Their debut LP, Secondhand Rapture, is just out this week but thanks to a series of catchy singles and eye-popping videos, Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow of MS MR (“Ms. Mister”) are already highly buzzed about.
We caught up with Hershenow to talk about writing songs, secret identities and just what that name means.
So, how did Ms. and Mr. first get together?
We met at college, at Vassar, where we were friendly but not friends. We had taken a couple of courses together but didn’t hang out. After college, we both ended up in New York City. I was doing theater stuff and Lizzy was running the record label Neon Gold. I was interested in pursuing production. I’d never really done it, but I wanted to make music, so I emailed her and asked if she had any artists who might need producers and for whatever reason she felt like I was trustworthy. She decided to share things she had been working on in secret. She sent me a track and I found it compelling, so we got together and found we were on the same page musically and really had a connection.
And you were a bit secretive about your identities at the beginning. Why?
The first thing is that we’re making pop music, and while we’re proud pop musicians, a lot of people become overwhelmed by celebrity and ego. Those weren’t the reasons we were doing this—we genuinely love pop music. We wanted to put the music out there disconnected from our personalities and to make sure that everyone who came to the project did so for the right reasons.
You say you and Lizzy had a connection. How do you write songs?
The writing process for us is all about exploration and figuring things out and learning. We play around with a lot of processes and set up different challenges for ourselves, like sticking to certain instruments or combining different styles. Usually, I start with a track and send it to Lizzy and she’ll write over that. Or vice versa. We really do share the first kernel of an idea with one another and go back and forth.
Where did the name MS MR come from?
It just felt right. We both have grandiose last names, so we started thinking about a king and queen kind of thing, but that felt disingenuous. I liked the formal titles that are totally mundane, we liked the anonymity, we liked the way it looked and felt.
For your first musical foray, you’ve done it well. You’re touring the world and releasing a record on a major label.
We both try to keep isolated from the buzz around the project. We’re both committed to this as a long-term thing and we want to build this into a career. The core of the project is really DIY and it’s about our musical connection and not allowing other influences to affect us. I also have no idea why it worked out and I’m still blown away by the whole thing.
We spend a lot of time on that, and we started developing that as the same time we started making music. The Tumblr started as a mood board as we were passing music back and forth. I think visuals are incredibly important for an artist in 2013 as music is inevitably being listened to in an environment—it’s important to control that environment and create the world you want people to listen to your music in.
A summer tour all over the world—Australia, Europe and the U.S. That’s the next year and then hopefully we’ll start working on the second album.