Starting a career behind ambiguity and secrecy, synthpop duo MS MR have now become the four letters on everybody’s lips when mentioning the latest obsession in EDM. With a sound described as “dramatic, cinematic, warped, alternative pop” they have risen in the alternative ranks, opening for electronic songstress Jessie Ware and selling out their own show at NYC’s iconic Bowery Ballroom this Wednesday (May 15).
As MR MS trek across the U.S. for their headlining tour and prepare for the launch of their debut album, Secondhand Rapture (May 14 via Columbia Records), vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow, talk to VIBE about their growing success, style inspiration, and musical influence Beyonce.
VIBE: You guys met in college, but didn’t really start making music together till after graduation. When you both decided to start up MS MR, what was the initial intention/goal? How did you both want to be perceived as a duo?
MS MR: Our initial goal was simply to make music that we enjoyed – we didn’t really plan on being a band or really have any concrete ideas of what we would do with what we were writing. This is still the core ethos of the band – we always want to be able to stand by whatever we’re creating and be proud of it regardless of how other people feel about it.
From the website to your album cover art, it seems that everything you guys touch possesses a stunning and unique visual quality. Who comes up with these works of art?
While every element of the project comes directly from us, one of our initial goals for MS MR was to create a community around the project, and we’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with up-and-coming directors and photographers like Tyler Kohlhoff, who shot the covers of the EP and the album. These artists have helped us refine our aesthetic (and their own) and continue to contribute as we incorporate new visual ideas.
What about the imagery behind the music video for ‘Hurricane’?
Everything you see or hear comes from us, which is something we're incredibly proud of. The first DIY video for Hurricane came from a file of images we had painstakingly curated over the first year of MS MR. We then collaborated with an editor to bring the video to life.
As we've more fully developed the music, we were able to also develop and evolve the visuals. So we jumped at the chance to make a new video with original content for “Hurricane”. We were really moved and excited by the work of director Luke Gilford and it was a wonderful opportunity for us to invite someone else into our creative process. Ultimately the video is the result of both of our visions.
Will these visuals play a factor in your upcoming U.S. tour? Can you give some examples of what readers can expect if they come to one of your shows?
The live show has actually been a chance for us bring it all back to the music – during this first year of touring we’ve had the opportunity to put a face on the project and show our musicianship, so we have kept it all very minimal. We’re also a new band and can't afford to yet fully realize our elaborate schemes for set design...but we're always thinking about it and are excited to start incorporating things bit by bit.
And on the topic of visuals and presentation, what are some of your fashion/style influences? Any favorite designers/retail stores?
Just like the music and visuals, we love to mix and combine as many different styles and time periods as possible. We mostly wear a lot of vintage and then mix in staples from high street stores like Topshop, H&M, and American Apparel. We welcome different patterns and seemingly mismatched pieces – we’ve dubbed it “power clashing.”
For Lizzy, it appears that your hair color changes in each photo I see of you and Max - is it like a mood ring?
I definitely like to change it up a lot! I guess it is sort of like a mood ring in that I just sort of get obsessed with a new combination of colors and then feel like I need to embrace that change. It's also a fun way for me to continue to reimagine my wardrobe.
Tell to us about your new album Secondhand Rapture. Does the title speak for the album itself?
This album isn’t a concept album – it’s not about a single breakup, relationship or specific idea – so we didn’t really think about cohesive themes that run throughout until we started thinking about what we would call it.
The two ideas that emerged were our relationship to media and to the environment. “Secondhand” refers to the way we interact with the world around us - we’re fascinated by the idea that technology gives us access to a vast new universe that feels incredibly intimate despite being once removed – while “rapture” touches on the fact that we wrote the album during 2011 and 2012, years where the implications of climate change came to feel very concrete. We’re not really activist types, but we find we’re moved to write in moments of environmental threat – our best songs are always written when there’s an impending storm.
For musical influences, Max has said that he has a soft spot for Beyonce. What are your thoughts on Queen Bey’s current reign?
We both have a lot of love for Queen Bey and were actually lucky enough to see her play at the 02 Arena in London! She's spent her whole life working for her title and as far as we're concerned she's earned it.
If you could collaborate with any current artist and/or producer, who would it be and why?
There are so many people we would love to collaborate with. Max loves Robyn and Lizzy would love to work with Dev Hynes.
Check out MS MR during one of their live shows as they tour across North America - dates and locations here.