Making their way into the spotlight only two years ago, Ms Mr has drawn a lot of attention on their style and their talent. Jay-Z is a fan, and every 'Game of Thrones' fan has heard their song 'Bones' in the second season’s trailer of HBO’s phenomenon. Mixing 80’s electronic sounds to modern-day pop music, Ms Mr has found a way to stand out and speak to a wider audience, with chilling melodies and wonderful vocals.
Words by Sam Afadama, photos by Alexis Chabala
Who are they? Lizzy Plapinger is Ms. Max Hershenow is Mr. Together, they form the band Ms Mr. They prefer anonymity to fame, modesty to glitter and challenges to comfort. They met after their uni’s graduation in New York City. At the time, Lizzy ran Neon Gold, an independent record label. Max, on the other hand, was writing and producing music. Ultimately, they were bound to work together: a month after their first first ‘tryout’ session, ‘Bones’ was written. Alongside came ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Hurricane’, soon followed by their first EP ‘Candy Bar Creep Show’. They are back today to talk about their new album: ‘Second Hand Rapture’.
Do you work on lyrics together? Or are you complementary — is one more keen on music and the other on lyrics?
MR: On most recent records, we wrote everything together. We are very easy about the process — other songs come, even when we’re not in the process of writing anything.
Was your first album produced by your own independent record label?
MS: Well, we wrote and did everything ourselves. We wrote a bunch of songs and picked our top four. We then uploaded it online, no tags, no nothing and kept our identity. We did not want people to know who we were. After a month we started receiving emails and phone calls from record labels, managers and producers! We emailed back, but still in all anonymity — we didn’t attach our names and refused every face to face interview. We did not want people to see what we look like, because we did not want it to influence people’s experience.
“WE DID NOT WANT PEOPLE TO SEE WHAT WE LOOK LIKE BECAUSE WE DID NOT WANT IT TO INFLUENCE PEOPLE'S EXPERIENCE.”
Your first song was a success, are you under pressure to do better?
MS: Instead of getting caught in the pressure of it, we think we constantly need to prove something. I am a much better singer than I was two years ago, and Max is a better producer than he was two years ago. We have both evolved. The second album is more about being international, more articulate in our sound and vision. Our lyrics allowed us to be more upfront and direct about our music. Maybe we were nervous then, but there is still a curiosity to experiment and have fun — this is what we are proud of in our new album.
MR: Yes, I think it’s more pop, more direct, but still dramatic and dark. Our fans have been really open-minded about it, they sort of recognise this is not what they expected, but they still like it and that’s a nice response.
Do you think the evolving in the music industry is a good thing?
MS: I love the way music is evolving. I think the industry's part is not figured out yet, there are good things, but there are more problems with the business side of it. The music has been incredible and 2015 has been a sensational year for music, even if we just focus on London’s music scene.
MR: There is so much music being created and people have a much easier access to it. But before, people were coming with albums that were so sonically rich that the general population was prime to listen to music — they could pull from this journal. The internet is causing a lot of problems for the music industry and professional song-writers make no money anymore, because they’ve been scalped.
Do you tour a lot?
MS: We have a background and a story. We worked with a team that believed in the power of touring and building your fan base that way. So we have been grinding on the road for five years and now we actually like it. It’s been really tough in the beginning, but with a lot of work and time, we now have earned our stripe and comfort on the road.
What are you hoping for with this new album?
MS: That it takes us to another level — that it reaches more people so we can play in bigger rooms and get better festivals to expand and evolve.
How would you define your relationship?
MS: We started as strangers and now, we are like the other half of the same mind. It betters us to be in this together and to be having fun. We didn’t originally see ourselves as a band — the relationship developed organically.
So are you a couple?
MS & MR: People tend to think we are a couple or that we are brother and sister — they can’t really tell.
‘Fantasy’ — what’s the story behind this song?
MS: I fell in love with this guy. I thought he was into it and that we were heading towards something great. I came to London and he was on a date with another girl… I felt mislead. Like, I didn’t really know if he had lead me along or if I had made this into something it was not. I then wondered if it was just a fantasy. Well today we work together and he is married to someone else (laughs).
On a final note, did you like the picture I saw in Interview magazine?.
MS: My mother was disturbed by it. I thought she liked it, but she told me "I’ve never seen you and Max looking the same". It kind of freaked her out.