DJs Doing Good (Part 1) – How Soul Clap, Life on Planets & The Lisbona Sisters Are Giving Back in 2020

Nov 3, 2020

10 min read

Eli Goldstein (Soulclap)Eli Goldstein (Soulclap)

Eli Goldstein (Soulclap)

Photo courtesy of Elements Festival and @offbrandproject

DJs are some of the busiest people on the planet. That didn’t change in March when the pandemic shuttered nightclubs and halted music festivals. While the overwhelming majority of tour dates remain on hold, some artists are using that extra time to drive change in their communities and beyond. 

From saving the environment to empowering voters, beat-making activists prove there’s no limit to what creative minds can achieve when the stakes are high. Festival Insider had the opportunity to catch up with a diverse handful of artists leaving their mark on dance music and the world.

Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Eli Goldstein (Soul Clap)

When gigs slowed down in 2020, Eli Goldstein finally had time to pursue his dream of earning a masters degree in Climate Science and Policy. While climate action has always been an important focus for the Soul Clap member, in 2020 he’s shifted his energy toward lifting the awareness of important social movements as well as encouraging new voters to make their voices heard in the upcoming election. 

How have you used the unique circumstances created by COVID-19 to focus on activism?

The biggest piece has been our Rave the Vote initiative. We came up with this idea to do a tour and hit different cities around the midwest to register people in-person, and in March we had to pivot to virtual. We had millions of viewers over the four-day weekend of Rave the Vote livestreams and registered thousands of new voters. We wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to reach as many people if we were still gigging.

Secondly, we’ve started a Soul Clap weekly podcast also on Twitch called Schmoozing With Soul Clap that launched in late May after the George Floyd murder, and it became a really incredible platform for having discussions about racial justice and social justice in our country, but also in dance music as well. By bringing in a number of different artists who have opinions about how we can do better, especially with this reset that COVID has provided us, I don’t think going back to normal is good enough. We want to be coming back better.

The last piece, which I’ve been working on for a while is with an organization called DJs for Climate Action. It started as an initiative for artists to carbon offset their travel, but it wasn’t enough to address only that. We planned to host “Earth Night” events in 50 cities in 2020 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Night was our way of engaging with dance music fans around climate activism, so we moved that online and hosted a livestream. We had 100 artists from all over the world play one song over 10 hours. I’m also going to graduate school to get my masters in Climate Science and Policy, which is another big thing that’s possible because of COVID. It’s been a blessing.

Why is this cause important to you?

Voting is a really important piece of it, because the government we have in power plays such a big role in the other two. The system is not perfect, and there are shortcomings with a two-party system, but it’s very clear that there is one side that believes in climate change, that believes in diversity and civil rights, and it’s been like that for a long time. It’s important to be thinking about what you care about and how you can participate in our system. Also it’s a responsibility. A lot of people have lost this right from being incarcerated. It’s a right and privilege to have our voices heard.

How can others get involved?

I continue to see this narrative from fans who say to keep politics out of dance music - but the reality is, music is political. It’s always been political and it was born out of radical political movements. Disco was born out of the Stonewall Riots. That was a seminal moment in history.  Marginalized people created the music you love.

I encourage artists to continue or start to speak out. Music has been a cultural force of change and culture changes people’s minds much more quickly than politics. We have so much power, and artists shouldn’t be afraid to speak out beyond their music.

Find Soul Clap on SoundCloud.

Life on Planets

Life on PlanetsLife on Planets

Photo by Stephanie Banks

Phill Celeste’s music speaks for itself. Shortly after Trump was elected in 2016, he began writing soulful grooves that spoke to the hot topic of political corruption while laying out his vision for a brighter, united future. Nearly four years later, as Life on Planets he’s selling those tracks and some new creations to raise money for causes that, as a POC artist, he holds near and dear to his heart.

How have you used the unique circumstances created by COVID-19 to focus on activism?

It was June when the Only You EP was coming out. That’s when I started saying, “How can I help?” This was my first full-fledged, self-produced and directed project, and we put a budget into it and shot a music video. When it was about to come out, there was so much going on with social media and the emotions were flooding in. I thought, “is it the right time to put this out?”

Eli [Goldstein] was so gracious. We talked it out, and we thought if we put it out in this moment it needs to help the cause. We decided to donate to Black Lives Matter. Overall, we’ve been able to generate over $1,000 towards BLM. It’s a drop in the bucket, but this is also underground house music. Hopefully people will pay attention and wake up a little. The ironic thing about that EP too, is that some of the tracks I had written directly following Trump’s election, and I was just trying to get those thoughts and emotions out and trying to write to myself some hope for the future, and here we are. 

I had a single come out on Friday called “Midas Touchin.” It’s another song I had written after Trump got elected, and it’s a fantasy about what if we could just kick that man out of office and make him a citizen like everyone else, and the party that would ensue before we could make the world a better place. I decided to donate my half of the sales to Poor People’s Campaign. They’re really pushing to get lower income Americans to the polls this year to show the nation that poor folks are the 99 percent of us, and we should have a say in what goes on here. They are working to demilitarize police and support unemployed workers, and workers with health issues. They are getting these people to the polls and making sure they are taken care of. 

I also had an EP come out with Kitsune Music, so that discussion prompted me to hit up the label manager and ask if they’d be up for donating some of their label share. We’re working on the statement, going through all the channels. I believe they are planning on giving away the label share for the rest of 2020, and we’ll donate that to Campaign Zero.

Why is this cause important to you?

Maybe it’s ironic to say, but I just wanted to find the most digestible resources or organizations for people to dig in. Police brutality is the most important focus because people are losing their lives out there. If we can mitigate that, then we can start to work on other issues. 

How can others get involved?

It’s important to have conversations with our elders and those we disagree with, and not have a big fight but instead try to understand where they are coming from. Try to have them understand where we’re coming from. We’re not going to get anywhere until we’re united. Don’t hold property over human lives. We can always rebuild, but we have to come together for that too.

The rest goes hand-in-hand: Do your research and follow organizations like Black Lives Matter, Campaign Zero and Poor People’s Campaign. Check out their live streams and participate in their calls to action. Flood senators’ inboxes and tell them not to take a vacation while we’re penniless, because that’s not cool. Speak up, put on a mask and march. 

And if you have income and are living comfortably, you should buy the record, ‘Midas Touchin’.

Find Life on Planets on SoundCloud.

Ava and Laura Lisbona

Ava and Laura LisbonaAva and Laura Lisbona

Photo by Daniel Shoykhet

The Lisbona Sisters have been stripping down to make people wise up. Before the pandemic hit, their “Less Clothes, More Impact” platform built a mighty following on social media, which led to increased participation at their global bikini beach cleanup events (think equal parts activism and party). In 2020, the Jersey-bred girls have unleashed a new message that is as crucial as it is sexy.

How have you used the unique circumstances created by COVID-19 to focus on activism?

Laura: We noticed (and we know this may be shocking) that we would get way more likes, comments, engagement on photos/videos where we were wearing less clothes. I used to get mad and think how crappy it was that I had to show skin to get likes. But then I redirected my thinking in a more positive direction to accept and embrace the (what I believe to be) reality that we are hard-wired as sexual beings and, further, asked myself, “How can we use this to our advantage in our mission to help save the goddamn planet?”

When COVID hit, we saw an opportunity to pivot our focus using the same model of operation when a friend of ours suggested the Masks On / Shirts Off idea. Topless chicks with masks on? Seems like a no-brainer to me. The whole idea is to make wearing masks (and kindness in general) sexy, because it's a sign of respect to your fellow humans and that's hot. Most of the models on the page so far have been people I know from the music and rave scene, and it's been rad to work with these ladies in a different context.

Ava: I feel like it’s almost been impossible during this time not to be an activist of some sort. Between COVID and the divide on every issue associated with it; the BLM movement, world news, the dumpster fire we are currently living in here in America and being cooped up inside has really allowed everyone to be a part of some activism, hasn’t it? 

Anyway, Masks On / Shirts off spurred from another awareness initiative that we had created. We thought it was a fun way to share information about masks and encourage people to wear them. Either way, sex sells. If anything, it will get people to look at the page and think maybe masks are hot. That’s hot.

Why is this cause important to you?

Ava: It’s important because I want to go rave again.

Laura: The more research I've done on the masks thing, the more I have found that wearing a mask is one of the most powerful habits we can incorporate into our “new normal” routines to fight the spread of COVID-19. As our mom queried, “If masks aren't effective in stopping the spread of bacteria, then why have doctors and nurses worn them in the operating room for nearly the last century?” At the end of the day, if we can inspire others and ourselves to be better people while having a lot of fun in the process, that's a huge win.

How can others get involved? 

Laura: First of all, follow @masks_on_shirts_off on Instagram (and feel free to submit your own Masks On / Shirts Off photo/video to the page – we want girls, guys, trans, all kinds of people, all kinds of body types). This project is an exciting adventure, and I myself am excited to see how it progresses and develops, both from an artistic as well as a philanthropic angle. At the very least for now, I think you'll enjoy the topless chicks, so check it out.” 

Ava: 1) Wear a mask, 2) Don't be a dick, 3) Spread information with love, 4) Listen to others, and 5) Love one another

Find the Lisbona Sisters on SoundCloud.