Lizzy Plapinger dishes on her new project LPX and Neon Gold’s 10th anniversary

MS MR have long held a love-love relationship with Australia but when we catch up with one half of the band, Lizzy Plapinger, we’re in a different environment altogether. She’s at Coachella and as the world is getting to know her new music project, LPX, the vocalist and songwriter tells us about her new sounds and what’s in store for the 10th anniversary of Neon Gold.

First of all, reading up a couple of things about you,  I didn’t realise Neon Gold started the same year I started the AU review, which was 2008. So we’ll both [be] having our 10 year anniversary.

Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s almost our 10 year.

Have you been thinking much about what you’re gonna do for the 10 years?

We have been thinking, I’d say we’ve been thinking about it for the past two or three years, really dreaming about it. I think we’re hoping to do probably a special show. We might do like a re-release of some initial test pressings and stuff like that. Things we released early on. We will celebrate it properly.

Also, I’d like to do like a mini doc with all of our friends and get like, every artist we’ve ever posted about on the blog or put on for a show or released. Just sort of give Neon Gold a nice 10 year cap. It’s pretty amazing that it’s been 10 years.

It’s pretty incredible. And you’ve flourished in that time as well.

Wow. I appreciate that.

…In a time which is not easy to flourish in. Especially for the boutique record label. How have you found … I mean obviously you’ve worked with such incredible artists that it kind of sells itself to a point, but how have you found it to develop in the last decade?

I think Derek and I have been really, really, really luck. One of the main sort of ethos of the label when we started was … we just like music that was too accessible for the Indie-Alt corners of the world and too quirky for Top 40. That was sort of our sweet spot. So acts like Passion Pit and Ellie [Goulding] and Marina [and the Diamonds] or Haim or Tove Lo, they sort of fell in this crack space where there wasn’t a landscape for them. It’s been so awesome the most recent years to see those artists come to redefine sort of what Top 40 and pop looks like.

Yeah. In the same way that, I mean, not to kind of be kind of, to blow too much smoke up, but it’s like, it reminds me of kind of the 90’s with Sub Pop. 

Wow. What a compliment. I’ll take it.

But it does. I mean, the sort of artists that you’ve had and taking those kind of artists from obscurity through to now and so many of them are playing here. Or have played here.

It’s really wild. To be able to come here and see Tove Lo play and I’ve seen Marina grace the main stage and seen Christine and the Queens make her Coachella debut last year. It always means so so much. I think one of the reasons Neon Gold does so well is we have such a beautiful relationship with the people we work with. Once you’re part of the Neon Gold family, like truly, it’s family. It’s really not just like a business relationship. You’re all in. I think that it just comes down to like Derek and me.

It must be a lot of work to do that though. Balancing that with bands and other side projects, I don’t know how you do it but my hat’s off to you.

I appreciate that. It’s not so bad. You got too much down time in the car. And if you’re fucking obsessed with music you’re just gonna find every minute in the day to sort of like pour yourself into it. So it just seems real manageable.

Earlier this year you dropped two big surprises. The first one being that the band was having a little break. Which wasn’t a big surprise.

Not a big surprise.

Now when I first heard that you’re putting stuff out on your LPX I was like, okay, it’s gonna be like an electro-EDM thing. I listened to it and it reminded me of when I first listened to Sleigh Bells and just …

Ah, sick.

It’s just that like intense punk vibe behind it. And I was like, “Woah, this is exactly what I wanted it to be but never expected it to be.

That’s awesome. That’s really really awesome to hear.

Tell me a little bit about how the project came to be and how this music came to sound the way it did, or at least from what we’ve heard with “Tightrope”.

I’d never made music before MS MR. Secondhand Rapture had literally the first songs I’ve ever written in my whole life and so Max is the only person I ever made music with. And that’s amazing and we have like a really powerful like chemistry and I think we’ve grown a lot from each other. I wouldn’t trade anything for the world.

I really grew up on punk and rock and indie and alt; my greatest heroes are like Karen O and Siouxsie Sioux and PJ Harvey and Kathleen Hanna and I really, really, really wanted to do something that was just really, really true to self, with no compromise. That really lived in a more band-orientated, guitar-driven state. It’s been so amazing and liberating to work with so many different writers and people and to sort of cut my teeth as an artist, I think. Max really understood that I didn’t really know where to go with a third MS MR album, that I needed to get outside of my comfort zone and grow as an artist before coming back to that.

It’s been really cool to do LPX and have just like a singular vision and sound and voice and just be doing something totally on my own and self-funding, self-releasing and … I’m so so proud of it. I think the best compliment I keep getting is people keep telling me like, “You know, this really sounds like you.” People who know me really well, they’re just like, “This is your personality in songs, you really translated it.” That’s like the most refreshing thing, to be like, just the most earnest extension of your own.

How does that develop from here then? I imagine there’ll be an EP coming out for it. All the going back to the basics story, going back to the beginning of that.

It’s like starting over again a little bit. But I’m just so proud of the music, I am so insanely excited to play it live.

Have you done any live shows with it yet?

I haven’t done any live shows yet. I’m gonna start putting the band together in May actually, but I feel like I’ve really I’ve gotten my sea legs under me with MS MR. I feel like I’m kind of a wild creature on stage and LPX I just want to be like the most heightened version of that. I keep telling people like, Matt Shultz from Cage The Elephant is my favourite live performer and I basically just want to be the female version of him. I just want to be bleeding and sweating and ripping my body open on stage. It’s gonna be fucking wild.

That’s punk right there.

It’s gonna be really fucking punk and the music is so aggressive and so vulnerable and I’m really trying to commandeer a space in pop that’s so heavily rooted in punk and alt. In a way that I miss the Gwen Stefanis and Mansons and I really … I want to be that woman. So, I’m stoked on it.

The mid-nineties Gwen Stefani, pre-Harajuku.

Lizzy Plapinger:                    Yeah exactly. Pre-Harajuku.

We’re talking about you know, mid-nineties. I was just saying to Jamie yesterday. I was like, “God, I wish No Doubt were here.”

Oh, same. How fucking awesome would that be? They’re actually such a perfect headliner ’cause they have so many songs you can sing along to. They bring out so many guests. Sort of surprised they haven’t done it.

I don’t think they’ve done Coachella. Maybe ’99, or one of the early ones.

I think they did it in the early years. I don’t know if they still have them up but I know often they put up all the posters of who’s played every year. It’s so amazing to see everyone sort of rise up in the ranks. Really cool.

So how many Coachella’s have you done?

So MS MR, we played the main stage two years ago. I’ve been coming for eight years. Just tradition with all my friends. And then I play it. I sang a song with MS MR last Sunday and I’m singing again tonight.

Can you tell me a little bit about, you know, good Australian connections here?

I know. My love for Australia is very deep and real. I think it’s been like an especially kind place to MS MR and so I’m a little pre-disposed to loving it heavily. I mean Chris and I met actually doing Groovin’, that’s where we met. And we really hit it off, really liked each other, but respectfully we work in like very different genres, very different spaces. Then, we reconnected on this trip to Nicaragua that Derek and I put on, where we bring together sort of a group of our favourite like artists and writers and producers and we basically just party and write music for a week. It’s sort of, honestly, a dream come true. I mean, it’s pretty insane. Chris and I were having, you know, a late night drink, having a real heart to heart about sort of what he wants to do in his space and how he really wants to tuck into rock and all of his like, Cornerstones and Touchpoints for what he’s doing, kind of electronic music. And it really connected with me because that’s really what I’m trying to do on a pop level.

He doesn’t drink now, but I was really shit-faced. And he was playing some tunes and I was just wailing and like ripping up my voice and he was like, “Holy shit, you’re the vocal I’ve been like, really looking for to like put on some of this new stuff.” Then we ended up having this session the next day.

And you’re like, “You’re not even drunk, you must mean it.”

So we started this song, just to give you a bit of a timeline, like three weeks ago. Wrote half of it, but we couldn’t finish it ’cause my voice was so wrecked, we couldn’t like, finish writing.

Because of the Nicaragua trip?

Because of the Nicaragua trip. So then, I’m talking three weeks ago we were in Nicaragua. So then last week, he emails me and he was like, “Dude that song is so killer, like do you want to sing it with me at Coachella?”

I was like are you serious? It’s like we’re not even done writing it. He’s like, “No, I’m totally serious. You should do it.” So we finished writing it the Friday before last weekend, got all the vocals, sorted it out, and performed it two nights later. And that is so fucking punk and DIY to me, the fact that he’s not precious about it. We just did it. He wanted to do it. He sorted it out and then we just ripped it on stage.

Hit the stage at Coachella, one of the biggest festivals in the world.

Hit the stage and birthed this song which has like, not even like, finished being recorded. We just wrote it on the fly. Like what an amazing and cool experience.

Would it be crazy if that song just totally blew up, just like immensely?

Yeah. I mean I would love that. I mean I’m so excited to play again tonight, it’s like really wild to play with him ’cause I love him so much. Cool to play that crowd and audience ’cause I never get to play to that scene.  It’s really, it’s really amazing. I’m like very, very grateful to Chris for having me out and believing in the song and wanting to do so much. It’s such a nice, earnest collab, it wasn’t just like a random, you know, like record label being like, “Well you guys should cross genres together.” It came from such a beautiful, like, real conversation.

So what happens next for you? What’s the next few months holding for you?

So the next few months, so I’m really, I’ve been writing and recording for about a year, so “Tightrope” and “Tremble” are out now.  I’m gonna put out a lyric video for “Tremble” and a real music video and maybe an acoustic version. Give some attention and love to that song for as much as I can. Probably put out a third song in the middle of the summer and then hoping to put out an EP this side of the year and a record next year. Hopefully, honestly, [I’ll be] getting back to Australia as soon as humanly possible. I feel like, really, really excited to get back Down Under. Really.

Yeah, you gotta go down in our summer, you know and escape the winter.

I know, I know, I know.

Do you live in LA?

I live in New York. I’ve been in LA writing because this is just where so many writers and producers are. I’ve still got a lot of deep New York love. I can’t really imagine being anywhere else. It’s my home. It’s very much my personality.

Photo by Eliza Soros.

The author travelled to Coachella from Australia via Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines. For bookings and more details head to http://hawaiianair.com/