It's a beautiful thing when the pieces fall into place. For Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow, the creative forces behind MS MR, the New York-based synth-pop duo currently supporting Grouplove on a nationwide tour, serendipity was strong at work during the band's inception. While studying at Vassar College, Plapinger having majored in media studies and Hershenow in urban studies, both members juggled extracurricular artistic endeavors that contributed to MS MR's direction. It was their academic pursuits, however, that were more key to the band's foundation than anything else.
"They sound like quite different focuses, but they were both interdisciplinary majors," Plapinger says. "The theory that we learned in college, especially about media and medium, really played a pretty important impact on the aesthetic and vision of the project."
That's not to discredit their art, however: Plapinger founded the renown Neon Gold record label with childhood friend Derek Davies, and Hershenow, a dancer, produced music to which he could choreograph. It wasn't until six months after their graduation that they came together to form MS MR, as relative strangers. In other contexts, such unfamiliarity could spell disaster, but it played well in the duo's favor.
"We didn't even know each other when we started making music, but the fact that we had that shared background sort of [led us to] a similar method and approach," Hershenow says. "It's not always the same way of thinking about things, but definitely a similar way of talking about them and approaching them. We didn't have to spend so much time talking about what we wanted it to sound like -- we could just really write the music and it just happened."
Making music that's as infectious and driving as MS MR's isn't a quick process. Of all the challenges a budding band can face, Plapinger and Hershenow found themselves up against an unlikely foe: themselves. The layered music they had written and recorded didn't translate to the stage without effort, an indication that they had capable material on their hands, even if getting it in front of people required finessing.
"When Max and I started writing the record, we didn't know what the project would become. So when we decided to start playing shows, [we had to figure out] how we were going to bring the vicious nature of the music to a live setting," Plapinger says. "We didn't want to do the two of us onstage with a laptop -- that would kind of undermine the music -- so immediately we knew we wanted to build a band around this project. It took a lot of time."
Though they formed four years ago, it took a full year and a half before they released any music. The pair was taking its time to hone a sound and learn the ropes. Plapinger and Hershenow are still growing, however, proving they're wildly capable with the resources they gather along the way.
"The challenge was that Max and I are very emotional and visceral writers, and that comes first, but we're not very technical," Plapinger says. "Sometimes we would have an idea and we knew what we wanted it to sound like but we didn't have the experience to know exactly how to execute it, and that was something we had to learn how to overcome in the process -- figuring it out on our own or learning it when we went through the mixing process. What we pride ourselves on is that we can achieve a lot without that technical capability."
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MS MR is scheduled to perform Wednesday, April 23, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.