OLDFASHIONED ROCK STAR LP’S GIGS FEEL LIKE A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. CARRIE LYELL FALLS UNDER HER SPELL
Old-fashioned rock star LP is breaking Youtube with her new track
LP might be small enough to pop in your pocket, but she seems seven foot tall as she swaggers into our interview, coffee in hand, with an effortless cool. Her trademark black curls bounce gently as she walks around the room, talking enthusiastically about her gig the night before at Koko in London – “It’s a beautiful venue,” she says, pacing aimlessly. “It feels so… communal. I like it when I can see everybody and everybody can see me.”
An old- fashioned rock star yes – compared to the likes of Joan Jett, Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks – but LP, real name Laura Pergolizzi, is throughly modern. A viral sensation, her latest offering has been streamed more than 120 million times on Youtube. She’s no brooding rockstar caricature either. Warm and friendly, the 36- year- old New Yorker – dressed in dark jeans and a navy blazer – is chatty and full of smiles.
“One time I was playing, Prague or something. It was a beautiful venue, almost cave- like. It felt weird, kind of temple- y. Like I was trying to cast a spell on everybody or something. I was going for more a kinda communal singing to and with people, not to be like…” she throws her arms wide and puts on a booming voice as if giving a sermon. “Nah, I don’t really want to go there,” she laughs.
So many of the musicians I meet say that performing live is the best part of the job. Would she agree with that? “It definitely is, but I really love the writing as well. There’s something so esoteric about writing a song. Like yeah, you can craft all day, but if god is in the room – that spirit or that unknowable thing – writing and realising ‘ Oh fuck, this is dope’? That is such a great feeling.” Like divine intervention? She smiles. “Yeah. Exactly.”
But what happens if god doesn’t show up and the rent is due? What then? “It can be brutal,” she admits. “There are days I’ve been in sessions screaming in my head, ‘ I gotta fucking get out of here, I can’t fucking stay here another second, I fucking hate it here’. And sometimes that’s yielded a great song. I’ve been like, holy fuck. That’s a great song! We got a cut from that song that I wanted to kill someone on. When I wrote Tightrope, I wasn’t sure if it was for me, and I wasn’t in the mood to write that day. I do this thing; I call it writing myself out of the room. I was like, ‘ I have to be somewhere in two hours, I’ll see you later’,” – she mimics writing in a frenzied fashion – “and then when I got it back, I was like, ‘ Huh. Am I crazy or is this good?’”
I ask her to take me back to the first song she wrote. Does she remember it? “I feel like my songwriting revolved around my first girlfriend. I knew I was gay but couldn’t really articulate it or get it through my head. The only time it would come out was when I was stoned. There would be this booming voice in my head going, ‘ YOU’RE GAY, YOU’RE GAY, YOU’RE GAY!’ I was like, you know what? I’m not going to get stoned anymore! Fuck it. Drinking is for me!” she laughs. “But then I remember kind of falling in love for the first time with a woman, and falling in love with songwriting, which was interesting.”
It’s safe to say that emotion still propels LP’S songwriting, all these years later. The new album, Lost On
“Breaking up is devastating and weird, and I’m obsessed with it”
You, is driven by heartache, with the title track inspired by the breakdown of her last relationship. The pain is guttural; evident in the wail of lines like “hold me like you never lost your patience”, “tell me that you love me more than hate me”, and the sucker punch, which leaves me with a lump in my throat every time I listen: “All I ever wanted was you”.
What happened? “Oddly, it came back around to a point where she didn’t want to break up with me,” LP remembers. “But she did want to break up with me for a good chunk and wanted to be with other people, and then we were with other people…” she pauses. “I’m… really glad I experienced it. I’ve always been lucky. I’ve been the one who left. I always suffered for it and felt very bad about it. I knew it was a devastating thing for some, especially my first major love. I still feel the ramifications from that.”
Has her ex heard the new record? “I wrote Lost On You and we kinda remained together for another year. I don’t really feel bad. I mean, I do feel bad that she realised a little too late what she had lost but it was right there. I couldn’t be more clear. I ripped my heart out in songs for you, can you not do me a solid and realise what’s happening? No one has ever written a song about me. I’ve never been someone’s muse, really. But if I was, I think I might have appreciated it a little more than she did. You know what I mean? But to her credit, she was definitely like, ‘ I think this new shit is some big shit for you’.”
LP has been with new girlfriend, singer Lauren Ruth Ward, since 2012 (fun fact: Lauren appears at the end of the video for Lost On You) but admits her previous break- up has had a lasting impact. “I’m obsessed with that moment when the molecule touches the other molecule and goes ‘ I don’t really want to be with this person anymore’. That’s such a devastating, weird moment, and I’m obsessed with when that happens in the other person’s head. Unfortunately, I’m always waiting for it. And I hate myself for that. I’ve definitely made my current girlfriend suffer for that a little bit.”
She describes herself as a “very emotional person, wildly so” which some might view as a weakness, but LP believes that’s what has helped her get to where she is today – not only successful in her own right, but as a songwriter for an eclectic range of artists including The Veronicas, Cher and Rihanna. “I’ve forced myself to write under extreme conditions,” she says. “Like when I don’t want to, when I have to, when something’s due, when a label is breathing down my neck, when no one’s believing in me, when everybody’s believing in me. I’ve gotten kind of like an actor, crying on demand. I can get there in a second and that’s been a real gift for me. I think I respond well to emotional chaos.”
Taking yourself to those extremes of emotion, as well as the isolation that comes from being on the road all the time, must take its toll on a person’s mental health. “Oh god, yeah…” LP admits. “It’s a very self- absorbed, immature way to live. That’s why musicians are notoriously childlike. You have to be more diligent in your relationships, because things can get away from you. You have to show up and participate. But it’s difficult. I see it with the guys in my band too. It’s hard to jump back into the intimacy of a life when you’re out.”
What’s her coping mechanism? LP shrugs, and smiles sadly. “I don’t really know. I just try to deal with the daunting task of singing like a banshee for 90 minutes every night. That’s all I can really take care of in the immediate. I’ve always been like that. I take care of the immediate thing because otherwise, it’s too overwhelming.”
Two days after our interview, I’m at LP’S album launch at Youtube Space London. In a 45- minute set, she performs tracks from the new album, as well some older tracks, including my favourite – Into The Wild. It’s really special watching her come to life and feed off the energy of the crowd, who part like the Red Sea as LP makes her way from the stage to the back of the room. There’s something electric in the air; that unknowable thing, and it feels almost like a religious experience. God really is in the room tonight.
“I respond well to emotional chaos”
Lost On You is out now