It feels good for the superstars of chillwave

Ed Power hears how Game of Thrones propelled electronic duo Ms Mr into the big-time

Game of Thrones is one of the world’s most popular television shows. So when New York electronic duo Ms Mr learned their song ‘Bones’ was in the running for a publicity campaign for the series they were naturally chuffed. Still, they never imagined the imprimatur of the saga would transform their career to the extent it has.

“We knew we were under consideration,” says singer Lizzy Plapinger. “We didn’t know for sure that we’d been picked until we saw it on TV. Of course, we freaked out. Game Of Thrones is something the two of us watch together. What an incredible – and credible – look for us. To this day people come up to me and say ‘I got into your band through Game Of Thrones.”

Equal parts New York Fashion Week and Low East Side art “happening”, Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow have struck upon a golden formula. As the face of Ms Mr, Plapinger brings pop goddess swagger, to which Hershenow adds quicksilver beats and shimmering melodies. As ‘Bones’ demonstrated, at its best the formula is brooding, catchy – and irresistible.

“The music is an extension of our personalities,” says Plapinger. “We are both experienced stage performers, whether that be a background in dance [Plapinger] or acting [Hershenow]. To me, Max is like a husband/brother – we’ll quibble now and then, but only to the degree you would with family.”

On the back of ‘Bones’, Ms Mr’s debut album, Secondhand Rapture, became a significant success and they went on to perform to sell-out audiences across the globe, including at Dublin’s Academy in 2013 (they’re back for an Electric Picnic gig next week). When it was time to record a follow-up, however, they were initially at a loss how to proceed.

Their first inclination was to veer into a completely new direction. This lead down a creative cut-de-sac. In the end, their second LP, How Does It Feel, represented an evolution rather than a new beginning.

“The hardest part of the process was acknowledging the sound and the style that had established us in the first place,” says Plapinger. “At first we did something completely different. As we went along in the process it dawned on us that we didn’t’ need to reinvent the wheel. In the end, we ended up at a halfway point– striking a balance between what we were known for with Secondhand Rapture and our desire to try something different.”

Plapinger and Hershenow met at Vassar College, a storied university in upstate New York (graduates include Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Jane Fonda). Plapinger, who grew up in London to well-to-do American parents, was already running her own label, Neon Gold. In Hershenow she found her musical soul mate –– like her he wanted to write songs both artistically credible, yet with the potential to appeal to a wide audience.

“Secondhand Rapture was the first collection we’d put together,” she says. “Everything was a learning experience. I never allowed myself to dream we would ever be in the position we ultimately found ourselves in. That said, we are also incredibly ambitious and realise how lucky we are. We take nothing for granted.”

The biggest departure on How Does It Feel is the contribution of co-writers such as Swedish vocalist Tove Lo and MNDR,a producer and singer from America. Bands are often pressured by their labels into working with outsiders. In this case, the impetus originated with Plapinger and Hershenow.

“We’re really proud of writing our own material. However, after being in the studio for some period we felt we were at a tipping point. We needed to shake things up, change them around. So we thought – let’s bring in outside writers as an experiment. If we don’t like the results we don’t have to use it. In the end, it proved a fantastic idea. Some of my favourite tracks on the record are co-writes.”

How Does It Feel is out now. Ms Mr perform at Electric Picnic, Stradbally Friday September 4.


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