Text Caroline D’Arcy Gorman
Photo Sarah Charlie Benjamin
Style Amanda Hipperson
Hair and Make-up Enrique Reyes
Lizzy Plapinger is a force to be reckoned with. Both producer and performer, Lizzy started a record label in her dorm room at Vassar and headlines the popular band MS MR. She emanates good vibes, and both her charm and distinctive bright red hair make Lizzy impossible to miss in a crowd. Her label, Neon Gold, put out Ellie Goulding’s first single and works with bands like Tove Lo, Charli XCX, and Christine and the Queens. As for balancing a college degree with a record label? “It was so bonkers. Iwas literally living among all of the vinyl and packaging. Every morning before class I had to send out huge boxes of orders. I got to know the mailroom very well.”
Lizzy’s experience with Neon Gold provided her with the tools she needed to explore the music
industry as an artist herself. MS MR, formed with college friend Max Hershenow, became a hit and helped redefine the indie-pop genre. This year, Lizzy launched a solo project, LPX, which she aptly describes as more “pantone punk.” As it turns out, Lizzy is as good at making gold as she is at finding it.
DRØME: So I want to talk about your hair and your style, because I’m obsessed with it.
Lizzy Plapinger: (Laughs) Thank you!
It’s totally iconic! You said you’ve been dying your hair for ten years?
Maybe even longer. I started dying my hair in high school.
How did your parents react?
My parents were super cool about it. I wasn’t a total goodie two-shoes in high school, but I never
really rebelled. I didn’t have any tattoos; I didn’t even have my ears pierced. I think they condoned me dying my hair because it wasn’t permanent.
When did you do the full red?
This is the longest I have held a color. I used to switch before every single MS MR tour. If you just google “MS MR Lizzy” you’ll see a thousand different colors.
I saw! There is a photo of you with green hair. Also rainbow?
It’s completely insane. I love it, I really love color. I am never happier or more comfortable than when I am surrounded by color. It is so satisfying to me on a visceral level.
Are you synesthetic?
Not to the degree that other artists are, but I definitely see numbers, letters and words in colors. I
want tangible color around me all the time. It isn’t enough for me to just see it by myself - I want
everyone to see it.
And how did your style develop over time?
I have always loved clothes, color and vintage. My mom used to sell antiques in the UK and the
States and she would bring me along to huge antique fairs. It definitely took me a while to figure out what my style was. Growing up I was always trying on different versions of myself. I really started to find my own voice through combinations of clothes that felt unique to me that no one else would have. Now, LPX is all the better because I really know who I am at this point.
And do you have any style icons?
I’m obsessed with Karen O. She worked with Christian Joy who is a really awesome designer. I love them as a team in fashion and punk history. I love Iris Apfel and her glamorous power clashing! And I love the idea of my style getting so much crazier as I get older! (Laughs.) I can’t wait to be an old woman and have an insane hat collection. I’m trying to think of someone more current…Soko! I really like her style too.
How did you balance running a record label with being a full-time student at Vassar?
I loved being at Vassar. I didn’t even want to go to college in the beginning; I already knew I wanted to work in music. So I was surprised by how much I fell in love with Vassar. The music scene there was really special. With Neon Gold, my teachers were so incredibly understanding. There was a period of time where I had to be in the city two or three times a week and I would do my homework on the train. I had to take my junior year spring final at The Great Escape in Brighton and I had been up for two days straight. It was such a nightmare. But it was sort of fun to be that busy!
So what is your discovery process? When you see an artist that you are really into, do you
have a visceral reaction?
That is definitely a huge part of it. But also—do they have a vision? Do they really have something
that makes them stand out? Do they have ambition? Are they really going to work hard?
Do you find that there’s a common thread with the acts you sign?
Our mantra is always, “It’s too cool and quirky for top 40, but too pop and accessible for the really indie corners of the internet.” It felt like there was a gaping hole in the music industry: music that we loved really didn’t have a space. Now, so many of the bands we sign are on the radio! The landscape of pop has completely changed. There is something so DIY and punk about being a pop artist now.
What do you mean by pop being DIY?
People have ambition! You can do it yourself, that’s what makes it DIY, and it isn’t shameful to want to be big. If I make something, I want to share it as big and as wide as possible. I think pretension and elitism clouded indie and alternative music in the beginning. And as that wall between indie/alternative and pop has broken down, it’s okay for people to want more and to reach as many people as possible.
So how did Neon Gold help you approach MS MR and now LPX?
Doing Neon Gold gave me the confidence to take control with both MS MR and LPX. I understand
how to build a campaign and I know how to pull a tour together. It’s so satisfying to me, to not be
intimidated by a boardroom of men at a label who don’t necessarily know more than I do or what I’m capable of learning.
Have you been shot down by people?
So many times! I have had meetings where the person wouldn’t even look me in the eye the whole
You know what, I’ve had that exact same experience. It’s crazy.
It was shocking!
Was it weird to show your colleagues MS MR at first? I imagine it is kind of strange to be
running a label and then present your own music.
(Laughs) It was SO awkward. Max and I started out anonymously. No one knew who we were until
we got on stage for the first show. And it was really validating for people to like the music on its own merits and not know who I was or what I was doing with Neon Gold. To be honest, I didn’t know how seriously I should take the band until someone at an A&R (artists and repertoire) meeting brought up MS MR. They had no idea it was me. The head A&R guy said, “I love this, we’ve got to figure out who is behind it.” So I essentially had to call my boss, and say, “So… MS MR…” I was actually so scared I was going to get fired or something.
I don’t know! I guess I was scared that he was going to think I wasn’t taking the label seriously. When I told him, he just burst out laughing. He said, “You can’t make this shit up. This is insane. If you really wanna do this, we want to support you.”
So, let’s talk about LPX. I know we are just meeting each other for the first time, but the music
just seems like a very “Lizzy” project.
I am so glad! That is my favorite thing to hear. LPX is the most earnest and sincere extension of
myself, and it’s really cool to have people say, “Wow, I knew instantaneously that this was you.” Not that MS MR wasn’t, but in a duo, there is always a compromise and exchange that happens. LPX is just my voice and vision, and such a pure extension of the bands and artists I grew up with. It is a really honest representation of my musical passion.
Before you go, we have to do some serious damage on these fries. And is there anything else
you would like to add?
I have been overwhelmed by the support for LPX; I think this is going to be a really important next chapter of my life. But even after this, I am always going to keep doing different things. And I hope people are along for the ride.