By Charis McGowan
Ms Mr are New Yorkers Lizzie Plapinger and Max Hershenow, who have been hyped as one of the best new acts to emerge in 2013. They are a self described ‘pop’ band yet have all the grit and lyrical despair of the XX, combined with dance beats and melodic vocals. The Telegraph catches up with the Max just before their Oran Mor gig on the 20th November to talk about musical influences, upcoming plans and …Beyoncé.
This is your only Scottish date, so thanks for popping up to see us. Your coming to an end of a European headline tour, how are you finding it?
Great, really good time. This is our last week. We have been on tour for about two years and we have two months off after this. So really ready to get home, eyes are on the price. But still enjoying the shows, definitely the highlight of each day.
Is playing gig in the UK very different to the states?
Honestly I don’t think so, wherever we are in the world the shows feel pretty consistent, there is the same amount of energy. I feel it varies more from city to city than it does country to country. It is similar to play New York or London; they have the same too cool vibe that is harder to break in. It’s honestly just awesome to play both and to travel the world.
You put a lot of attention to creative and visual elements, which has been described as ‘grungy glamorous’. You have been innovators in using tumblr and accompanying each track of your album with video footage. Do you consider the music and the visuals as one creative outlet, or rather as separate ones?
I think the music definitely comes first. I remember reading an article about Lady Gaga and she said something about imagining an outfit to wear before writing a song and we don’t do that. Everything we have done is music first. But I think we are both really visually motivated people, who are artistically inclined. We were both fine artists before we did this so I think that was a natural extension of our music interests. We realized that we had the opportunity to expand the project and the whole visuals became a bit more cohesive.
The audio and visuals definitely complement each other; you describe yourself as pop band but have darker lyrics, which kind of ties in to this grunge glamour aesthetic…
Yeah we like to play with the high and low ground. I think in the music there is a lot of really unexpected elements we combine and you put this veneer of yourself over it. The process is the same in terms of the visuals.
Max, you’re from Idaho, and I know Lizzie was raised in London… though both of you are proud of being based in New York and have identified yourselves to the city. Has NY and music from the city had a big effect on your sounds?
I think definitely. We are proud to be part of this long tradition of New York musicians, and there is a certain sense of obligation. I don’t think the record could have been written in any other place, there is certainly a New York quality about it… a New York sort of pluckiness, which would be difficult to achieve without being surrounded by the people that we are surrounded with. We have a really incredible group of friends who are all artists that just want to make stuff happen. When we were doing our first demos we had a friend who mixed them, which is probably how we got signed. That’s the sort of thing that I couldn’t imagine doing in any other place. So yeah, very proud of being a New Yorker.
Any New York artists in particular who influence you or is it more the scene in general?
More about the scene, we struggle with the question of influence. It’s not that literal, when we write a song we don’t think of one particular one artist. We are fascinated by the 70s era, or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, that lower Manhattan grunge scene. Though I don’t think one place would necessarily influence us, we get our influences from all over the world.
At this point Lizzie joins us
Max: It’s Lizzie! We we’re just talking about New York influences
Lizzie: Musicians? James Murphy, Def Hynes, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Francis and the Lights.
A lot of people here to compare you to British bands like the XX or Florence, what do you think of that?
L: Max is a great Anglophile, he loves British music and I was born and raised in the UK, so think it was inevitable that there would be an element Britishness in the music.
Are there any Scottish artists that you like?
L: Shirley Manson, she’s the ultimate. Chvrches.
I was about the mention the Chvrches remix of your single ‘Hurricane’, have you heard it?
M: Yeah! It’s one of our favorite remixes
L: And Lauren (lead singer of Chvrches) did this article for the Guardian. Women and Music, its really good. You should check it out.
Max, you come from a dance background would you ever consider implementing dance into a Ms Mr gig?
M: We implement it every night!
L: We do, its true
M: I can barely stand behind the keyboard. As a keyboardist, it gets a little boring. Honestly, so many keyboardists just stand there and I can’t stop my dancing feet! We are always looking for moments to dance more. I never wanted to be a guitarist except when I started playing live. I felt like ‘I can’t move anymore’ – its so frustrating. I wanted to get a keytar but Lizzie wouldn’t let me.
You have experienced rollercoaster ride of a journey since your EP was released last year. I read an interview with you from last spring and it seemed you were in a state of shock! Are you both getting used to the recognition of the music yet?
L: I don’t feel in shock, I feel so focused on what’s happening… we are just so in a bubble
M: The bubble is a cliché but it really is, your both insanely focused on one thing but also a bit out of it. We don’t pay that much attention to what’s going on outside the bubble, for better or worse. I’m worried that all this emotional stuff will come now we have a break scheduled.
L: Yeah we’re so ready. For us to have a serious break coming up is what we are focused on.
With the release of the album in May, some stellar festival performances in the summer, and extensive fall touring, it’s been a great 2013 for you. Do you have any plans yet for the next year?
L: Honestly, a lot of its going to be in the US.
Alright, but don’t forget about us here!
L: No! Not at all, but this is our 7th time back here and while this campaign is sort of winding up it is really kicking off in the states – its perfect timing. We gave Europe as much attention as we could and we are so lucky that we even got to be here this often. Now to be back in the States… you want to be a hometown hero, and it’s hard to break in to the US. ‘Hurricane’ has been on radio for about 50 weeks and we just got to number 8 in the alternative charts, which is a huge deal. So, we plan just to be in the states and focus on writing.
M: We’re going to put our foot down a bit in regards to touring – this year we said yes to everything. We are learning to be a bit choosier next year so we can have time to write and feel like we are writing a record that we are happy with.
Finally, almost every interview I read about you guys you mention Beyoncé-
L: True. And you know what I actually don’t think we talked about her enough recently.
M: Yeah I think she’s not as big of a star in Europe. In US, she is literally the biggest star in the world.
Do you prefer her solo stuff of her Destiny’s Child stuff?
L: I don’t think you have to pick.
M: I like them in tandem
L: I do too
M: I like going back and forth… There isn’t that much destiny’s child stuff
L: There’s a lot more Beyoncé stuff. There are four Beyoncé albums… and two DC ones.
I think they had three albums*.
L: ‘Destiny’s Child’, ‘Writings on the Wall’… Your right they had a comeback album…
L: Yeah! and ‘Independent Women…’
M: A lot of hits. I really don’t distinguish between the two…
L: Me neither. It’s all Beyoncé!
*They had four albums.