LPX’s Declaration of Independence
Lizzy Plapinger, of MS MR and Neon Gold fame, talks going solo
You might not realize it, but Lizzy Plapinger has been a part of your life for over a decade. As one half of the duo behind indie record label Neon Gold, Plapinger champions young artists and lifted new bands to international fame—all while shaping the sound of independent music towards the acceptance of poppy fun and synths. On top of her behind-the-scenes label work, Plapinger infiltrates your airwaves as one half of another musical pair (she’s the MS in dream pop duo MS MR with Max Hershenow). Now, Plapinger is in the midst a new challenge: solo artistry.
“To stand in a room and sort of redirect people’s attention to yourself, it’s sort of an uncomfortable conversation,” Plapinger says over the phone. Recording and performing under the moniker LPX has given Plapinger total control over her sound and her image, but it’s also come with having to rewire her excellent team player brain. “It’s really easy for me to champion other people. I’m a professional cheerleader for other artists that I work with [and even with ones] I don’t work with. It’s my favorite thing to champion other voices.” And Plapinger is a damn good cheerleader. HAIM, Ellie Goulding, Icona Pop, Passion Pit, and more got their start with Neon Gold, while heavy hitters including Charli XCX, Christine and the Queens, and Marina and the Diamonds are currently on the label’s roster.
However, it’s been a particularly uphill battle for Plapinger to shout her own projects from the mountaintops. “For LPX, it’s a little bit more uncomfortable,” she says with a sigh and a laugh. “But I think so much about this project has just been [me] standing on my own two feet and being so enormously proud of the fact that I am doing it on my own and steering the boat. I think I couldn’t have done this, you know, any earlier in my life.” On her latest LPX EP, Junk of the Heart (out now), the 30-year-old forgoes the dense production usually associated with pop music for raw vocals and lyrical honesty. Simply put, for LPX it’s much easier to tell the truth: “I think now it’s just about being the best, most honest and most authentic version of myself. And being less precious about everything, which has been such a gift of like coming out of like that uncomfortable zone to sort of like show [my] scars and guts a little bit more.”
When Plapinger speaks about her path to being an independent artist with her own life as her message, she swells with pride, “To be able to hold my own hand over the fire and just have complete agency without any compromise to the project is so liberating.” She doesn’t settle on the way she connects with her fans either. “Sometimes I’ll look at my phone and, you know, it will give you the breakdown of how much time you spend on social media…it’s horrifying!” Plapinger says, both exasperated and elated. “And I look at it, like, try to justify to myself…but it is such a weirdly pivotal piece to what I’m doing for Neon Gold and LPX—especially because that’s the only form communication and direct promotion I really have. It’s weird to try and balance feeling like inundated and immersed in this, I don’t know, this false reality verse being out in the world and actually like making things happen, having a real connection.”
Unlike her Neon Gold family, Plapinger doesn’t have the built-in cheerleaders and support system that she gives her artists. “Social media is an awesome tool for promotion and inspiration, and connecting with fans, and I feel more positive about than a lot of other people do,” she says, weighing the pros and cons about being a solo artist. “But, for me as, as a project like the thing that I care most about is playing live… Like numbers on a screen is all fine, but I don’t think it means anything if you don’t have physical bodies, human interaction and actual human connection in the room. Those are the things that I prize. If I could be on tour every day of my life, I would.”
And she isn’t just talking about gigging clubs around the country as LPX, she wants to be a full-on festival headliner. Everything she’s written—from the two recently released EPs and the already planned third EP and subsequent LP—has throngs of screaming fans and warm night air in mind. The reality of being able to convert believers has been more of a learning curve for Plapinger as a solo artist. “You know, when I started [LPX], I was so aggressively proud and excited to be fully independent. I was like ‘This is so fucking awesome! I really want to be a pioneer in this industry and as a woman and a voice in alternative rock and in pop, and really prove that as a CEO, an entrepreneur, I can take all my knowledge and really get this going on my own!’ I think around the first release of the first EP, [Bolt in the Blue,] honestly, it was just so much harder than I thought it was going to be.”
But after building a successful band and an influential label, Plapinger knew she was tougher than the discomfort she was experiencing. “It was super overwhelming and in that moment I was like, ‘Shit, maybe I’ve bitten off like more than I can chew.’ And it was so awesome in that moment to sort of come out the other side and be like, oh no, I’m totally capable of handling this… I don’t want to sign to a deal. I feel like I have so much flexibility in how I’m growing as an artist—whatever my release schedule is and whatever the hurdles are, again, really are just like financial support and touring. I just trust I’m going to figure it out. I don’t have the answer right now, but I’m creative.”
Moments after hearing the artist come out in full force for her dreams and her desires as LPX, she slides right back into being the best cheerleader around. “It feels fucking magical when I see one of my artists perform at a festival or play like a sold-out headlined show,” she says gushing with pride about Neon Gold artists. “I prize personal relationships so much. Neon Gold has been about creating this earnest community, like every artist we’ve worked with has met my family and I’ve like met theirs. [Relationships are] such a huge part of who I am professionally and personally. I’ve just been lucky to find really like earnest, respectable, hardworking people—” Plapinger cuts herself off, briefly recalibrating back towards the topic of her solo career. But she’s ready to blend her love for the music industry that she so kindly described as a “masochistic relationship,” her overwhelming pride for her friends and her excitement about her own future. “Making other people feel good about themselves and what they’re doing ends up being like a reflection of what you’re doing. And the goodwill that’s been surrounding this project has been awe inducing and deeply moving.”
Her commitment to community extends to every facet of her life, including her television addiction. “I want Daenerys [to win]! I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I feel like that’s what we all want,” she says, laughing, but simultaneously very serious about her Game of Thrones predictions. After that visceral outburst, Plapinger takes all of her skills—as an independent woman standing up for herself, a label leader and a musical partner—into account and recalibrates her prophecy. “I feel like the message should be that the greater battle is not between themselves, but against this greater force that’s bigger than all of them. So I want them all to band together to fight this greater force and finally get natural balance that they need to coexist…with Daenerys coexisting at the top!”
A solo woman surviving it all, keeping the peace and thriving in the face of adversity? Sounds familiar.