Lizzy Plapinger first became a name to watch as the lead singer of MS MR, the indie pop duo that saw her team up with producer Max Hershenow for two studio albums, Secondhand Rapture and How Does it Feel. Now, however, Plapinger has stepped out on her own with a new sound, redefining herself as LPX and dialing up the aggression on her debut solo EP, Bolt in the Blue. With a heavy rock & roll influence, the project shows her versatility and allows Plapinger to chart a new path, finding success in the process.
LPX aimed to assert herself with much more authority on Bolt in the Blue, likely tying into her decision to back her vocals with shredding guitars and pounding drums. It doesn't take her long to channel that powerful mindset, as the intro track "Tightrope" bursts into eardrums with a chorus that's built for the mosh pit. The energy on the song sets the tone for the rest of the EP, letting MS MR fans know right away that Bolt in the Blue will be a departure from her previous sound.
Much of the project speaks on the trials and tribulations of love, yet with added assertiveness thanks to LPX's raging vocals over the screaming production. "The sweetest love in life cuts you like a knife / ripping your insides, leaves you paralyzed," she howls on the chorus of "Slide," a fist-pumping, powerhouse of a track that's filled with raw emotion. About three minutes in she strips down the music to a few somber piano chords, with her faltering voice adding sincerity to brief acoustic moment. LPX's vocal abilities are truly the standout feature here and on the rest of the project, as she vacillates between high-pitched wails and an earnest, subdued voice at will and with ease.
She speaks on love again on "Tremble," this time with honest lyrics that give insight into her fears surrounding a crumbling relationship. "I don't wanna tear your heart out / but I'm edging on a breakdown / I've been up and down the same route / too afraid of the fallout" she sings in the first verse, before lamenting at her lover's inability to see the situation the way that she does.
Despite all the turmoil, however, LPX retains complete control of the narrative throughout the EP. The title track, "Bolt in the Blue," is charged with political intensity, written in the days after Donald Trump's election and backed with electrifying guitar notes. "Hold on to your vicious lies / it feeds my heart / it fuels my fight / when my hands grow cold," she sings, pushing herself through adversity with riotous energy on a spirited anthem.
That same energy continues into "Fog and the Fear," which speaks on the apparent disconnect between family and friends on opposite sides of the political spectrum. LPX attempts to break down the walls causing the division, as she sings "pull at the sutures and pieces / that keep us from seeing through / all of the fog and the fear / falling between me and you" on the chorus above a low, menacing beat. LPX's vitality adds urgency here, demanding transparency rather than accepting the status quo.
Clocking in at a compact 22 minutes, Bolt in the Blue is an impressive introduction to what Plapinger can do on her own, showing how multifaceted the singer truly is. We had a chance to catch up with the singer following the release of her EP, and learn a little more about her background and how the project came together.
OTW: Your website is very involved and creative - where did the design come from?
LPX: Everything for LPX comes from me and my team. We're a small team and it's all hands on deck. I've been working with the same people for so many years that there's such a full and complete understanding of who I am and the vision. It's always about creating a universe for the audience to step into and my world is all about abstract pantone simplicity and edge.
OTW: Did you always have aspirations for a solo career when you were with MS MR, or what made you decide to work on your own?
LPX: I never had any preconceived notions of going solo when I was in MS MR. It wasn't until we were at the end of the second album campaign and we were starting to think about album three that I realized I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone and experiment before knowing how we could evolve as a band. Max had been working and producing with other artists while we were in MS MR, which I've always been super supportive and inspired by, and having not had that experience myself and seeing how much he grew from getting in the room with other people I was inspired to do that for myself.
OTW: Your music is very closely linked to female empowerment - what's the hardest part of making sure your voice is heard in the male dominated rock & roll field?
LPX: For me, all I can do is write, sing and live my truth at volume 1000.
OTW: How do you overcome the challenges of the industry?
LPX: Like anything else in life, it's really just not allowing people to knock you off your path. I firmly believe that if you give something 110% and you keep your nose to grindstone and stay the course anything is possible. It's about showing more than it's about telling, and more than anything, it's about trusting yourself.
OTW: Songs on Bolt in the Blue are much more aggressive than your work with MS MR, and have a hard rock vibe to them - why did you decide to go in that direction?
LPX: It's honestly a more accurate reflection of the music and influences I grew up listening to. Bands and artists like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, PJ Harvey, Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, Bloc Party, Interpol, The Strokes, etc. Not only that, but over the course of the past six years of touring with MS MR, I really discovered who I was as a performer on stage, and it's a much more wild eccentric thing that's better suited to this sound. In time I'd love to be the next Matt Shultz.
OTW: What was the biggest difference for you in recording solo work vs. working with Max Hershenow in MS MR? Did he help you at all with Bolt in the Blue?
LPX: The biggest difference is that there's a singular autonomous vision that all stems from me. I don't have to compromise on any aspect of LPX, musically or visually. That's been an incredibly empowering and artistically fulfilling aspect of working solo for the first time. I can truly pour everything I've learned from Neon Gold and MS MR into something wholly my own.
OTW: You've been friends with HAIM for a while - how was the experience going on tour with them?
LPX: Neon Gold (my label) released their first singles and EPs so we have a long history with one another both professionally and personally. Going on tour with them was an incredible experience; both because it was so fun to have more downtime with one another, but also because their audience is perfectly suited for the kind of music I'm making with LPX. I'm eternally grateful to them for taking me out on tour as an independent artist.
OTW: What did you learn from the tour? Do you have a vision for what the next one will look like?
LPX: I always feel like the happiest and best version of myself on stage and on tour, so experiencing that with LPX for the first time was wild - it felt like an even greater high. All I know is that I want to tour as much as humanly possible. It’s tough as a self funded/self released fully independent artist because it's so expensive, but I've always felt it's one of the most important aspects of building a career.
OTW: From your Twitter page it sounds like you're already back in the studio - do you think you'll release more music in 2018?
LPX: Absolutely. I'm constantly writing and recording and I'm hoping to be releasing music more frequently throughout the year. There's honestly SO much music, and I'm still growing and evolving as an artist, and that's being reflected in my sound too.
OTW: You're originally from London - what made you decide it was time to come to America and live in New York?
LPX: I'm born and raised in London and only moved to the states when I was 18 for college. I always expected to come to the US for university, but I'll admit I thought I'd return to London when I was done. Derek and I started Neon Gold Records out of our dorm rooms in college (he at NYU and me at Vassar) and even though we conducted a lot of business in the UK, New York really became our home in that process.
OTW: How has your time in each city impacted your musical output?
LPX: I think both London and New York have had an enormous impact on who I am as an individual but especially as a musician. I'm such a product of my surroundings and the bands and genres that influence me both are intrinsically tied to those two cities.
OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch (up & coming artists)?