“You can’t wait for the gatekeepers to give you permission. Don’t wait till you get a record deal to start making music.”
Born in Idaho and raised throughout Latin America, Max Hershenow is an LA-based music producer and one-half of the electro-pop duo MS MR.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
“In my current life as a music producer, I wake up, I eat some oatmeal… I go straight to the studio and I work on some songs that I’ve written before and need to do production on. Then I go to the gym. And then someone comes over – I work with artists from all over the world – and we write a song, usually until early evening. Just however long it takes for the song to come. And then I go out at night.”
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve experienced in your career?
“That’s a hard one. It’s been a series of incredible moments. Playing the mainstage at Coachella. The first time I went to Australia – to have 15,000 people singing your song? I was really overwhelmed. And more recently, the feeling of being more independent with my perspective and my approach has been sort of a new moment. Moving from an era of naïve curiosity and some sort of divine inspiration to a period of mastery and expertise. It’s such a rewarding feeling.”
Who inspires you most as an artist?
“I love Charli. Her support and her feedback are invaluable to me. She’s really engaged and articulate with her criticism. Her own perspective – and, of course, her career – is really, really inspiring. Musically, I love Robyn. I really love Jamie XX. I think he’s incredible.”
Of all the artists you’ve worked with, who are some of your favorites?
“Alex Winston, an amazing singer. We have a little project together that’s called Post Precious that’s really fun. Ryn Weaver, an amazing writer and singer. Charli XCX, my roommate – we love writing together. Those are some really solid ones.”
What are your favorite parts of LA?
“I love the queer community here. It’s extraordinary. The nightlife is incredible. In most other places that I’ve lived it’s quite economically stratified and in our queer world here, it feels like there are bona fide pop stars and down-and-out drag queens who can barely pull it together to get an outfit together on Tuesday night, and everyone in between, and it’s a really integrated group of friends. There’s something special about that. I love the music community here. In my specific community, there’s a group of maybe six or ten of us who are really tight and really successful and supportive of one another. And in an era of transition in the music industry where traditional players and institutions aren’t actually in support for long term necessarily, to be part of a friend group that works together and provides for each other – that’s my long-term career right there.”
How would you describe your own personal style?
“My own personal style has evolved over the years. I think when I was in MS MR it was quite elaborate. We were really intent on being really over the top all the time. And it was super fun. And now that I’ve sort of matured and am not on stage quite as often, I’ve settled into something a little more refined. I’m aiming for something a little bit futuristic and Star Trekkie. I always wear turtlenecks but quite elegant. I like the idea of having a standard uniform that works in every situation.”
What are your favorite AA items?
“Can I go old? I had the Kesh collaboration – the leggings and the shirt – that I wore on stage and they looked so good. All through college I wore V-necks in the 50/25/25 classic. And then, the women’s Disco Pants I wore on stage for a while and they looked really good because they were so shiny. I had them in black and white with the stripe, and the red. My bandmate Lizzy and I would share the same Disco Pants.”
Any advice for younger queer artists?
“The most important lesson for me that I’m consistently reminded of is that to do the work that you want to make, to do it well, and to do it in a genuine way, you can’t wait for gatekeepers to give you permission. And on every level. Even as I’ve become more established and have these contacts and connections, or back when I didn’t know anyone and didn’t know what I was doing, the most important thing is just to do and to create and to trust that something will follow. And to really focus on the short term of it. For me, it’s never been about trying to get somewhere or trying to achieve something. Everything that I have achieved has felt secondary to the actual work itself. The practice of making it is an incredibly gratifying thing and an addictive thing. So committing fully to that – as a queer person, but as any kind of artist – that’s the main thing. Don’t wait till you get a record deal to start making music. That’s absurd.”
To learn more about Max, follow him on Instagram via @alexmaax