An interview and exclusive photo giveaway with MS MR! The super excited duo are back – Lizzy and Max of MS MR spoke to KALTBLUT during their European tour to tell us all about their new album, psychedelic music videos and their love for Tumblr. See below for more details on how to get your hands on an original photo taken during the interview!
KALTBLUT: You’ve just touched down in Berlin, what have you been up to?
Lizzy: We’ve literally just come off the plane from Paris.
Max: Yeah, lunch and then here!
KALTBLUT: What was it like in Paris?
Max: We had an awesome show. We’ve always had fun there, but we haven’t been there for a year and you start to wonder if your memories are right – and they were!
Lizzy: Yeah, it was really, really good! Sometimes you hear that the Paris crowds can be a little tough, but they weren’t at all! They were dancing and singing along, especially when we were playing some of our new music.
KALTBLUT: Did the new songs go down well?
Lizzy: Yeah definitely! Like if it felt good to play new songs and see how people would react. Without sounding too arrogant about it, the new album has gone down incredibly well!
Max: I mean we can’t really tell if it’s just incredibly exciting because we get to play our new music, but it feels really right. When we were making the album we wanted to make the songs sound a little bit more immediate, like we want you to just go for it and dance. But I mean you don’t know if those songs have really succeeded until you’ve played them, and so far it’s been good! By the end of the song people are trying to sing along to a song they don’t even know the words to! – even in a language they don’t know!
Lizzy: I think after being on the road for so long we got good about articulating about how we wanted to feel on stage and about how we wanted the audience to feel, so being able to demonstrate that on stage by making the songs live, they feel better in that setting.
KALTBLUT: How was it at SXSW?
Max: SXSW is always fun but it’s a bit of a disaster. Every band plays six or seven shows and everyone is just running around trying to throw things together.
Lizzy: [Laughs] Yeah, there’s no sound check. It’s just plug in and go! It ‘s like a high pressure show because there’s lots of press and you want to make sure you sound great but don’t really have the time to prepare, but you go for it anyway. I mean this year was great, it was our third year playing, so starting from playing so many shows in our first year, to then playing only a few but in bigger venues you kind of feel like you earned your stripes. It’s like a luxury!
KALTBLUT: What was it like working on your new album? Did you work with anyone else or was it just the two of you?
Max: It was pretty much just the two of us. We brought in our drummer Zach to help produce the majority of the album, but we really stripped it back again and found it was best to complete the DIY idea we had with the first album. We rented a place in Brooklyn and just had a laptop, a few synths, a keyboard and just sort of hashed it out for three or four months. During that time I really think we got the majority of the album and focused on what we wanted to be. We got back in touch with our sound and worked from there.
KALTBLUT: Do you find it easier working in an enclosed space like that?
Lizzy: I think so, for us we don’t like the pressure of being in somewhere that’s too fancy or spending so much money in a studio. It’s more about who is in the room and focus purely on the song itself. There’s something more free and creative working in a space without so many distractions. The room that we were in was nothing specal at all. It was pretty much as close as we could get to something like a spare room! Just like the place we made the first record. Except this time there was no window [Laughs].
Max: [Laughs] It got really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter, but you know, we liked it.
Lizzy: With that type of environment you can really envision the sound. It’s like more concentrated.
Max: Yeah, and with our approach of making ourselves write a song every day we managed the balance of curiosity and intentionally setting out a goal.
Lizzy: And allowing ourselves to be emotionally more involved. We’re incredibly visceral writers so to be in the room and ask each other how we feel about it, it really helped the process. So yeah, we were in that room for four months and when we reached the end of making the record we felt we hit a brick wall, so it was at that point we thought that we were confident enough to consider experimenting with different people. So that’s when we did our first co-write and it couldn’t have gone better! It was my first experience co-writing with someone else, and it was our first experience as a band. It was great. They really pushed us and made us feel really great about ourselves, and it’s one of our favourite songs on the record called ‘Criminals’. We also did a song with Tove Lo over email, which was also great as an experiment!
KALTBLUT: How was it working with Tove Lo?
Max: Well she’s great as a professional writer, she’s a super pro and genius with her melodies. So we sent her a track we wrote and she sent back some melody ideas and then we sent back some lyric ideas and so on. It was really easy and she’s such a delight, like every email she wrote back would include about how excited she was!
Lizzy: And it was really exciting and respectful of each others ideas. It was nice to question one anothers vision. It’s a beautiful song. It’s great to get a different persepective. We also did another song called ‘Tripolar’ and we absolutely fucking loved it! We thought the song is really good but it could be better, and none of us knew how to push it forward. So we’ve always been big fans of MNDR and we were talking to her about the song and she said to send it over and pretty much gave us some great ideas for the chorus and that was it! That night we went over it a couple of hours, made some changes and there was suddenly this spark it was amazing.
Max: I mean we were selective about who we worked with, but they were all people we loved and admired.
Lizzy: I think what I was particularly sensitive about with co-writes was that my perception of the pop industry is that everyone has their songs written for them and there a certain loss of sincerity and authenticity, and that’s really off putting to both of us. But it wasn’t that, it was something we both decided that would be fun because we picked these people ourselves.
Max: I think that a lot of artists do a lot of co-writes in the music industry anyway. It’s funny because people will do these projects and then write for other people. There’s a lot of back and forth to it. You know, it’s cool that people will be featured on songs because it’s just friendships being musically expressed.
Lizzy: I think as long as you get the balance right, it’s great. Having not growing up and being in lots of bands I think it’s important to work with other people because sometimes you need people to push you.
KALTBLUT: Lizzy, you were brought up in London is that right?
Lizzy: Yes! Born and raised! London is awesome.
KALTBLUT: You don’t sound like you’re from London at all!
Lizzy: I know I know. I wish I did! My parents were American and I went to an American school.
Max: I mean, she’s cute now but she could’ve been way cuter! [Laughs] With her little British accent. But it’s fine!
[Lizzy does her best impression of a Cockney accent] Lizzy: Ohright, ohright!
KALTBLUT: So you both met at college?
Max: Yeah we met at the liberal arts college in New York but we weren’t really friends to start off with. In fact the first time we met was our first session together. it could’ve really gone to shit, but we pulled it together! Definitely had a creative spark.
Lizzy: It was really fun doing the first record and not really knowing one another well. I had started a record label at school called Neon Gold and Max was dancing at the time, and then went onto modern dance. So he was producing music for his dancing.
Max: Yeah I was really sick of dancing because it got super intense so I looked more into music production. And Lizzy and I had been talking about music productions at school, so we were both kind of at the same level. We just recognised that creative curiosity and went with it! There’s such satisfaction creating something from nothing, and looking at how we started four years ago comparing it to now it’s just incredible.
KALTBLUT: You released your first EP on Tumblr, were you worried about it being released on that platform?
Lizzy: No because that’s when we were really just writing for us for months and had no plan really. So when we finally had a collection of songs we thought why not release it on there and see what happens! You make music to share with other people, and we thought the Tumblr idea was really fucking cool because at that point we hadn’t seen anyone else do it. It was kind of unique. We shared one track at a time and each song had a remix or a video.
Max: We were talking yesterday about how some of this stuff now is really boring on the internet, but just four years ago it was something completely different!
Lizzy: The Tumblr platform was such a great way to communicate ourselves as visual artists and musicians, to use it as a multimedia platform. It really reinforced the music. I’m so proud of that project! It was such a fun way for us to collaborate with different visual artists and people to do remixes.
KALTBLUT: Is that where you normally find the directors for your videos?
Max: Yes and no. The director for something like ‘Hurricane’ was found through the record label. It really becomes quite fun finding new directors for your videos because you throw out all of these ideas and then you’ll just get one that really fits.
Lizzy: We love the visuals so much! We love the fine arts and sci-fi and combining it all. It’s exciting to be more than just a musician. I love that each video has something specific that you remember about it. It shows parts of your artistic vision. ‘Painted’ really took on a cinematic tone compared to the other videos.
Max: I think it just shows progression and development of our music and vision.
Lizzy: It’s surreal and cinematic, seductive but just a little off putting. And I think we love all those sort of contradictions.
Max: I hope people are just getting stoned and watching these. [Laughs]
‘How Does It Feel’ is out now on Columbia Records!
Photography by Michelle Hèlena Janssen & Nicola Phillips