The members of New York-based duo MS MR consider themselves true pop artists—beyond just making music. According to front woman Lizzy Plapinger, the tracks on MS MR’s debut album, Secondhand Rapture (Columbia), play just one part in a kaleidoscopic multimedia “cultural collage” that also includes a Tumblr page and videos, all shot through with the band’s twisted sensibility. “We love the idea of dark, moody pop songs coexisting with the art and visuals,” Plapinger explains. “We like to work in extremes.”

MS MR came into being in 2010, when Plapinger and fellow Vassar alum Max Hershenow, both 25, met up in New York City following graduation. Neither was contemplating life in a band: Hershenow was waiting tables while studying at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, while Plapinger worked behind the scenes at Neon Gold, the label she’d co-founded as an undergraduate. Only hours after reconnecting, they discovered that the electronic soundscapes and synth hooks that Hershenow had been crafting on his computer provided an ideal plastic-fantastic foil for Plapinger’s icily stylish vocals. “Nothing was premeditated,” Hershenow claims. “We hadn’t even dreamed of making our own music.”

The roller coaster began its ascent for MS MR when Tom Ford used Secondhand Rapture‘s beautifully ominous first single, “Hurricane,” in a 2012 runway show, and not long after that, the track “Bones” was used to score a Game of Thrones trailer. “All these things that happened came about in the most organic way,” Hershenow says. “Both of us are still in a bit of a state of shock. It was all so easy in a way.” While MS MR didn’t anticipate all the attention they’ve been getting, they are ready to insert a distinctively pretty poison pill into the cultural conversation. “We want to create candy-colored worlds with a gothic, macabre underbelly,” Plapinger explains. “We find inspiration in unexpected contrasts, like a bloodied hand colored in pastels,” adds Hershenow. “Our best work combines disparate ideas that don’t naturally work together—that don’t make sense.”

For MS MR’s favorite things, click here.