MS MR unmasked: “We never intended to be this mysterious band”

Ahead of their appearance at Laneway Festival, DARREN LEVIN unmasks the duo behind New York’s “Tumblr-glitch-pop duo” MS MR.

In an age of full disclosure and rampant TMI, New York’s MS MR did a very unusual thing indeed. They kept their identities under wrap long enough to release a debut EP, Candy Bar Creep Show, last year through Tumblr of all places, only revealing their true selves when their music had properly hit critical mass. Now, the cat’s out of the bag: The band is helmed by Neon Gold Records founder Lizzy Plapinger and Idaho-born producer Max Hershenow, who have turned their dark and mysterious bedroom project into a fully-fledged “Tumblr-glitch-pop” band (their words). Ahead of their debut Australian tour for [aa,artist:Laneway Festival], the pair spoke rather excitedly to FL about their developing live show, a forthcoming full-length album and the importance of anonymity.

I bet you didn’t think you’d be talking to a journalist in Australia a year ago.

Lizzy: [Laughs] No, we definitely didn’t.

Max: We’ve been blown away by the experience so far.

Lizzy: But now it’s really lovely. We have an Australian connection.

Do you know much about Laneway?

Lizzy: We’ve been fans of the festival for a while … It’s a pretty famous festival – even in New York people know what Laneway’s about. We’ve been fans for so long and now to be able to play is just unreal. The line-up is incredible. I can’t believe we’re lucky enough to be on the bill.

Max: I’m imagining it as a travelling circus meets summer camp for musicians.

It’s exactly that.

Lizzy: [Laughs] I really hope so. I can just imagine nerding out in front of my favourite bands and them being like, “Who are you?”

Any bands you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

Max: Well Lizzy’s already seen them, but I’m completely obsessed with Alt-J. I’m really really pumped to see them.

Lizzy: I love Tame Impala. I’ve had that new song ‘Elephant’ on repeat. I really can’t wait to see them live. I walk around New York having that guitar line in my heart and my hand. It’s going to be awesome to see.

I’ve got bad news about Tame Impala. It’s actually Pond on the bill.

Lizzy: Noooooooooo! It’s not Tame Impala?

It’s Pond, their sister band. Have you heard them?

Lizzy: I have. I really like them to be fair. I thought I saw them [Tame Impala] listed somewhere … Oh, you heartbreaker! [Laughs]

Chet Faker is also on the bill. I notice he’s done a remix for you guys [of ‘Dark Doo Wop’].

Lizzy: That’s going to be awesome to see him. We haven’t met him yet. It’ll be great to meet him in person and say thank you, hang out and see the live show.

How did the remix come about?

Max: We weren’t super familiar with him. We knew his cover…

Lizzy: … of [Blackstreet’s] ‘No Diggity’, which we love.

Max: One of our A&R guys from the UK actually put us onto him. We’re so happy with it. He’s done really incredible things with that remix.

Is he developing a bit of a name over there in the states.

Lizzy: When that ‘No Diggity’ cover came out it made a blogosphere splash, people got really hooked. I know he played some shows at South By [Southwest] earlier this year [2012], but I haven’t heard much since then. I’ll be keen to go to Australia and see him play some new material.

There’s a really apocalyptic vibe to that track [‘Dark Doo Wop’]. Is that sentiment inspired by anything in particular Lizzy?

Lizzy: I wrote it for someone I’m in love with, which is always a bit embarrassing to say. It was the first love song I ever wrote, but in true MS MR fashion even though it’s a love song, it’s an apocalyptic love song. It’s got that darkness in there. The boy I wrote it for, his favourite story is Cat’s Cradle by [US sci-fi writer] Kurt Vonnegut, which is a story about the end of the world.

Obviously you’re happy with Chet’s treatment?

Max: We love it, especially with what he did with the vocal rhythms. It’s really interesting.

You guys are champions of the whole remix thing. I noticed you put your stems up on Tumblr.

Max: We haven’t really heard any remixes back from that. Part of our idea was to democratise the whole remix culture in a way. Neither of us had really made music in a serious way before we started this project. This is something that a kid on a laptop in his room can do, and I’m really excited to see how people respond to it.

Lizzy: Also we’re such music lovers and we love finding newer, up-and- coming acts. We’re hoping to find some diamonds in the rough, someone who we’re excited about and to be able to give them a platform.

How did the project form? It’s pretty hard to find anything on you online.

Max: That was intentional. We went to university together, but we didn’t really get to know each other until after we graduated. In my senior year I started working with another artist and Lizzy formed a label (Neon Gold Records). When I graduated I started producing and emailed Lizzy to see if she had any artists she was interested in developing. I wanted to get my feet wet a little bit. She sent me back an embarrassed email saying she’d been writing music, but she didn’t have the balls to show it to anyone. She was nervous and she wasn’t sure if it was any good. We weren’t super close at that time – she knew me well enough that she knew I’d be honest, but not so well that she’d never have to talk to me again if I didn’t like it. [Laughs]

Lizzy: Thank god he did. I would’ve been mortified. [Laughs]

Max: She passed on this song. I thought her voice was super compelling. From there we got together and started establishing our sonic ideas without any ego involved. That was two years ago.

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