Meet Lizzy Plapinger. Lead signer of MS MR and now taking on the world as LPX
In only a couple of years, MS MR went from being a bedroom project with big dreams to dominating festival stages on a global scale. Needless to say, it was a lot to take in within such a short period of time. It was last year that the duo – vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow – made the decision to put the project on the backburner while each explored other musical opportunities. For Plapinger, this arrived in the form of LPX: her debut solo project, aiming for something harder, edgier and more anthemic.
Next week, Plapinger will debut the project for a series of live shows in Australia as a part of Falls Festival. Prior to that, we spoke with the singer about fresh starts, co-writing and the influences behind her debut EP as LPX.
Was there a singular moment or point where you realised MS MR was coming to an end – at least, for the time being?
Y’know, it’s funny… it wasn’t something I wasn’t actively thinking about. I love MS MR – Max and I are still really close, and the door is still open there. When we were touring the last album [2015’s How Does It Feel], I was entirely present and there for it. It wasn’t until after we’d finished touring that we started to talk about what we wanted to do next – what we would do for a third album, if there was going to be a third album. We talked through the possibilities of what that could be and how we would move forward with it.
I realised there was a lot of artistic evolving that I wanted to do. There were a lot of things I wanted to do that I hadn’t already done yet. I mean, all I’d ever known had been MS MR – I’d never been in a band before it. The songs on [debut album, 2013’s] Secondhand Rapture were the first songs I’d ever written in my life. Max was the only musician I’d ever worked with. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone – I knew I wanted to push myself, just to see what it felt like. I think every great artist puts themselves in uncomfortable situations. I see it all the time – with Max, with my friends. You learn so much from it. Max and I talked it all out, and he really respected and understood where I was coming from.
How did LPX take shape sonically?
I found myself looking back and thinking of the artists I was born and raised on. I was thinking about singers like Karen O, Shirley Manson, PJ Harvey and Siouxsie Sioux. They were the singers that helped me to find my own voice when I was singing along to them growing up. I wanted to be able to create a world that was mine musically, just like they did. MS MR was an electro-pop band, but I grew up on punk and guitar-driven music. It was really exciting to live out that side of myself. It took me awhile to tap into that sound, but I found it when I was collaborating with a guy called James Flannigan.
What happened there, exactly?
So, we were in Nicaragua together – out in the jungle. We’d had a lot to drink. [laughs] We’d been partying all day! James picked up his guitar and started playing this riff, and I went over to the mic and just started screaming along. It felt like an out-of-body experience. It was a totally different way to how I’d sung prior, and I was just like ‘Holy shit.’ That song ended up becoming “Tightrope,” and once we’d worked on that we more or less had the blueprints for everything else. It was like I’d tapped into another side of my body and my mind and my voice. Everything just fell into the place – it was crystal clear. LPX felt like something that was completely mine.
“Tightrope” ended up being a part of the debut EP as LPX, entitled Bolt in the Blue. For those who haven’t heard the EP, how would you describe it?
It’s something that was made without compromise. It’s a very singular thing, very separate from MS MR. It’s this aggressive, emotional, vulnerable, prickly EP. It’s really, really personal. It’s a true side of myself that I’ve never really gotten to share with an audience. I’m really proud of it.
You mentioned working with James, but he’s not the only person who was a part of Bolt in the Blue. You worked with a mix of other songwriters in collaborations over the songs that would end up being on the EP. After six years of working only with Max on music, what was it like to open up that process to outsiders? Was there any reticence or uncertainty?
It was really interesting. It’s not unlike dating. [laughs] Sometimes there’s just this undeniable chemistry! You don’t know why it works, but you just go with it. The people I worked with were all recommendations where we had some sort of mutual connection – a lot of friends of friends, that sort of thing. What I found was the more removed I was from the person and the less I knew about them, the more I brought my A-game on the first session. I think there’s something incredible about coming into the room together as essentially strangers. It forces my hand to be even more articulate and direct about things: Who I am, my point I am, what I want the song to be. It’s a really awesome exercise in commanding space. It’s an opportunity to create my own perspective and the narrative. There was something special about capturing that nervous energy. I feel like I became a stronger writer because of it. Everyone has their own process, too. I learned a lot from doing it.
When and where did the first show as LPX take place?
It was opening for Glass Animals, who are a great band that I fucking love. It felt a little strange being on stage without Max, Zac and Grant, but the stage is where I thrive. It’s where I’m the happiest. It’s the truest version of myself. The moment I was up there, it felt like I was slipping back into my favourite pair of shoes. The songs took on a new life – I felt a new energy immediately. It was such a packed room, too. We were so lucky that was our first gig. It only made me more excited about touring and playing shows. It’s been really cool and really fun – it’s a totally different energy to MS MR shows. It already feels like we’ve been doing this for years and years.
Do you view LPX with a degree of longevity now you’re into the swing of things?
I’ve got a second EP I’ve got coming out in 2019. It’s got a real New Order, U2 circa Joshua Tree vibe to it. It sounds a bit like Blondie, and a bit like a John Hughes soundtrack. I really like to always be writing while I’m releasing stuff. I’ve got the bones of a third EP, and eventually, I want to do an LPX album. I feel like it’s developing so quickly. The sound of LPX is shifting and evolving. I really want to keep releasing stuff to give audiences to grow with LPX as I’m growing. I’m always thinking ahead. I want to tour as much as possible, but I’m doing this completely independently. I have no label, no management, I’m self-funding my own self-releases. It’s a different game. It’s a lot of DIY heart and spirit. It’s been hard, but it’s a really wonderful, eye-opening experience.
It definitely seems like you’ve been kicking goals with it already after such a short time with it.
Totally! I’m really proud of myself. The fact I’m a fully-independent artist and I get to travel all the way to Australia is amazing. I’m one of the only independent artists on the Falls bill – and possibly the only non-Australian one. I view that was a big win. It’s such an interesting time to be making music. There are so many different lanes and channels to be successful through. To be able to have opportunities in my position is really exciting.