Sunday, July 14, 2024

Why we heart LP more than ever

Arguably one of the most incredible queer music discoveries of recent times, it’s time LP was on your playlist, if they aren’t already.

Hard as it is to believe, over 20 years have passed since LP first appeared on the music scene. Heart Shaped Scar — the openly gay, gender neutral singer’s debut album — came out in 2001. It was followed in 2004 by their sophomore set, the wonderfully titled Suburban Sprawl & Alcohol.  After that, however, LP took an extended breather — at least from their own music. They focused mainly on working with and writing songs for other artists — with very successful results. Over the next few years, LP penned hits for Cher, Rihanna, Erik Hassle, The Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera (among others).

LP finally returned in 2014 — a decade after Suburban Sprawl — with their long-awaited third album. Forever For Now marked their debut release for Warner Brothers Records and contained the hit “Night Like This.”  Since then, the androgynous singer with the amazing hair has barely come up for air! They have released another three studio efforts, culminating with Churches, which just arrived in December. 

Churches is sure to please longtime LP fans containing, as it does, a whopping 15 tracks.  “When We Touch,” which opens the album, was also the first song LP wrote after the COVID pandemic hit. “Everybody’s Falling in Love” is irresistible dance-pop.  “Yes” is about John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s initial meeting while other songs were inspired by the singer’s own romantic relationships. While most of Churches is upbeat, there are a few exceptions — notably the title track and “Rainbow,” which are both dramatic ballads. 

I recently had a chance to talk with LP, who turns 41 on March 18, for QueerForty. In contrast to their dramatic and sometimes celestial persona on record, LP comes across as casual, funny and down to Earth in person. 

LP: Wassup, Dave? How you doin,’ man?

Okay.  I’m just hangin’ out in Manhattan, trying to avoid getting COVID.

LP: Manhattan, nice!

Yeah. Where are you, by the way?

LP: I’m in LA now. I did my Manhattan stint and it was fantastic. I mean, I kinda low-key grew up there. In and out. But I went there in my late teens… That’s where I started tryin’ to bust into music. 

That’s what I thought.

LP: Yeah. I liked it but when I got out here… I don’t know, I just fell in love with [it]. Something really like clicked, just creatively. It opens me up. Are you a heterosexual or a homosexual person? 

I’m actually hetero. It’s a long story —

LP: (laughs)  Is it, though?

It is! I started out writing about classic rock and, somewhere along the line, I became the guy that writes about women. And you know, became the contributing music editor for a lesbian magazine. 

LP: Nice!

Well, the new album, which came out last month, is Churches. Tell me a little about [making] it. Did recording during a pandemic freak you out at all?

LP: No… But it was great to have something to work on. I’ll be honest. It really helped me kind of get by. And it also added a lot of depth to the record. When things started to get apparent, I was like “Oh shit!” You know, I started to kind of weave thoughts and feelings of the whole situation into that. It was great to have something to be excited about. 

My life stayed pretty chill…  I mean, I’m [just now] starting to, like, unravel the impact of what’s happened. It wasn’t super crazy [or] traumatic! Like, no one I loved passed away from it. I got it recently, but very mild. So, you know, just trying to figure out how to get that all into the record. I feel like it’s in there. We don’t even know yet what the fallout [will be], you know? 

Absolutely. I felt for the first time this past fall that we might be in the home stretch. And I was wrong, you know?

LP: Yeah. I feel like right now, we’re at a very pivotal point. But I feel like I’ve heard myself say that a few times!  I feel like it’s the ultimate version of being in the back of the car and going, “Are we there yet?” 

Yeah, exactly!  (laughter) Let me ask you about the title track of the new album. Anything you wanna tell me about the inspiration for the song?

LP: I was in St. Petersburg, doing a show in Russia; it was before I actually hit [big]. I had some private gigs over there. The owner of Warner Brothers was Russian and he had me play his birthday, and I was introduced to some people that wanted me to play their parties… I loved Russia and I loved the people and everything. We were just visiting some beautiful churches one day; it was a sightseeing thing. And every time I went into a church, they wanted me to put something over my head because I was a woman. 

And you know — I believe wholeheartedly in God and spirituality. I’m not against religion, I just don’t believe for myself that organized religion is the thing. I don’t know if I would call myself political; I think my whole essence is political. (laughs) But I’m a “live and let live” person, you know what I mean? I’m not gonna tell anybody how to live their life or condemn how they worship God. But I was like, “I’m not covering my head. My God is not [about that].” I was like a vampire that was not invited in or something. I could not go in there. It just affected me deeply. 

I’ve been seeing a lot of the world since everything [took] off for me. Many different places that I never thought I’d go, you know? I remember seeing a beautiful church in Krakow from, like, 1200! And I thought, “Wow, it’s so beautiful.” And then I thought, “[But] a person of my ilk  would be burned at the stake in the courtyard!” And it always makes me feel very cognizant of how lucky we are. Yeah, the world is still not completely open. But I don’t know. I felt like the whole churches thing — the word “churches” conjures up a lot to me. I feel like one is inside of all of us, you know? We all have those things that we hold super sacred. It’s our prerogative and it should be respected by others. So I just wanted to talk about what I think is sacred — which is basically love. 

Yeah. I’m not religious myself at all [but] I live in Manhattan and I’m two blocks from a church.  I walk past it a lot. And it’s a beautiful structure, especially at night when it’s lit up. But as you said, I’m cognizant of finding it beautiful aesthetically but [I don’t relate to] a lot of the principles of religion — especially Western religion.

LP: Yeah! Any idea or any kind of dogma — to be carried out fully, there’s gonna be unsavory parts. In social life, people call shit “phony,” you know? It’s like, “That person’s phony, They say one thing [and] mean another. They’re smiling but they hate you.” You know what I mean? There’s a lot of that in organized religion. Also, each one has its different versions of non-inclusiveness. And I feel like that seems to be the antithesis of whenever somebody’s promoting love and God, you know? It’s really wild [when people say] ‘God loves you [but] not you!” 

You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. But it’s still [something] to be looked at, you know? That song, “Churches,” is not to condemn organized religion. It’s just to say, “Hey. I want somebody who includes me.”

One of the other tunes that jumped out at me was “Everybody’s Falling in Love.”

LP: Nice. Well, I was trying to remember the good old days [and] being like, “Hey, what’s up?”  (laughs) You know, one of those crazy parties that weren’t going on anymore [with the pandemic]. It’s just like a feel-good song. A lot of the lyrics in the verses are tongue-in-cheek because the chorus came out as kind of a — you know, [you] can’t make it too serious. It’s sexy. It moves. 

Over the years, you’ve written songs with and for quite a few artists. Who would you still like to write with — or for, for that matter?

LP: I don’t know. Somebody like Adele. Bruno Mars. You know, the wild ones. The big ones.

But at the same time, I don’t think like that. I’m one of those, “Oh you like me? I like you too!” You know? If it happens, I’d love it. I’m pretty jacked to be writing for myself fairly exclusively. And I keep writing. I’m still writing with other people, and I enjoy it. But yeah — mostly I’m interested in writing the best songs I can for myself. 

Cool. On a totally different subject — on your website, I noticed in the bio you described yourself as “a very sensitive motherfucker.”  

LP: (laughs) Well, that’s not me! That’s the guy who wrote it, you know?  [But] yeah, I am. I’m a very sensitive motherfucker.

I wanted to ask you expand on that. Because back in the ‘90s, I actually had a T-shirt made that said “SENSITIVE MOTHERFUCKER” on it. 

LP: Really? No way!  The thing is, I think I come off as tough or rough or whatever. And I am! I’m both of those things. But I’m also super sweet and very sensitive about how things go. I mean, I think that’s what helps me to be a decent writer. But I like the push-pull of it. It feels right. 

I don’t know where it came from but I’m glad we connected on that. If you ever find that T-shirt, I want it!

For more about LP and upcoming tour dates go here.

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Dave Steinfeld

Dave Steinfeld grew up in Connecticut and is now based in New York City. He has been a professional journalist since 1999 and has very possibly written about women in music more than any male journalist in America. He has interviewed Patti Smith, Neneh Cherry, Ani DiFranco, Ann Wilson, Marianne Faithfull, Chrissie Hynde, Cyndi Lauper, Sophie B. Hawkins, the Indigo Girls, and Amanda Palmer who once called him “an honorary lesbian.” Dave has written for Curve, BUST, Bitch, Essence, Glide, Louder, and many more titles.

Dave Steinfeld has 12 posts and counting. See all posts by Dave Steinfeld

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