MS MR's Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow answered the phone from Kansas City, Missouri, when we called them earlier this week. They were far from their native New York, but admitted the audience appeal of Kansas City makes it one of their favorite places to play. This city has always been a place the pop-duo relied on for some of the most energetic crowds, but their latest release How Does It Feel has built a buzz the artists have been feeling at every stop of their tour.
"So much of the crowd has seen us 3, 4, or 7 times maybe, so it feels like we're really reconnecting with our core fan base," says producer Max Hershenow.
After touring for their debut album Secondhand Rapture for over three years, MS MR kept in mind the growing crowds when writing their sophomore release. Lead singer Lizzy Plapinger told us she wanted this album to be more dance-oriented, and the two agree on their success in that aspect.
"Whether it's dancing as if you were in a club or grinding with the person next to you in more of a sensual slow dance, I think there's a variety of movement on the record, and it's been awesome seeing that in real-time at the shows."
Plapinger thinks it's also the pair's stage presence that connects them to their fans. She said both the performers become completely engulfed in their performances, where moving from start to finish is inevitable for them. We could easily picture this energy after seeing the chemistry between the two artists; but don't mistake them for the male-female, boyfriend-girlfriend act you may have seen in the past.This chemistry is platonic and natural. Their shared artistic energy bonded them in a way that overpowers any potential differences, especially since the two were complete strangers attending Vassar College before beginning MS MR. Sooner or later the two students wound up in a class together, but it wasn't until post graduation when Hershenow reached out Plapinger hoping her connections with her label would help him find a singer to work with. Neither Plapinger or Hershenow knew that she would be that singer, or that they'd be where they are today.
"Considering we weren't friends before we started this project, and now we've been every single day with one another and you know it could've gone horribly wrong, it worked out really, really well," Hershenow told us.
They compliment one another and even have similar imaginations. Plapinger said this really influences their use of visuals and psychedelic images you can find in their videos, live performances, or their active Tumblr blog, msmrmusic.tumblr.com.
"For us, we're just inherently visual people," she said. "To find ourselves as not only musicians but as artists as well, you have sort of a clearer sense of self, and a surreal and psychedelic world...we want to make you apart of it and really experience our music."
She also attributes this visual side to her love for film. Plapinger calls herself a film buff, and she's known to spend hours watching films. She incorporates her passion for film with her music, and that became clear to us in watching the band's videos. Hershenow explained how the video to their single "Painted," was inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it's often that inspiration for videos stems from a film. Plapinger's favorite video is actually off of Secondhand Rapture, "Think of You." It was inspired by a 70's public-access television show called "TV Party," and Plapinger's goal was to make a video that recreated how she imagined "TV Party" would be today. To portray this idea, Plapinger felt that the best move was to collaborate. In the video you can see MS MR and friends through a retro old television with 70s and 80s basic cable references flashing with trippy effects.
"All of our friends, sort of like different genres of bands and all walks of life came together and different industries came together to put that video together, so it feels like such an awesome slice of life and our world and community in New York, so I really love that one," she told us.
New York played a leading role in creating How Does It Feel. To record this album, MS MR rented a room in Bushwick and spent everyday writing at least one song. This went on for about three or four months, when the band chose the songs they were most excited about to create the final product of How Does It Feel that we've heard.
"It was fun to just force ourselves to write and be creative and try something new everyday," Plapinger said. She told me the writing process was "fluid" despite that she wrote most of the lyrics and melodies while Hershenow is behind all the production. The two would be writing and creating in the same room, working with one another in both of their writing processes before agreeing on a final product. After spending so much time on this record, the Brooklynites aren't even thinking about what's to come next, only hoping to make the most of what they're created now.
"We want to share it with as many people as we can, and enjoy it as long as we can, and get as many people to hear it as we can. It's crowning moment is seeing it live."