Saturday, 22 September 2012


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Eerily emerging earlier this year with the darkened psychological pop of viral track and collage video ‘Hurricane,’ MS MR became the kind of online sensation that only the 21st century music blogging community could create. Despite the immense acclaim the elevated vocals and ominous ambience that MS MR’s sound received, who was behind the track remained an impenetrable secret. However, as the band have begun to hit the live circuit the veil of mystery had to descend. In the midst of the unique release strategy of their debut EP ‘Candy Bar Creep Show,’ which involves new, original material by the band being exclusively posted on their highly popular Tumblr alongside artwork, videos and remixes, IDOL unmasked both MS (Lizzie Plapinger – yes, of Neon Gold Records) and MR (Max Hershenow.)

First things first, you guys have been keeping your identities under wraps, so can you each tell me a bit about yourselves and how the band came together?

Max: Well I’m originally from Idaho. Lizzie and I met in college, we weren’t really friends though, but we were friendly. I was working as a producer for a little band at college that had barely started, but when we graduated that project fell apart. So after graduation I emailed Lizzie, she runs a record label [Neon Gold Records], and said that I was interested in producing and I wanted to develop into a producer and wanted to know if there were any acts that she wanted to continue develop as well. She replied with a long email about how she herself was an artist and was interested, and that she wanted to, I don’t know, just bang it out.

Lizzie: You know, keeping our names out of it and keeping it anonymous was really important to us from the start, mostly because it’s very much that Max and I have written all of the music together and have shared everything very equally. I run a record label called Neon Gold, and because I have a leg in the music industry and my name was sort of known... Not that a blind audience would necessarily care, but to give the music a fighting chance and for it to be fairly judged on its own merit we wanted to keep ourselves anonymous so that people could come to the music organically. It was nice because people would care less about us and more about the music, which is the point. Also now that it’s coming out, no one’s really making a big deal about the Neon Gold thing at all which is fantastic and this duo can be seen as it was intended to be.

As you’re starting to play live and do interviews now are you apprehensive about that secretive aspect of the band disappearing?

Both: Umm, no.

Max: I think we’re excited about it. We’ve come up with something that we’re really proud of. For so long we didn’t perform, so it’s really exciting to be out there, meeting people and seeing face-to-face how people are responding to it.

Lizzie: The anonymous mystery it wasn’t intentional, like marketing or kitsch or anything. It served its purpose because people were able to connect with the music first. So now that that first level of involvement has been achieved, Max and I are now excited to step into the limelight a little bit, introduce ourselves, allow people to get to know us a little bit and see how that informs the music.

I think you’re right that holding back on who was making the music was a good way to get people intrigued but also to make sure that interest was placed squarely on the music. Is that your intention with the way you’re releasing your EP as well? By releasing each track one by one, are you hoping that people take them time to digest each song before moving on to the next?

Max: Yes, absolutely. And I think that because the EP has so many different elements to it; there’s a video, there’s a remix, there are samples so that people can create their own remixes, and we want each song to come with a whole package so that people have lots of different ways to explore it. Our faces aren’t in most of the videos until the last one, so again we want the music to standalone and to provide lots of different perspectives with it as well.

Lizzie: With each post on the Tumblr and all of the things surrounding it, we like the idea of allowing a week for people to digest and focus on each track. And there’s so much collaborative work with other artists that there’s a certain element of respect that needs to be allowed, like all of the elements of the tracks such as all of the photos in the video which need time to breathe so that they can be shared.

You’re the first band to release new material via Tumblr in this way, and your page has been pretty instrumental in getting the band name and music known. Do you think that Tumblr is best new way for bands to communicate their message and with their fans now?

Lizzie: I don’t think it’s necessarily the best way and I think it depends on the artist. Now that there are so many different media outlets and platforms for people to share, distribute and connect with an audience, I think it’s important to find which one connects with your personality and you’re aesthetic and vibe as a band. For us, that was Tumblr because it’s visually-based and has a young usability. So it was the right platform for us. It’s a great way for bands to put things out there but I’m sure that there are millions of other ways to newly share and distribute music.

Max: For us, it’s also about the community. We love the exchange culture of Tumblr and the feedback that you can get from it. So again, it made a lot of sense for us. Part of the point of putting it out there was that we wanted to show that there are alternative ways to use music now and alternative ways to interact as a band.

The visual side of your work is clearly very important for you...

Lizzie: Definitely! We’re sort of visually-anal [laughs].

Are you planning to incorporate those visuals when you play live?

Lizzie: It’s funny; we haven’t actually added a highly stylised visual element to the show, but I think that in the same way that we let the music speak for itself without us putting our faces out there, I would like to, as it stands right now, it’s about you getting to know us and hearing the music for the first time in a live setting. I like that it isn’t too dressed up and it doesn’t need the distraction of being an overproduced set visually, but it doesn’t mean that Max and I don’t have those aspirations further down the line. We’re constantly talking about things that we want to incorporate into the live show later on. But I think that at this level it’s not really appropriate. It just feels better for it to be about you getting to see and interact with us for the first time, to focus on the music and hopefully hear some new material.

How would you describe the things that you post on your Tumblr page? I think it’s kind of kitsch and creepy but in a really good way!

Lizzie: Aww, that’s very kind of you to say! [Laughs].

It is incredibly stylised though. You’ve managed to curate a very defined aesthetic for yourselves. How would you describe it?

Lizzie: It’s funny... I don’t think I can actually think of a word that really draws it all together. What I can say, is that when we’re going through stuff and pulling images we never think, “Well today we’re looking for this particular thing, or that particular thing.” We just sort of see whatever it is we come across. Honestly, we don’t over-think it. If we initially like something we post it and eventually all of the images started coming together and creating their own narrative. But there are things that we’re continuously drawn to.

Max: There’s a sort of glamorous, grunginess to it – like chandeliers with cobwebs, things like that, y’know?

Lizzie: Kitsch, ‘90s references are fun too. But other things just like frames, or colours that are being used... I don’t know. That’s why it’s fun being able to share the Tumblr because it’s like an insight into so many pieces of our personality which I think is that the site should be used for.

It comes across like a mix of inspiration and reflections of what you’re creating yourselves.

Lizzie: Absolutely, I like that. It definitely feels like a representation and a source of inspiration. It’s a combination of the two.

Do you have any favourite pages or stuff that you’re constantly checking out?

Lizzie: Originally there was this Tumblr, but I think it closed down about a year ago, it was called Kitty Radio and I was absolutely obsessed with it! I would check it several times a day. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist anymore, or maybe it’s under a different name. But I have, like, a sixty-page Tumblr list of things that I need to check out. I mean, it’s really obsessive!

So away from the computer screen and out in real life, how are you feeling about your upcoming shows in Europe?

Max: We are really excited. It’s our first time in Europe to perform. We played at Bestival recently. It was really fun, really great. It was an awesome stage and we had a really responsive crowd. Plus it wasn’t raining! We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback from the UK so it’s really nice to be here, to start meeting people and feeling it out over here.

Lizzie: For me, it’s all the more special because I was actually born and raised in London, so the shows [in London] feel like my first hometown shows. I feel quite emotional about it because I’ve always dreamed of playing live in London and the way that playing in your home city means more than anything else. It’s been unbelievable. Not just London, but whole of the UK has been such a huge inspiration for us, in terms of musical influences and the musical acts that we draw from. We always wanted to make sure that we came to the UK early on and gave it as much attention as we do the US.

Max: We’re on tour with Grouplove in October and November, and we’re also going on our own European tour over the next couple of weeks.

As well as your touring schedule and the official release of your EP in October, what can we expect from MS MR in the near future?

Lizzie: We want to do more official videos, either for one of the songs that has already been released or some new material. We definitely want to do some more mixtapes and lots more shows. Max and I have some things up our sleeves that we’re excited to eventually get out there.

Max: Eventually we will finish an album so at some point next year we will be releasing that as well.

Lizzie: But in the mean time there will certainly be other things to tide people over. And Tumblr of course!

Finally, who are your idols?

Lizzie: You have to ask us that! I love it!

Both: Oh my god...

Lizzie: Typical us; we get asked a question like that and we have six answers.

Max: Umm... Oh man, we draw from so many different people.

Lizzie: I have a lot of personal heroes and people I admire. I adore Shirley Manson. I love Gwen Stefani. Also, Patsy Cline, which seems really leftfield but I absolutely adore her and her career.

Max: We both love Florence and the Machine’s music; it’s a huge inspiration to us. I have a real big soft spot in my heart for pure pop artists like Robyn and BeyoncĂ©.

That’s quite an eclectic mix - just like everything MS MR do. 

Listen to individual tracks from the EP on MS MR Tumblr now:
Written for IDOL

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