French magazine Les inRocks recently referred to the Life on Planets sound as "a worthy heir to the great Arthur Russell... with the big sweetness of Art Department and the scholarly revivalism of Hercules & Love Affair."
Fresh off the release of their second full-length album, Assemblage Points, the duo of DJ/producer Patrick and vocalist/guitarist Phill combines the "DIY throwback" sensibility of their native Baltimore with a soulful, "left-field" production style to create an improvisational live sound that plays just as well in dark, underground clubs as it does floating over sprawling festival crowds.
Ahead of their upcoming set at Okeechobee Fest's Jungle 51 stage, we caught up with the Wolf + Lamb Crew Love associates about how they got their start, the Baltimore influence, and what we can expect from their offbeat, lauded live set.
New Times: What is each of your backgrounds in music? Any previous projects before coming together on Life on Planets?
Patrick: I've been a DJ/producer most of my life, always playing sort of left-field house and disco. My sound hasn't really changed that much from when I first started DJ'ing in the late 1990s. I met Phill about four years ago; he was an art student and songwriter/musician. He had performed in improv groups and had his own bands around town, but I loved his sound and sort of introduced him to the global village of dance music.
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How'd you first link up with the Wolf + Lamb crew?
We went up to play a gig at the Marcy Hotel in New York. It was a really well-curated event with a lot of different team players involved who each brought something to the table, and you could feel the community was really behind them.
What's it like being part of that family? They're a rather tight-knit and experimental bunch.
There's a lot of talent, and it's a great label I've always respected, even before getting signed to Wolf + Lamb. When you have live acts like No Regular Play and DJs like Soul Clap and Wolf + Lamb, who have really set the standard over the years, it's a very inspirational family to be a part of. It's been fun bringing a little bit of Baltimore to the Brooklyn family.
How does your hometown of Baltimore inform your sound and style?
I think it keeps us in touch with the street, sort of grounded. You know, I have my own label called Better on Foot, which maybe represents a lot of that philosophy. We do instrumental versions, dub mixes, sort of B-sides, and DJ-friendly tools. It's not an ambitious label in the sense of commercial success, but it's mostly aimed at music for DJs to use in their own greater compositions or mix sessions. It's sort of a minimalist deep-house concept.
Could you describe a typical live set?
Well, we write the music together in the studio, and during the live show, I DJ the instrumentals and then Phill sings and plays guitar. It's sort of like two turntables and a microphone — there's almost a DIY throwback element to it. Baltimore has a very rich, soulful, house-music history, where this kind of thing happened regularly dating back to the '80s. We aim to combine the sort of underground flow and progression to the DJ sets that you don't often see combined with live vocals. On longer sets, we go into alternate versions, improvisation, and that's always fun.
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You've played both intimate venues and festivals — where does the music translate best?
Hard to say — both have their place, and we're prepared for either. I think our range is pretty unique, from being able to do 105 BPM funk sets to 120 BPM big-room vibes. When we play on a big stage like at Electric Forest in Michigan or Sonar in Barcelona, it's definitely something next-level because of Phill's stage character; he has a background in theater, and that comes out in those situations.
What's going on now as far as new productions, future releases, any other projects you might be working on?
We're working on a lot of new material, as well as putting a remix EP together from tracks off of our Assemblage Points album, which came out in December.
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival
With Life on Planets and more. March 3 to 6 at Sunshine Grove, 12517 NE 91st Ave., Okeechobee. Three-day advance passes start at $269.50. Visit okeechobeefest.com.