We speak with Lizzy Plapinger about Bolt In The Blue, the first EP of her solo project LPX, whilst also reflecting on the highlights of being in the band MS MR over the past few years, her experience starting Neon Gold Records and the exciting new wave of alternative pop coming out of Europe…
Let’s talk about ‘Bolt in the Blue’, how does it feel to finally have it out there? How long have you been working on it?
I’m stoked that it’s finally out there, I’ve spent the past year putting it together, Tightrope came out about a year ago and then I spent the next couple of months writing and recording and then the second half of the year mixing and mastering. It just feels so good to have taken that first step, to have a real body of work out in the world, it contextualises the LPX project and now I’m ready to keep going, I haven’t stopped writing throughout this whole process. For me, it’s the first step of many more things to come.
When I first listened to it I was surprised at how it’s much more rock-oriented than your previous releases as part of MS MR and your vocal style is a bit raspier I’d say – what inspired this new sound?
Yeah – it’s a real different beast! For sure, I’m literally shredding my vocal chords. When I first recorded Tightrope, I couldn’t speak for a few weeks after I’d recorded it, I was completely annihilated. This whole project has been about finding my voice without a partner and making music that’s a little bit closer to the bands that I grew up listening to. I’m still so proud of MS MR and I’m glad that we lived in this electro-pop space, but they were the first pieces of music that Max and I had ever made. So much about that music was about creating within our limitations at that point in time, it was difficult enough getting comfortable with even using my voice, singing in front of people or writing a song. So doing LPX has been a whole new level of self-discovery, tapping into a new side of my voice, beyond vocal production. It’s been really liberating and it’s pushed the energy of the songs and the way that I’m writing. It’s definitely music that’s more closely aligned with the energy and the performance that I put on when I’m onstage, which is super important to me. I’m lightning in a bottle onstage, it’s a technicolour mess that you’re attracted to.
Can you pick a favourite track from the project? Is there one that your most proud of,
perhaps because of its message?
My personal favourite song on the EP is Tremble, it’s probably my favourite song I’ve written in my life to date. I think that lyrically, it’s one of the most direct and personal and honest songs I’ve ever written. I usually tend to lean towards abstractions, big metaphors and sweeping statements and that song really feels like I’m sat down with the listener having a direct conversation, and that’s really hard for me to do. The melodies are some of the best that I’ve ever written and I love that it’s such a broken, raw and vulnerable song but it still feels uplifting, strong and powerful. For me, that’s my perfect kind of song.
Tightrope seems to be about taking risks – are you a person who tends to take a lot of
I definitely take a lot of risks. I don’t know why I constantly do this to myself, I feel like no matter what level I get to in life, or whatever I achieve, I’m always trying to restart over. Tightrope was the first song that established the identity of LPX and the sound, because this project is really about making art that feels personal, earnest and sincere to me. Of course I want to tour the world and hope that LPX is blasted on the radio, but whether it bursts or doesn’t, I’m so proud of it and I love it so much.
I love the cover art for your LPX releases, do you design it yourself or in collaboration with someone else?
I’m obsessed with colour. If you walk into my apartment, it’s like a kaleidoscope, it’s really warm and bright. That’s just how I dress and how I live my life. I have a super clear vision and I’ll draw all the mock-ups for the visuals by hand and write all the treatments for the videos. And then I work with Mafalda Millies on everything, she’s so incredible, she totally understands everything and sees the world the same way that I do. I can’t execute the vision like she can… She’s such amazing partner because she understands what I want but always pushes me a bit further. She’s directed all the music videos for the project as well, it’s cool that everything you see to do with LPX is really coming from the two of us, that’s pretty unusual.
Fashion seems to play quite an important role alongside the music in this project – how useful is it for you as an extension of the music? What do you intend for it to do?
I love fashion, it’s one of the things that I adore the most. Whenever I’m on tour and I’m in a new city, I love to go vintage shopping. My dream is to one day have my own brand and line of clothing. It’s always about staying hyper-colourful, bold and strong. I don’t really like things that are too soft or frilly, I like angles and bright colours. When you’re on tour at this level, you can’t really afford to tour with a huge lighting rig or backdrop, so what I wear is a single way for me to communicate my identity and the identity of the project to the audience. I’m so crazy now that I’ve started buying matching outfits for the band, which are all part of the LPX colour spectrum, so it all feels really unified. It’s a way for me to define, separate and assert my identity as a human being, as an artist and as LPX. It’s something that genuinely gives me so much pleasure.
Reflecting on the past few years when you focussed on MS MR, what memories do you have of that period? What were some of the highlights?
The highlights have always been the shows. There’s nothing I love more than being onstage, that’s when I’m happiest and where Max and I have felt the most connected. I feel so lucky to have played all over the world, so when I think about Splendour in the Grass in Australia, kicking off Bonnaroo a few years ago and some of our earlier shows at Governor’s Ball. I love playing festivals, I’d often lock eyes onstage with Max and Zach, pinching myself and thinking ‘I can’t believe we’re here, doing this’. Being able to travel the world with your best friends, doing the thing you love most, is pretty wild. And I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do that for the past 6 years. It’s weirder now, being without Max and Zach, but it’s really cool that we’re all doing our own thing and growing on a personal level. When we finally come back together and unite, we’ll be bringing a new energy to MS MR. I think we needed that, otherwise I don’t know what the 3rd record would’ve looked like. But now I feel really confident that whatever comes next for us as a band is going to be really exciting based on the experiences that we’ve all had individually. There’s no bad blood between any of us, it’s not even a breakup, it’s just giving each other some space whilst still being involved in each other’s lives.
You founded Neon Gold Records and you’ve worked with some incredible artists such as Marina and the Diamonds, Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens. You created the label when you were still in college, what made you want to start it in the first place?
Those ladies are living icons! I’ve always known that I wanted to work in music in some capacity. One of my favourite things to do is to discover new music and share it with as many people as possible, the only part of myself that I’ve ever been somewhat arrogant about is my music taste, I’ve always thought that I’ve had good taste. When we started the label in the early 2000’s, music fell into two distinct categories, either really alternative or really pop. There was this huge gaping hole for quirky, unique, interesting pop music. Music that was too accessible for the Pitchfork’s of the world, but too quirky for radio. And that’s really the lane that artists like Marina [and the Diamonds], Passion Pit, The Naked and Famous and Gotyé lived in. They were the acts that deserved to be on radio and redefining the pop landscape. It’s been so awesome to see that pop isn’t a dirty word anymore, you see artists like Christine [and the Queens], Tove Styrke and Sigrid just being these awesome new pioneers of pop music and it’s really f**king good and it’s really f**king cool. Pop has re-established itself and I’d like to think that Neon Gold had a small part to play in setting the scene for that sort of transition.
What advice would you give to anyone who’s thinking of starting their own label?
Trust your instincts. I interned everywhere and anywhere that would take me and I hoped that I would get hired. We started a label but we didn’t really know what we were doing, we figured it out as we went along. That was really scary but it was awesome to know that we had as much authority and confidence as any of the major labels that were running at that point. It sounds cheesy but it comes down to following your gut instinct and doing what you want to do. You’ve got to go to loads of shows and talk to people, it’s about making connections and networking. I really think that if music is your everything and you spend all your time working towards it, then it’s going to work out. I don’t know if that’s naïve, maybe I’ve been supremely luck. But if there’s something you want, then you have to be super dedicated to it.
It seems like you’ve created a great vibe at the Maderas Village in Nicaragua where you often run songwriting camps – how did that come about?
There have always been these writing camps for really big artists and I’d never experienced one before, but something I’ve always loved about Neon Gold is that we’re all genuine friends. We’re a really close community, including the artists we work with. We liked the idea of putting our favourite artists, writers and producers in this magical place to create and just be. It feels like adult summer camp, there’s no pressure or expectation, it’s purely a place to create with people that you click with. It’s been great to mix more established artists with new, up-and-coming artists. There are writers who’ve written Top 40 hits, working with people who are writing songs for the first time outside of their bedroom. I love that it’s a big escape and melting pot for new music.
Finally, what are some goals that you hope to achieve this year?
My goal is to tour as much as possible, and I’m trying to figure that out as an independent artist. I want to keep releasing music a little more regularly than I did last year and to keep making videos and visuals. I want to continue to build LPX, I’d like to do some TV show performances and big fashion shoots. But really I want to keep putting music out as much as possible and I’ve got so much that’s waiting to be released. I’ll keep churning out tunes!
LPX’s debut EP Bolt In The Blue is out now.
Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez