Plasmic's Feminist Synth Punk is "Music to Burn Barbie Dolls To"
Courtesy of Plasmic
On a fall evening in 2014 Lauren Lusardi, aka Plasmic, nervously stood center stage behind her signature pink mane and synthesizer in front of a wall of neon splatter and old televisions playing a mix art films and static at the now defunct Heart of Art Gallery in Los Angeles. The then-18-year-old loosened up as she shredded through a sweaty set of high-energy Devo inspired electro anthems to an enthusiastic crowd of punks, artists, and drag queens who raucously applauded, eventually chanting her name. The show was a turning point for Lusardi, a landmark moment in which she finally felt seen as an artist and musician. Before piling her gear into her parents car to commute back to OC with her mom and dad, a man articulated a fitting genera to Lusardi for her music: “music to burn Barbie dolls to,” an adage she has enthusiastically adopted ever since.
Now just shy of 21 years old, Plasmic is one of few Orange County based solo electronic experimental artists, and her transmission of femme power and rage through DIY pop is every bit personal as it is political.
Lusardi got her start singing as a four year-old at a Burbank mall when her dad let her enter a Radio Disney contest. Scoring 2nd place for her rendition of Britney Spears’ “Lucky,” Lusardi took home a huge Britney Spears poster, and a newfound passion for music that would shape the direction of her life. As a teen she found inspiration in artists like Beyoncé, Kathleen Hanna, and especially Mark Mothersbaugh because of his innovative approaches to music and art. At 14 she learned piano, and became a self-taught multi instrumentalist, working on a demo in her Mission Viejo bedroom after school. Originally she hoped to use it to find a band, but loved what she created on her own and quickly realized the power of working independently and never looked back. “What I create is on my terms. It feels really good to be able to do that.”
“In OC its kind of unheard of to be an electronic solo artist,” says Lusardi. Since single billing herself as a 16 year old at Max Bloom’s for her debut, Lusardi has played and organized a number of shows, on good occasions with fellow DIY, experimental, or other accepting outliers, on rougher ones with bro punk bands or at bars. One bill Lusardi will never forget was at Chain Reaction with a bunch of grindcore bands, enticed by an opportunity to play a rare all-ages show without selling tickets. “They were not feeling it,” she laughs, “When I played, it was, well… crickets. It was a little scary.” She has since found her footing with a likeminded cohort of femme electro acts in Los Angeles, as well as a supportive scene here in Orange County, including a motley mix of bands such as Roosterhead who Lusardi released a collaboration titled “Independent Princess” with last week.
Currently, Plasmic’s set is a high-energy mix of dancy, emotive, experimental, synth pop that is equally dark and playful, not in a childish way, but an exercise in smart eclectic feminist minimalism. She writes and records all of her own instrumental and vocal tracks, including drum tracks that she plays on a Yamaha electronic kit. Her use of intentionally layered effects, freaky vocal samples, and electronic percussion over solid dance beats are reminiscent of artists like Le Tigre, Grimes, and even Nine Inch Nails at times, but are by no means any kind of replication or nostalgia driven endeavor. Plasmic’s music embodies qualities of her busy and brilliant mind, complex and multi-faceted, fun, feminine, and fucking brutal in the best sense of the word.
For Lusardi, music is both her passion and a way to cope with mental illness. She also writes about feminist themes like combating rape culture. Her song “Revenge” is about not blaming victims of sexual assault and abuse. “The whole song is [me] saying all the things that I would want to do to a rapist, like ‘I want to cut off your hands I want to fill your eyes with sand I want to put you in the freezer and feed you to Chihuahuas.” Embracing femininity is integral to her aesthetic, her song “Validation Nation” speaks directly to haters, and is all about finding power in femininity, something Lusardi had to learn over time. “Growing up I felt like being feminine was a weakness, I grew up liking really feminine things like pink, but then I learned to not like them because I was so ashamed of being a girl. Then I was like ‘fuck it, I like these things and I’m powerful as Hell.”
Plasmic is currently working on a new album to be released this summer, but for now she’s celebrating the release of her new single “Revenge” with two shows this weekend: the “Revenge” music video premiere February 17th at Meow Meowz in Pasadena with Belly Belt and Saint Valentine, and February 18th at the LGBT Center on 4th in Santa Ana with Rats In The Louvre. Don’t worry, if you can’t make the shows, “Revenge” will be released on YouTube on Saturday morning.
“Making this video I wanted to make it really gory, but I also wanted young girls to be able to watch this and get it, and really be able to understand the message behind it as they grow older.”
Justice and representation matter to Lusardi, and she puts her money where her mouth is, volunteering to teach young girls to sing and play electronic music at Girls Rock Camp, as well as organizing Nerd Core events, random pop-up gaming parties at shows all over OC and Long Beach that aim to make video games more inclusive to women, non-binary people, the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities. “I really want people who are depressed, or still finding themselves, to connect with what I’m saying, and hopefully find validation through it.”
Plasmic is working through personal and political themes in her music, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Therapy never worked for me,” she says, “but singing til your lungs bleed in front of even just a few people feels validating.”
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