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Not a tomboy in a dress: after walking away from a contract at Island Records, lesbian rocker L.P. returns to her androgynous roots with her anticipated third album.


THE FIRST THING most people notice when they see New York singer L.P. perform is that her girly, poppy voice doesn't match her rugged rock-'n'-roll look. The second? She couldn't care less. "I'm all about contradiction," she says during a quick break from recording her third album at a Los Angeles studio. "That's a part of art."

L.P.'s hipster-handsome style has brought her comparisons to The L Word's Shane McCutcheon more times than she'd care to discuss, but her vocals are harder to pin down. Kewpie sweet and most at home in the upper registers, there's a soulful edge to her trilling notes, which conjure Gwen Stefani by way of Pat Benatar. She was in grade school when she discovered that she'd inherited her opera singer mother's lungs, but she kept uncharacteristically quiet about it. "I'd sing when the vacuum was on, whenever there was a lot of noise," she says in her Brooklyn-meets-Long Island accent which, like L.P., isn't subtle. As she got older, she grew bolder about her singing--and her sexual orientation. "My mom died before she knew I was gay, and my dad thought it was a phase, then realized it wasn't. But I didn't really give a shit either way. I still don't."

After graduating from high school in 1996, L.P. moved from the suburbs to New York City, began gigging with her band, Lionfish, and christened herself "L.P.," after a nickname a former camp counselor had given her (not LP as in long-playing album). "I don't tell people my [given] name," she says. All she gives up when pushed to divulge her full name is, "It's just not good for a lesbian to be named Leslie." She laughs and adds, "Part of being an artist is re-creating yourself. You have to ask yourself, What would Bob Dylan do? And I do ask that at least a couple of times a day."

Cracker's David Lowery was so impressed with L.P.'s voice after first seeing her perform in 1998 that he invited her to sing on his band's 1998 album, Gentleman's Blues, and then produced her 2001 debut, Heart-Shaped Scar, which was released through Koch Records. Three years later, L.P. collaborated with former 4 Non Blondes vocalist Linda Perry on the follow-up to Scar, Suburban Sprawl & Alcohol. After years of hard-core touring, it seemed the industry had finally taken notice of her. L.A. Reid, chairman of Island/Def Jam Records, signed L.P. to Island. But there was a problem. Musically, she says, Island was "taking a little tomboy and putting her in a fucking dress." Or more specifically, "All of a sudden it's like, 'You're going to go in the rock direction, [then] you're going to go in the pop direction--maybe you should go with R&B.' I wrote 65 songs while I was there. It wasn't the right place, obviously." After less than a year, L.P. split from the label and decided to pursue the musical direction she loves most: "rock slash pop."

Even without label support, L.P. has built a base of devoted fans who obsess on message boards over everything from her love-centric lyrics to her grooming (she describes her coif as "weird Roger Daltrey hair"). Spending so much time on the road has brought L.P. close to her admirers--literally. "Oh, Jesus, that's X-rated, dude," she responds when asked how far she's gone with a fan. "Touring wreaks havoc on your relationships and sometimes your health," she says. "If you do it really well, you definitely fuck your shit up, but there's no alternative.

The new album, due out by January 2009, has been a year and a half in the making and will be L.P.'s first for Miami indie label SoBe. Its debut single, "Good With You" (available now on iTunes), is a radio-ready love song with a rocked-out chorus and a few killer high notes that show off her voice's unique texture. "I don't have a title, but the record company wants it to be something addressing the whole androgyny thing-something as original as Androgyny, she chuckles. Gender bending isn't a gimmick for L.P.--it's a reality she's lived with for years. "I have a lot of stories about being mistaken for a guy," she says. "Women with their daughters running from bathrooms in the Midwest, going 'What are you doing in this bathroom?'" she says. "It's like, 'Easy does it, lady. Everybody calm down; your daughter's safe.'"
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Title Annotation:MUSIC
Author:Ganz, Caryn
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 9, 2008
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