If Lizzy Plapinger walked down your street, you'd likely take notice. With a rush of scarlet hair and a penchant for sequins, the artist known as LPX favors ensembles that very much match her no-apologies, hard-hitting debut EP.
On Saturday, LPX joins folk-pop innovator Maggie Rogers (who famously blew Pharrell Williams' mind when he heard her song "Alaska" in an NYU master class), Billie Eilish, Jessie Reyez, and others in an all-female lineup at the fifth annual All Things Go Fall Classic, which made news earlier this week when it dropped pop-rock artist BØRNS after reports of sexual misconduct. The two-day festival at D.C.'s Union Market (which also features Carly Rae Jepsen, MisterWives and Betty Who on Sunday) is emphasizing women's equality on stage and off with free Friday panels on women as musicians and entrepreneurs and a partnership with the Women's March on their Power to the Polls voter-registration and get-out-the-vote campaign.
Plapinger—who co-founded Neon Gold Records in 2008 and is also one half of dark synth-pop duo MS MR—and Rogers curated the roster of artists playing Saturday, a topic we discussed in a recent phone interview. Here, Plapinger muses on the festival, the role and responsibilities of women in popular music and her own trajectory as a relatively new solo artist. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
When you and Maggie Rogers set out to curate the first day of this festival, what were your goals?
Our goals were to keep it as multidimensional as possible. We wanted to really represent women from all different genres, all different age groups, all different ethnicities, all different stories. So the festival really felt like a cross clash of cultures and sounds and voices. I’m really, really proud of where it ended up because it feels like a really good mix between pop and electronic and R&B and rock. And I think that’s just such an important aspect of this festival, just showing diversity of representation and that there’s still space for all kinds of voices and all kinds of women to participate in festivals.
What ideals do the artists performing on Saturday represent and how did you select them?
Everyone who’s playing we believe deserves an opportunity to grow and build into the festival headliner. Part of the reason why Maggie and I have been talking about this for so long is that there’s constant feedback that there aren’t enough festival female headliners. And that that is why so often we are left with male headliners. First of all, that’s not true. Just think about someone booking Paramore or Missy Elliott or Robyn or Karen O. as a headliner. You’d absolutely still go to that festival, and I would say they’re just as much a heavyweight contender.
But a bigger issue for me is that if you look toward the bottom of the festival lineup, it’s about creating spaces for women to work their way up that ladder, because what you find is festivals start building relationships with bands [and] over time they become the headliner. And if you’re not providing that opportunity to female and nonbinary artists on a smaller level, then you’re cutting off the opportunity for them to grow into that headliner. So for us, this was a really wonderful way to represent the women that we saw taking on those future spots. When you’re looking at someone like a Billie Eilish or Jessie Reyez or Ravyn Lenae, just even to see how far they’ve come in the past year and how enormous they are in their own right, it’s really exciting that they’re a part of this festival. Their success stories only translate to the greater successes that I hope this festival will be.
With the backdrop of the Kavanaugh hearings and the #MeToo movement in general, do you think female musicians have a responsibility to speak up for women who may not have been heard?
I think that that is a question that every artist can decide for themselves. I understand the pressure of some women feeling like that’s not what they want to make their music about and they want to keep it on their art. I think that line between being an artist and a politician to some degree has become blurred. And some women feel very differently that it is an opportunity to speak out.
What female pop artists do you think are getting it right in terms of staying true to who they are despite pressures from their label or other external pressures?
The person who I think about all the time is Charli XCX. [The musician is an artist on Plapinger's label.] I think she is such a beacon of futurism, in pop sonically, but also as a performer, as a feminist. I think she absolutely creates her own lane for what she’s doing. For her to be on tour with someone like Taylor Swift, playing to Top 40, enormous stadiums. And then be doing these underground pop shows that are truly so punk that play just to club kids. And for her to constantly be building this community of artists around her. She’s like a one-woman support system; she’s such a champion of other female artists within music. And she’s always looking to collaborate, and she doesn’t really play by anyone’s rules, especially not the label’s.
Going into your music a bit, what inspired you to launch a solo career?
I had never made music before MS MR. After two records and six years of being on the road, and having learned so much from [MS MR bandmate Max Hershenow] and from touring, I really just wanted to stand on my own two feet and explore and see what I was capable of. The artists that I really admire are the artists who put themselves in uncomfortable situations so they grow further. And as a 30-year-old woman, I really genuinely just wanted to take all the lessons that I had learned from every path and walk of life professionally and personally and do something on my own. It’s been an awesome lesson to go through doing LPX entirely on my own, self-funded, self-released, entirely independent.
I feel like I’m growing as an artist, becoming a stronger writer and making music that’s just closer to the music that I grew up on, which is like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Le Tigre and Karen Oh and TV on the Radio and Interpol. It’s always hard for female voices within alternative, which is such a male-dominated genre. It feels like there’s such a space for there to be a new sort of Shirley Manson, another Hayley from Paramore. And I really, really just hope that LPX can live in that lane.
The All Things Go Fall Classic runs from noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday at Union Market. Tickets run from $65-$229+.