When on stage, Max Hershenow isn’t just playing his synthesizer. “We like to play with gender roles,” says half of the pop duo MS MR. “There’s definitely a profound queerness that is part of both of us, especially with Lizzy. She identifies as straight, but has this masculine energy at times. It’s exciting for both of us to feel the fluidity of going back and forth between these masculine and feminine moments, and playing with those expectations on stage.”
Since 2011, MS MR has delighted audiences with their singular brand of gender-bending, fast moving pop. The Brooklyn-based band might seem small — with Lizzy Plapinger on vocals and Hershenow on keyboard — but their sound isn’t. Their sophomore album How Does It Feel, released earlier this summer, is the result of a tight partnership between Plapinger and Hershenow. “Every song starts in a different way,” Hershenow says. “Some songs, Lizzy starts with a little melody, or a lyric, and I’ll build a track on top of that. For How Does It Feel, we built all the songs in a studio in Bushwick. It was cool because every day someone would come in with a new idea.”
With relentless vocals and high-powered synth, MS MR demands the listener’s attention. In “Painted,” the first track of How Does it Feel, we’re bombarded by Plapinger’s sexy alto belt, which lays perfectly on top of Hershenow’s repetitive chord progression. The way the two performers compliment each other is uncanny. In fact, How Does It Feel sounds less like an album, and more like a conversation between two old friends.
They are taking their high-energy pop anthems on the road, and, according to Hershenow, it’s the best way to experience them. “When we wrote the first record, we had never really written music before and we weren’t really thinking about it as a live performance,” he says. “When we wrote the second album, we wanted to approach it with a live show in mind.” — Connor J. Hogan
MS MR appears next Thursday, October 1st at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St NW. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, visit 930.com.
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