INTERVIEW: Ms Mr
Headed by Brooklynites Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow, MS MR are that self professed Tumblr-glitch pop band whose bevy of influences pulsate throughout their tracks and videos alike.
Earlier in the year they released their first EP Candy Bar Creep Show to an avalanche of positive response and interest, even hitting number one on Hype Machine for their track ‘Hurricane’. The band will be in the country for St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival and a handful of sideshows, and we got the chance to chat to Max about the up and coming trip.
So you are coming to Australia for the 2013 St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, have you been to Australia before?
No, no, nobody has ever brought us there, we have never played there but we are incredibly excited.
Has anybody told you what to expect from Australian audiences?
Well we are expecting a lot of heat, so hopefully we wont be on fire or anything [laughs]. I think I am just really looking forward to meeting some of our Australian fans because it is a really really important fan base for us. However, I don’t really know what to expect, but I am really excited about it. I’m just excited to be a part of this whole festival as well.
Since you have been touring have you noticed how audiences across the world are different, have you found that different courtiers really react differently? Or do all audiences just feel pretty much the same?
No absolutely, there is a huge huge difference, even between the small countries in Europe that you wouldn’t think. But we have only been doing this for a short time and I don’t know if we have had enough time on the road to really gauge how people will respond. On the Internet, at least, I know all the Australian music community has been really acceptive of us and I think generally really receptive to new music.
Am I right to say that Ms Mr really originally began as two individuals emailing each other back and forth, and it was a really long process before you really became a band?
Well yeah we started out just emailing, which turned to recording every now and then. Each song we recorded was like its own little project, we never really thought of it as a whole thing it was just a project. Then after a while we looked back and realised that we had sort of a body of work, so then we were like ok maybe this could be something. It was Lizzy and I in the recording studio so we took on this Ms Mr name; it happened very organically. We produced and recorded the entire album in my apartment, and it was almost a year of that before we let anybody else in on the secret.
You gained a lot of attention for taking advantage of your Tumblr as an avenue to release your music. Does that collage/remix image culture play a big influence in your music or do you make a clear distinction between the visual and the music as two seperate mediums of express?
That’s funny I never really made a conscious choice but I think there are some really clear parallels with sort of identifying it in retrospect. The elements of collage are really quite pressing in the music. We are big music fans and we draw from a bunch of different genres and styles from all different time periods. We’ve tried to stay really open to whatever is coming to us weather or not it really fit into the sound we’d developed because it really started out as a mutt of a thing. I think there really is sort of something about inherent musicality that you can’t escape and so when we went back and listened to these separate tracks we were never really thinking of them as a body of work, yet these threads began emerged [in the music] that bound them together. So in the mixing process we could really bring them, making for a really cohesive sound.
I think it is really exciting to think of it as collage because it allows you to bring all these different elements, then these new narratives arise that you don’t even know are happening that maybe someone else identifies and then you are like oh my god I had no idea I was saying that but I can see where you’re getting that. It is something that has really helped us as a band.
So what is the relationship like considering you have never been in a similar band environment.
Well we co-write everything. We work really intensely together in the studio. Lizzy generally writes a lot of the lyrics and I generally write/record most of the music, but we then do an enormous amount of cross editing. I don’t even remember the songs that I started writing or that Lizzy started writing, they just sort of become these other things. It has been a remarkably productive and fulfilling partnership considering that we didn’t really know each other before we started doing this, yet now we are one of each other’s best friend. And we spend all of our time together, and sleep in the same hotel room, and perform with each other every night.
How do you approach transferring the dense sound of your music to live performances? Do you play a lot of instruments onstage, or is it computer based, how does the stage show work?
Well we first emphatically never wanted to be just two people on stage with a laptop, because that’s not entertainment for anyone. More importantly we both felt that the music was so grandiose and so over the top that it deserved more than just an electronic backing track. So we found two other musicians to play with us on stage. So that gives the shows a more wild, live edge to it. Which is exciting and challenging.
So how long have you been working as a four piece on stage?
We started performing last March, and then we just took it really slow playing a few shows, but then we just hit the ground running with the tour with Marina and The Diamonds. I definitely think we are still evolving and learning how we want to translate the recorded music to the live show, and figuring out what the limitations and also the advantages of that, but also figuring out how to blend those two different worlds. Because it’s a really different thing to be in such a personal space of the studio, and then to invite two other people to play to an audience its another very contemporary problem. This is an ongoing project and we’re still figuring it out.
Where do you source your song writing and lyrical influences, what inspires you to write music?
Its funny we really struggle to define our influences, I think both of us are really huge music lovers and we draw from everything from RnB and hip-hop to classical and experimental pop/rock. When we first started writing music we never sat down and said oh this is the kind of music we are going to write, what we did was just the sounds that emerged from us.
You are currently working on your debut LP at the moment?
Yes, we just finished. We’ll have it out in May.
How had the process differed from that of your EP considering you went into the album with the aim of making an album rather the ‘project’ process of your previous work?
Well we continued to work the exact same way, we wrote all the songs in my bedroom and we just recorded in my apartment and then we brought it to the other guys to play live.
So will Tumblr play a big role in the release of the album in a similar way with your EP?
We have some ideas percolating for some sort of online release. We liked that idea; it was a really positive experience for the both of us.
Thanks for talking with us today and hope you have a good tour in Australia.
Words by Luke Letourneau