“Being a one-woman band means you have to be as mobile as possible,” jokes 22-year-old Lauren Lusardi, better known as Plasmic. She’s speaking in reference to her keytar, a hybrid of an electric guitar and a keyboard that seems like something that popped right out of an MTV music video from the ‘80s. Her magenta pigtails compliment her t-shirt bearing the visage of the late drag superstar Divine, and she even has socks bearing the likeness of Divine to match. Over coffee, Lauren has opened up about a myriad of topics ranging from her introduction to music, to her personal relationships and her plans for the future. It’s become abundantly clear to me that Lauren lives as Plasmic both on and off the stage. Of course, her use of the keytar is going to peak anyone’s interest, because truthfully I can’t name one single keytar musician off the top of my head; it’s like the platypus of musical instruments, and so the tasteful implementation of this hybrid instrument is a rare and impressive sight.
Lauren assures me that there are plenty, citing the ‘80s pop group DEVO as a major influence to her music.“I like anything that’s authentically weird. I draw a lot of inspiration from artists who are true to their art. I love Mark Mothersbaugh and Bjork.” So how does someone decide to take up the keytar? “Very few people actually play keytar, and so I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by Yamaha to generate content using the keytar.” The number of people who actually begin their musical journey on the keytar is probably extremely limited, and like many musicians, Lauren comes from a musical household where instruments were not in short supply. “My parents met working at Guitar Center Hollywood. My mom is a singer, and my dad is a drummer. My father is super musical, but he made me learn everything myself. [That] was his way of making sure I was serious about wanting to learn and having the patience and discipline to work at my own pace. He had to teach himself everything he knows about music too, so I think it was important to him that I [did] the same.”
Originally from Burbank, the family relocated some 60 miles to Mission Viejo, California when Lauren’s younger brother, Dominic, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. The family’s decision to move was made to facilitate the best care and education for Lauren’s brother, but this meant moving to the heart of what Lauren describes as “Trump’s America.” Orange County is a bit of a conservative hub in an otherwise largely liberal state, so one can imagine the kind of raised eyebrows a young lady with neon pink hair might inspire. “I think it used to bother me so much more, but now I feel like it’s almost comical when people are put off by something or somebody who’s a little bit different. The closed-mindedness is more worrisome than it is shocking to me now.”
Lauren is grateful that her brother is able to get the support he needs, and she’s even had the opportunity to get him involved with her career as Plasmic. Dominic is an aspiring video game designer, and he actually edited the most recent Plasmic music video for her song “Validation Nation,” in which Lauren can be seen showing off her skating abilities. “I used to be a competitive figure skater which is a sport that is viewed as very feminine, and I was inspired by the experience of being in a very perfectionistic and heteronormative environment like that.”
As the pioneering self-starter that she has become, the DIY attitude that Lauren has adopted is admirable to say the least. It’s quite apparent that she’s just as much of a business-minded individual as she is an artist. Formerly a student enrolled in the electronic music program at a community college, Lauren quickly diverged from the path she was on in favor of pursuing her career as Plasmic without the added classroom time. She began feeling like school was sucking the fun out of something she so deeply loved, a common sentiment among students pursuing the arts as a career path. “I think I learned more from watching how-to videos on YouTube than I did sitting in a classroom, listening to someone talk about how to do the things I had already been doing. I just got super frustrated, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was sort of wasting time when I could be writing. I originally wanted to do audio engineering in a studio, but school began to feel forced and never-ending, and I couldn’t do the things I felt were important to me.”
Lauren is now living the quintessential 20-something experience, working and living at home in Orange County and throwing 100% of herself into her music. “Everything you hear is done by me,” she explains. “I write, produce, and record all my own music. My father built a shed in the backyard where I can make a lot of noise and find what sounds good. I play guitar, drums, piano, synthesizers, I sing and make unconventional things sound musical.” The integrity of being a one-woman show is very important to the character of Plasmic. She’s been playing as Plasmic for almost seven years, starting in all-ages venues at the age of 16 and now at 22 playing for the largest crowd of her career at The El Rey in Hollywood as a part of the Sex Cells Divine Ball. Sex Cells is an event hosted by Danny Fuentes, the owner of the Lethal Amounts art gallery in Los Angeles which celebrates underground subcultures and the artistic contributions from these communities.
“I owe a lot to Danny from Lethal Amounts,” says Lauren. “He’s worked really hard to create an exciting celebration of all things weird and subculture-y. That was the largest crowd I’ve ever played for!” The crowd drawn by the Sex Cells event is a vibrant combination of punk, queer, goth, club kid, industrial, and everything in between. The Divine Ball even featured a drag pageant with dozens of queens parading about and serving their own rendition of the legendary Divine.
Lauren feels accepted by the queer community that frequents the Sex Cells parties and other events curated by the Lethal Amounts crew, though she hasn’t always felt supported by the broader queer community—especially as her partner has begun his gender transition journey. “Sometimes it feels like the community was more accepting of me when they had a box to put me in. Once people couldn't call me a lesbian, some subsections of the community became really exclusionary, and it was really hurtful. We’ve had some gatekeepers along the way, but I never tolerate them.” Lauren and her partner, Jack, who creates music as Jack Jupiter, are a dream team. He has accompanied Lauren on the drums a few times and is a boss when it comes to selling merch. “I like playing by myself because I want to show people that a woman is fully capable and doesn’t need any help to perform. Jack and I are on the same page with that.” However, Lauren expressed the sentiment that many venues or promoters can be apprehensive to book a one-woman show. “I think there’s the misconception that a solo performance is going to have rough transitions or just not have enough going on to be entertaining, but I think I’ve at least got more going on than most [of] the white boy garage rock bands getting booked!” The confidence and showmanship displayed by Plasmic is an amalgamation of feminist ideologies and blended influences carefully curated into this brassy pink image. “Someone once described my music to me as ‘music to burn barbies to’ which really resonated with me. I remember absolutely destroying my Barbie dolls as a kid; I wanted to cut their hair and make them less perfect. I think the symbolism of deconstructing gender a little bit is central to what it means to be Plasmic.”
Looking ahead to the future, there is a lot on the horizon for Plasmic. “I’m currently working on a full-length album,” Lauren reports. She’s been aiming to play about six shows per month. “I’m always writing, because my manic brain doesn’t shut up! I just feel like there are so many happy, lovey song out there right now that I just cannot relate to, so I have to make my own music that’s going to match how I’m feeling. I wrote the song “Revenge” about unwanted male attention, which is a commonly shared experience, and yet I don’t know very many songs written about it.” Even though she’s currently unsigned, Lauren is ready to bravely venture forward as Plasmic and has booked a show at The Victoria in London alongside the U.K. group Dream Nails in late July in addition to several U.S. tour dates in Arizona. “I have a lot of things I want to do with my career. I’m still just starting out, but I’m hoping to relocate to Los Angeles soon to pursue this wild fantasy that is Plasmic. I definitely want to produce for a drag queen, which is something I’ve been passionate about for a while. I think my wildest dream would be to play a show in Japan!” she says, although it’s obvious that Plasmic’s list of ambitions for Plasmic is growing lengthier by the minute.
Ting Ting Chen