You might not be familiar with pop duo MS MR yet, and if that’s the case then please hang your head in shame and go and find the nearest soundcloud link. Better acquainted now? Good. Let’s begin. New Yorker’s MS MR – Lizzy and Max – first popped up on our radar earlier this year when their debut release ‘Hurricane’ hit number one on Hype Machine and was named ‘Hottest Record’ by Zane Lowe. Since then they’ve found fans in Jay-Z and Grimmy, with ‘Hurricane’ even personally chosen by Tom Ford for his Spring Summer presentations at this September’s Fashion Week. Not bad. Hunger TV catch up with the band on their whistle-stop tour of the UK ahead of their debut album release in May to talk Tumblr, Lana Del Rey and fist-pumping.
TELL US HOW THE BAND STARTED?
MAX: We met in college in Upstate New York but we didn’t really know each other and weren’t friends straight away. We had a few classes together but that was about it. I’ve been writing music for a long time, but it was very DIY. Then after graduation Lizzy started a record label and I emailed and said that I was working as a waiter in a restaurant and wanted to keep exploring music.
LIZZY: Working as a waiter is a rite of passage as a musician!
Max: It is! So I asked if she had any areas that needed developing or if she needed a producer to help out. We started working together, and got talking about how she had been writing music but was too afraid to show it to anyone so I took a look at it. If I didn’t like it wouldn’t matter because we weren’t really friends at that stage, but luckily I really liked it, and so we got together the following December, in 2010 and recorded some covers which we thought was a good way to start. Recording our first piece of music was terrifying though, we didn’t really know what to expect.
LIZZY: It was scary but we got along and it ended up being a fun session. It was before the Christmas holidays so we went our separate ways and I listened to the recordings a lot and that it was something that was worth exploring more. That was the kernel that would become our recording careers, and after that we decided to try our hand at some original material. We took it a track at a time, but didn’t think of the greater concept – we never referred to ourselves as a band.
WHY DO YOU TWO GEL SO WELL?
LIZZY: It’s one of the greatest mysteries! We don’t have identical tastes in music or anything like that, but I do think we have similar work ethics. And because we were both starting out we were very supportive of each other, our music isn’t about ego.
THE BAND STARTED OFF VERY SECRETIVELY, THERE WAS VERY LITTLE PRESS AROUND WHO YOU WERE, WAS THIS INTENTIONAL?
MAX: I t was absolutely intentional but it was never supposed to be a marketing gimmick, we didn’t want to create a buzz about this mystery band and then do a big reveal, it was more that we wanted to be known as musicians first, we wanted the music to be the first thing that people were drawn to. The visual arts are an extension of the music but it was really important to have people respond to the music. We’re making pop music, that’s what we do but neither of us are really interested in the idea of celebrity or image.
LIZZY: It was definitely a conscious decision, I’ve never regretted it and I think it’s worked out well for us. We never wanted to stay anonymous and we wanted to step in the limelight gradually. We never wanted a big reveal, like ‘here are the faces behind he song, ta-da’ it had to happen organically.
MAX: There’s also an element of protecting ourselves, we haven’t done this before so we didn’t know what to expect and wanted to have time to nurture our sound. It gave us more freedom.
THE ART DIRECTION IS INTRINSIC TO YOU AS A BAND. DO YOU DO IT ALL YOURSELVES?
LIZZY: Absolutely, it all comes from us. We’ve been directing all of the imagery, whether video, Tumblr, whatever. As Max said it’s really important to us that the music comes first but we’re also artists and to be a well rounded artists you need to put what you’re creating in a context and for us the visuals totally align with our vision for the music. We’re interested in mixed medium, collage aesthetic and given the generation that we’re apart of – the Tumblr age – it works.!
MAX: I think the process is the same for us, writing the music we threw together so many different ideas, and didn’t really know how it would sound until we were finished. There were so many divergent strands that came together at the end and I think that’s also true of our visuals. We use the T umblr page like a mood board and pin our ideas to it. When we need to communicate a visual idea to someone we direct them to our Tumblr.
LIZZY: It seems more scatterbrain that it is though! There is more thought behind it than maybe is necessarily apparent but when we start thinking about album art and video ideas we have something to pull from.
THE FIRST VIDEO WAS COMPARED TO LANA DEL REY’S ‘VIDEO GAMES ‘– DID YOU EXPECT THIS?
LIZZY: No, I don’t think we really over thought how we would be perceived. We thought that the video was a nice introduction to us because it’s everything and nothing all at once.
MAX: There are so many images in the video for ‘Hurricane’ that everyone draws their own narrative from it. Every time you watch it a new story emerges and I think that’s what’s exciting and cool. But in terms of the comparison we never really thought of the video in that way.
LIZZY:I understand the comparison to Lana, particularly to ‘Video Games’ as she uses cut together footage also but it doesn’t seem that apparent to me, it doesn’t bother us.
MAX: What’s funny is that we didn’t get any musical comparisons to Lana Del Rey until the video came out and then people kept saying that we sound like Lana but I don’t see it. I’m interested in everyone’s interpretation of our sound though so we don’t take it badly. But we weren’t influenced by her.
WOULD YOU BE AS SUCCESSFUL WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA?
LIZZY: I would hope that the music would shine through but honestly I don’t think that we would be.
MAX: But I don’t think we would have known how to do it any other way , this is how we maintain control as well.
LIZZY: We’re very protective of ourselves. The music comes from us, the art direction comes from us. We want to own everything, and having social media outlets puts us in the driving seat as opposed to the label, which is a rare position in the music industry in general. To have a strong social media base is powerful for us.
Check Hunger TV tomorrow for part two.
Ms Mr play Manchester and London tonight and tomorrow as part of their Popilepsy tour. Get tickets here and here.