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3rd December 2013

Interview: MS MR

Harriet Leitch talks to New Yorkers Lizzy Plapinger (MS) and Max Hershenow (MR) about touring, festivals and humble beginnings

I catch MS MR after a British-style blowout Sunday lunch before their show in the evening in Academy 3. Despite feeling slightly lethargic, they seem eager to tell me about the band. They reminisce about the last time they were in town: “We did a show in Manchester in the middle of summer and it was so hot that we literally melted” Lizzy says smiling, “but it was one of my favourite shows I’ve ever played with the most energetic crowd, I even stage dived”. Max cuts in to add, “well yeah, you could say that, I looked on twitter after the show and someone had posted ‘the show was so great and Lizzy landed on me’ [they laugh].”

Lizzy and Max both attended Vassar College in New York, but it wasn’t until after they graduated and got back in contact that MS MR was eventually founded. This was only in 2010, and they’ve achieved a lot in the last three years, the last two of which have been touring worldwide. Max says “We’ve been on tour for two years and we only have two weeks left. I’m looking forward to getting home, but we’ve had the best time”.

But in their recent rise to success, they haven’t forgotten their humble beginnings. Max explains; “We had a keyboard, a laptop and one microphone and that was it” and Lizzy adds “We didn’t even know we were going to make a record. It was just me and Max in Max’s closet turned studio”. With this, Lizzy turns to me and continues “We were doing it around our day jobs. I think that pressure of time meant that we had to be really focused and efficient. So we didn’t really know we were a band until we had a collection of songs and we were like “Wow”. So we put out and EP and started getting some industry attention and then things sort of…snowballed”.

Interestingly, the band was signed having nearly a full albums worth of songs already up their sleeves. “We got signed and went to the studio and we already had the tracks so all we had to do was mix the record. It was a very powerful position to be in because we’d had the opportunity to completely define our musical and visual aesthetic ourselves before bringing other people into the process” says Max. Their dedication and hard work paid off and their debut album Second Hand Rapture, released in May 2013, received a very positive reception.

They both agree that they’ve really captured MS MR’s identity in the album. Their pop sound is distinctively defined by their dark wave sensibility and catchy melodies. Lizzy describes her lyrics by suggesting they are “often philosophical or introspective and metaphorical”, and says “I’ve even pulled inspiration from things like Gothic literature [laughs]”, all of which have contributed to the almost eerie style of captivating tracks like ‘Bones’ and ‘Dark Doo Wop’ that appear on the album.

“There are a lot of styles, genres and time periods that we draw from and are inspired by” Max suggests, emphasising that “we pride ourselves on being a mixed media and collage orientated band”. This forms a particularly unique facet to the band, evident from their Tumblr which chronicles some of their inspirations and influences, serving as another creative outlet in addition to the music. “It started as a tool to help us define our aesthetic and now it’s continued to be an on-going mood board that’s been with us from the very beginning” Max concludes. “The music comes first, and that’s where our interest is dedicated”, Lizzy interjects, “but I think it’s fun to see how your vision can be executed across different platforms to develop and extend the identity of the music and the band”.

As part of their busy tour schedule, the pair performed at festivals throughout the summer. In amongst their summer highlights, Max says “We had an amazing time in Splendour in the Grass in Australia, it was wild. There were thousands of people there and they all seemed to know the lyrics” and Lizzy adds “it was definitely our Beyoncé moment.” And when I ask them which festival they enjoyed the most, they pause, look at each other and unanimously declare “Glastonbury”. Lizzy says “It was awesome. Chic were my favourite, honestly it was so much fun. All different age groups full on dancing all together. It was just so much fun”.

It seems that MS MR have been busy for so long they’ve forgotten what it’s like not to be touring. They’ve been soaking up every minute, however, and are excited to see what is in store for the band in 2014.

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