If I were to compare noir pop duo MS MR to another band, not only would it be difficult, but unjust. However, ask me to compare them to a retail store, and Dylan’s Candy Bar is the first place that springs to mind. Colourful, delicious and oh so New York, they’re the most perfect match since bandmates Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow themselves.
Having become internet sensations in 2012, after releasing their EP Candy Bar Creep Show on Tumblr, MS MR look set for another incredible year. Fresh from a week at SXSW, we persuaded Max and Lizzy to spill the (jelly) beans about their real life fantasy and, err… cheer vomit.
We’re so excited for the release of your debut album Second Hand Rapture on May 13th. Can you talk us through the writing process?
Max: We’re excited too! We finished it last year and are so ready to finally let it free. We’ve both been huge music lovers our entire lives, but this is the first serious musical project either of us has been involved in. Our main objective while writing was really just to experiment on a track-by-track basis and combine as many unexpected elements, like genres and time periods, as possible.
Lizzy: Nothing about the project and our sound was predetermined; we never sat down and decided what type of music we were going to create. We just wanted to play. This could have led to a really scattered album, but we found that we had such amazing musical chemistry and confidence in our individual musical identities, that all these potentially disparate songs ended up creating their own connections and threads to one another.
Which are each of your favourite songs on the album and why?
M: It changes almost every week so I think I’ll be able to keep giving a different response to this question, but this week I’m really into a track called BTSK – it’s our version of a power ballad, taking the signature drama of some of our other tracks, but putting it in the context of a tender love song.
L: Ditto, it’s great to keep going back and feeling connected to different tracks at different times. Right now I’m really taken with Head Is Not My Home.
You worked with Tom Elmhirst on the album, who has had huge commercial success mixing for Amy Winehouse and Adele. Was it intentional to get him on board or a happy accident?
L: When our label asked us who we wanted to bring in to mix the album, we were a bit apprehensive since we had recorded everything up to that point in Max’s apartment, and felt protective of our process and what we’d created.
Tom was at the top of our list of people we wanted to work with – yes he’s mixed hugely successful albums, but that wasn’t what we were thinking about. We were excited by his incredible ear, taste, style and extraordinary ability to bring out the best in the artists he’s worked with. He’s mixed so many of our favorite records. We had him mix Hurricane as a test run, and we instantly fell in love with it, so we asked if we could bring him on as an additional producer and mixer for the entire album. He helped us take the tracks to the next level while still maintaining our vision.
In the video for your single Fantasy, we’re shown cheerleaders puking glitter. If you threw up right now, what would we see?
M: Well we just got back from a pretty debaucherous week at SXSW, so I’d say a lot of margarita mix… You’re probably hoping for something clever and allegorical, but I’m still feeling a bit rough, so I’ll just go with the literal [laughs].
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Lizzy is originally from London, and Max you’re from Idaho, but MS MR are VERY New York. How has the city inspired your music?
M: It’s pretty hard to over exaggerate the city’s influence on our music – this album was born out of a very specific time in both of our lives and the city has been a huge part of that in a couple of ways. First of all many of our friends are musicians and artists, and we definitely feel like we’re a part of a really supportive group of people, who are constantly challenging us to make better and more interesting music. One of our goals in starting this project was to involve as many other up-and-coming artists as we could so that we could all rise together – New York has definitely fostered that.
Secondly, there’s just something about the energy of the city that inspires both of us to create. Lizzy writes her best lyrics just walking around the city, and I feel most inspired when I’m working in my apartment studio in Bed-Stuy.
You used Tumblr as a huge promotional platform for the band; how was that idea born?
L: We started using Tumblr even before we’d really had a conversation about us being a band, mostly just as an ongoing mood board for us to share visual ideas with each other. The dream of the Tumblr EP was one of the first ideas we had when discussing ways we could release our music. It was the perfect platform for us to connect with an audience directly, while also maintaining full control and the ability to clearly define our visual aesthetic.
Do you think you would be where you are now if social media didn’t exist?
M: It’s pretty much impossible to imagine us ever even starting to write music without social media; would we ever have heard the music that inspired us, seen the images that influenced our aesthetic, or even ever have met each other? Social media and the internet landscape are so deeply tied to the project, not to mention our lifestyle.
Bones was used in the season three trailer for Game of Thrones and you count Tom Ford and Jay-Z amongst your fans. Which of these three things is the most exciting?
L: We’re honored that Tom Ford and Jay-Z are fans, but Game of Thrones was definitely one of the most exciting things that’s happened to us yet. We’ve been huge fans of the show, the music fits so perfectly and was edited so well, and we got a lot of really positive attention for it.
Lizzy, we love your ever-changing hair colour. What colour is it now and what should we expect next?
L: Thank you! I’m currently on my last legs of blue, but I’m actually planning on dyeing it again next week… I never really know what I’m going to do until I’m in the chair but I’m DYING to go “Fifth Element” orange.
This is our annual travel special, so where’s the best place you’ve ever visited?
M: We’ve gotten to see so many incredible places over the past year, not to mention the fact that I’m a son of explorers and spent my childhood travelling, so it’s hard to narrow down! I think I’ll go with Barcelona – you can’t go wrong with a beautiful city right on the beach. I can’t wait to go there on tour.
L: I recently went on a trip with my family all over south-east Asia and was lucky enough to visit Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It was one of the most spectacular and seemingly mythological places I’ve ever been to; I’m a sucker for anything that reminds me of the Odyssey. I would love to go back.
Where will MS MR be this time next year?
L: Hopefully just finishing this record cycle and starting to write the next!
Taken from the April issue of Scotcampus. Second Hand Rapture is released on May 13th.