-created the Rave The Vote, a voter registration project that counted Louie Vega, Jazzy Jeff, DJ Deeon, Seth Troxler, and Inner City among supporters. And both are currently rethinking how they approach touring in order to drastically cut emissions.
Which is to say that while they’ve both used their platforms to speak out against the impending climate catastrophe in interviews, on panels, and across social media, they’ve also put plenty of real-world work into creating lasting change.
Despite their deep worries over the future of our planet, their fourth studio album is oozing with hope and positivity — it’s “a call for radical love and radical hope,” and showcases their “belief that things will get better, even if we are still just beginning to learn how to get there,” they said.
But the duo had plenty more to say about why it’s important to remain hopeful, what they think the post-covid scene will look like, and what went into creating WTF (World Transformation Force) in our interview, which you can read below.
How are you guys doing? What’s your 2021 been like so far?
All things aside, we are doing good, thank the heavens. Together with our manager Jonathan Mcdonald and our team, we’ve been able to pivot and keep things in motion throughout the pandemic. We launched the SoulClapMusic Twitch channel that hosts our virtual back-to-back DJ sets, our House Of Virtual EFUNK festival, our Soul Clap Records showcase, Charlie’s Mental Mondaze, and Eli’s Unicorn Disco For Tots. We launched our weekly talk show called Schmoozing With Soul Clap that’s been almost 50 weeks running so far. We’re celebrating our third studio album out now on Fool’s Gold Records with the help of A-Trak, Nick Catchdubs, and the great team over there. Individually we’ve continued enjoying time at home off the road with our families and loved ones. Also, Eli’s been immersed in a masters program in climate science and policy at Bard College and Charlie has been up to his neck studying music theory with his piano teacher.
Congrats on the album. How long have you been working on it?
Believe it or not, this album was mostly finished before the pandemic. It was just a matter of finding the right home for it. We started working on it just the two of us in March 2019 in Charlie’s home studio in Miami. There were some sessions in Brooklyn where folks like Nona Hendryx, Rich Medina, Sha-Lor’s Lori Lava, Greg Paulus, Jason Disu (RIP), and Morgan Wiley added their contributions. Then we brought it out to Los Angeles to flesh out the ideas with Lee Curtiss, who helped as an executive producer along with another list of great musicians including XL Middleton, Harriet Brown and Desmond “DSP” Powell. We gotta also give credit to mixing engineers Spencer Nezey and Phil Moffa as well as a few more players that brought this project to life remotely, like Harry Dennis, Tra’zae Clinton and guitarist Chas Bronz.
Despite all the dangers currently facing earth, WTF (World Transformation Force) is overtly positive and hopeful. Does this mean you’re hopeful about the future of humanity in the face of our climate crisis? If so, why?
If we were to throw our hands up in the air and give up or bury our heads in the sand, it would be a guarantee that we would lose the battle for the climate and justice and peace! We MUST remain vigilant about our ability as a society to change our ways and combat the damage we’ve already done and we MUST remain hopeful about the future for the next generations to come. The alternative is just an impossibility, otherwise, we would be abandoning our ONLY home!
With the arrival of the Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy,” the ecological disaster in our oceans is finally seeing more mainstream attention. Charlie, can you explain more about what you do with Can You Sea Change?, and why it’s so important to consider our oceans when thinking about conservation?
“Can You Sea Change?” is my collaboration with Miami-based artists Natasha Tomchin and Beatriz Chachamovits. Together we’ve created a multisensory art-activism installation piece, combining Beatriz’s handmade ceramics (based off actual endangered southern Floridian species of coral) [which are] projection-mapped by Natasha and paired with my sound design.
Now more than ever in Miami, our marine ecosystem is seeing the devastating effects of pollution and climate change. This is particularly dangerous as Florida is home to North America’s only barrier reef (and third-largest globally) which spans from St. Lucie’s inlet all the way south passing the Dry Tortugas island. The Florida barrier reef stretches 300 miles and contains over fifty species of corals and 500 species of fish. Tragically, about 50% of the reef has died off over the last 20 years from man-made pollution, natural diseases, and overall higher water temperature.
Our goal is to create awareness by unveiling the majestic and natural art of Florida’s at-risk marine ecology and to expose its continuous rate of degradation. This collaboration brings to life something intangible for most audiences through sculpture, projection-mapped with video art and heightened by the narration of paired soundscapes. Throughout the duration of the projection mapping, the installation tells a narrative of changing temperatures and increased pollution in the ocean. As time progresses the art installation transforms and reveals all of its elements, including hidden pieces of ceramic trash blending into the corals as a direct result of human beings. At our core (much like the message behind the new Soul Clap album WTF, aka World Transformation Force), Beatriz, Natasha, and I believe change IS possible through positive affirmation and emotionally connecting individuals with the cause.
Do you think people should reconsider their eating habits when thinking about their impact on the environment, including our oceans?
Re-thinking how we consume animal products is definitely an essential piece of personal climate action. Moving away from the cultural values placed on eating animals and encouraging plant-rich diets is essential to reduce our global emissions. If eating animal products is part of your daily routine, the idea of cutting back can seem daunting, but once you’re on the other side you realize there are other satisfying alternatives! You can still cook and eat creatively, you can still feel energized with a plant-rich diet. We also recognize the reality that not everyone has access to healthy plant-based food and sometimes people need to eat animals for health reasons or just because it can be the most affordable way to get the nutrients they need.
There’s been a lot of talk about transforming the post-covid scene into a more equitable, ecologically conscious space over the last year or so. Do you think that will wind up mostly just being talk, or do you think we’ll actually see some serious changes?
It’s hard to really know what the scene as a whole will wind up doing once things are ramped back up again post-covid, but we are certainly going to do everything in our power to practice what we preach. There have been a lot of internal conversations going on with our team, and there are a bunch of organizations working on plans for what comes next, like DJs For Climate Action, clean.scene, ByeBye Plastic, and A Greener Festival. There are tons of like-minded folks in the industry and having these issues at the front of people’s consciousness is a good sign.
However, the reality is that DJs still need to tour to make a living, and fans want to see international DJs at their clubs and festivals. Until we can develop new ecosystems for DJs and producers to make a living without having to get on planes, while also placing a higher value on local artists and scenes, it’s going to be really hard to make this transition. Ultimately the choices will have to be made individually, but we certainly hope there are enough positive changes made by enough influential artists and industry that the rest follow along!
We as artists have a responsibility to lead and put that messaging out there, but it is also on the shoulders of the promoters, agents, and managers to be thinking along these lines. We’re confident that if our industry takes these steps together, the fans of electronic music and DJ culture will inherit these values and emulate them within their communities.
Are there any changes in regards to touring etc. that you will be making moving forward?
Yes, absolutely! We’re working towards a goal of decreasing our emissions from travel by at least 30 percent from our 2019 levels. We’ve already begun planning how we’re going to accomplish this by building carbon accounting into our tour planning, exploring alternate methods of transportation like trains or electric vehicles, spending longer periods of time within territories, doing more local shows, and establishing residencies. These ideas are not just about being more sustainable for the planet, but also for our physical and mental health, and really trying to engage with our communities and communities around the world. There’s a lot of work to be done but there is also tremendous pride and excitement in doing so.
You both also launched voter registration project Rave The Vote in 2020, with support from the likes of Jazzy Jeff, DJ Deeon, Louie Vega, Seth Troxler, Inner City and more. Why is politics an important part of your overall activism efforts?
If we were just to sit there and not go all-in on ejecting the last president of the United States it would have been complacent and giving in to climate change, racism, and hate!!! Look, the concept of PLUR is Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect, right? Well, that last administration practiced NONE of the above… We have to look around and acknowledge what is going on in our country and within our communities. If we see what is going on to be unjust and tyrannical then we must do what we can to spread a message of positivity, truth, and equality.
And what is your message to those who think musicians should “Stay out of politics and stick to music”?
Our message would be, wake the fuck up! Eli says in prose on our new album that “Dance music was born as a subversive movement of marginalized people and we believe it’s our duty to follow in their footsteps and use the power of our culture for positive change.” Our culture is deeply political. If you listen to Chuck Roberts’s words “In the beginning there was Jack and Jack had a groove…,” this is an anthem and a tremendously political one. It can be frustrating to see people who don’t understand the roots of our music and culture, but then again [it’s] generally the job of artists and musicians to bring consciousness to the masses!
Lastly, it’s been a dark time for many people, but what are you looking forward to most this year?
We’re really looking forward to getting back to in-person shows, watching this new body of music make an impact on the dance floor but also getting back into the swing of things mindfully and with intention. Yes, this last chunk of time had its dark moments, but there has also been an incredible opportunity for reflection, and for that we are deeply grateful.
Chandler Shortlidge is the editor of Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.