New York's MS MR works on that invisible line between fashion and art. Their music is “trendy,” in the way it superficially resembles a kind of indie-electro-pop style that has become ubiquitous over the past half-decade. But their debut album Secondhand Rapture also shows a love of different, sometimes disparate genres (“Dark Doo Wop” is no idle title) and experimentation.

Chalk it up to the different approaches of the MS MR duo; production half Max Hershenow comes from a background of classical training he has worked to free himself of, while vocalist Lizzy Plapinger lacks any training but can approach music without the second-guessing that invades the mind with too much academic experience. We spoke to MS MR about that and more in a recent interview.

Has MS MR been a constant concern since it started taking off, like a wrapped video shoot leads right into a TV spot, which leads into a tour ...

MAX: Yeah, there’s always something else on the horizon. For the past two months every day something different has happened, new opportunities for us, and that’s an exciting place to be.

Before I even heard your music I was struck by your visual presentation, particularly the strong sense of fashion you both possess. Is that something you’ve always had?

LIZZY: It’s true to us. It’s a natural extension of our personalities, just like the music. We like being as outlandish and out there as possible, and the more mixing of colours and styles, the better. And we’re both visually obsessive. Music comes first but there is a great chance to show it from a visual perspective.

MAX: You do have to have a fully formed identity, we realized that, so it wasn’t something forced upon us by a label or anything. We were both just inclined to it.

Has being in MS MR been the most serious or in-depth musical work for the both of you?

LIZZY: I didn’t really write music properly with anyone before working with Max.

MAX: I was in a pop duo in college, we put out some demoes. I started production while working in dance: writing music to choreograph to.

What do each of you bring to MS MR in terms of different musical taste?

LIZZY: We’re always trying to push each other into different genres. I have a greater (affinity for) punk, electronic, and R&B, while Max comes from a more “classic” background of singer-songwriter / rock / folk ... but he has the most pure appreciation of pop music of anyone I know, and that’s where our interests overlap.

We wrote a pure country song once. We really loved it, but it didn’t work for MS MR. But it did lead us to writing (the more fitting) “Head is Not My Home.”

MAX: I have some musical theory behind me, to the point where I have felt constrained by it — feeling like I always have to fall back on the same chord progressions. Lizzy came in with her own innate musical talent. She has a visceral reaction to music without the theory.

What was the first, clear sign the partnership was working?

MAX: Probably “Bones” ... that was the first song we wrote. We both sat back and realized there was something there. It made us excited to continue forward.

What’s been the greatest challenge or obstacle so far?

LIZZY: The challenges we face aren’t internal, like between Max and I, but more so being the face and personalities behind what we’re doing without making it “about us.” Giving people enough insight on what you’re doing to do the music justice, but not making it a personality-driven project. It’s a fine line between opening up and sharing too much. I hope we are never put in front of the music in that way. That’s something we’re still figuring out: how many interviews to do, who to do them with. We got some flak in the beginning for being (initially) anonymous and not having photos out there.

Not everyone can be Daft Punk.

LIZZY: [laughs] I don’t want to be Daft Punk, either! I do want people to know who we are. But I admire acts like LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire, who could put a face to their music but not make it more about them than the music. That’s what I mean.

MS MR will return to Canada this fall. Full dates of their North American tour are viewable here.

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