In their lone year together, MisterWives has gone from their first break out performance at New York’s Canal Room to performing at SXSW this past week. Right before they left for Austin, singer Mandy Lee, bassist Will Hehir and drummer Etienne Bowler let us hang out in their apartment which doubles as a studio where they produce all their music, including their recently released EP Reflections. Over coffee and chocolate donuts that Mandy made – yes, there were donuts and she’s an amazing baker – they talked about their sudden rise, annoying their neighbors and their family style of living.
Milk Made: How did you guys meet? What made you decide to form a band?
Mandy: Well, I wish we could say we met in a more interesting way, but it was very random ways of meeting. Will and I met through a mutual friend. I was throwing an ’80s prom for my birthday and I wanted an ’80s cover band. So my friend was like, “Oh I have a friend who is a bassist.” Then after that night we were like, “Let’s actually play music together that’s not just ’80s cover music.” Then Will moved in shortly after, and we became roommates.
Etienne and I worked a block away from one another in the city at vegan restaurants. We would always cross paths and go to one another’s workplace to eat, and would talk about music. I invited him to come jam with us and the second he did it just all felt right, that’s why we were like, “Let’s make a band together.” We’ve all been in many previous music projects, and none of them felt the way it did when we played music. It came naturally and we all got along so well. If we didn’t make a band, we’d all be kicking ourselves. We all love music and love each other so those two things go hand in hand.
MM: Has it been a whirlwind for you guys since you’ve been signed with Photo Finish?
ML: Oh yeah!
Etienne: It’s been more and more just being more and more busy every day. Every week it’s just –
ML: Crazy! Music is a job now. This is busier to me than working doubles at a restaurant and trying to balance making music at the same time. And it’s pretty awesome. It’s been just a snowball effect. Last year, we had our first show at the Canal Room on Feb. 1 with the five of us – because there’s Jesse and Mark, the guitarist and the keys player – and then basically like the next day Matt Galle out of Photo Finish offered us a record deal. So that happened, and we got our managers, and this, and touring , all festivals, and iTunes “Single of the Week,” all these many, different things that we were planning in like a couple years. It just happened kind of fast. Et recorded all our first demos, and we put them up on Soundcloud. I guess that’s how people found us. Power of the internet!
MM: Since you live together, are there any conflicts?
EB: Well, we get along too well.
ML: Yeah, people don’t believe us. They’re like, “Come on! Give us the dirt.” Unfortunately, we like each other. Except for the only thing: Me being the only girl, I clean up a lot in the house. Those things aren’t band related though. No band issues. Just like, “Ah! There’s piss on the seat again! I am cleaning your piss.” That’s as far as our bickering gets.
EB: Mandy makes everyone a lot cleaner. There are things that I never thought to do. Like taking the things off the stove, rather than just wiping them a little. [Laughter]
MM: Do your neighbors complain a lot about the practicing?
ML: Oh, you should look at our fridge. We have all our noise complaints up there. First one was handwritten. Second one was typed. Now he just holds down the doorbell for a solid five minutes straight.
EB: And Mandy just goes, “Don’t answer it! Just stop. Just shhh!” [Laughter]
ML: And then we all meet them in the elevator. This elderly couple. They hate us. We sometimes get stuck in the elevator with them. We’re just, “Well, this is awkward!” We had a film crew here the other day. They’re in the elevator, so this guy was extra mad that there was no space. So he’s like, “Are you famous, yet?” And we’re like, “We’re working on it, you know.” He goes, “Yeah. Did your album come out?” And I was like, “Yeah, we would send you one, but I guess you heard it all already.” We produced all of it here in the apartment. We’ll give them a shout out for tolerating us.
MM: Take us through a regular day for MisterWives?
ML: Wake up. Definitely coffee and breakfast, usually tofu scramble. Either we have to go out and do interview or play sessions that are filmed. And if we’re not doing that kind of thing, then we’re recording here and writing. We’ve been writing a lot of new material, because we’re going to go to Atlanta in May to record the full length album for four weeks. We had this tiny little window of time for making new music since we’ve been home from the last tour. There’s that. What else do we do?
WH: Conference calls.
ML: Yeah, we usually do conference calls and we just shot a music video the day before. That was an all day thing. We did an MTV session the day before. Before that we had a show. So always something music-oriented. At the end of the day I’ll cook dinner. We’ll all sit down and have dinner.
EB: We’ll find a really good action movie to watch. Mandy falls asleep in the opening credits.
ML: It’s exhausting! It takes up all our day, but it’s fun. Is there anything else interesting that we do? We try to do some sort of physical activity and then we don’t see sunlight for the rest of the day ’cause we’re in our room. We have a little tiny studio in our bedroom and that’s where we spend most of our time. Pretty boring. Occasionally we’ll go out and do something social. So that’s our day. Damn, we gotta do other things. [Laughter]
MM: You’ve just shot the video for the song Reflections recently. What can we expect from that?
ML: Ooh! Fire and shattered glass! It’s good. There’s a story line to the video and it’s very fitting to what that song is about. But it has an interesting perspective as to how to showcase that story line. Brian Magarian, the editor, is an incredible computer wizard and really good with CGI, so there’s going to be a lot of cool effects with shattered glass and fire. It was awesome. It got shot in this big warehouse in Brooklyn. We started at 9 AM and we didn’t get home like 1 in the morning. It was an all day event, but it was incredible. It was our first official music video with a budget and signing contracts, a big camera crew and all these fancy things. ’Cause the last music video we shot was guerrilla filming, going into places we shouldn’t have, one camera guy and two of his friends are helping out.
WH: It cost us a pizza.
ML: Yeah! So it went from the first music video where a budget was the pizza to this one where it was a whole production.
MM: What are you looking forward to most performing at SXSW?
ML: Perez Hilton Party. That’s gonna be crazy.
EB: Yeah, it’s gonna be great.
ML: We’re gonna play that. And we looked at photos of the venue we’re playing. And I pissed my pants a little, because it was so huge. It had balconies and 5,000 people. It’s insane.
EB: It’s going to be the biggest show by far we ever played.
ML: Yeah, so that’s incredible. But I’m excited to go and be there and see other bands, for sure. Being in 80 degree weather and getting to listen to music from mornings till nights. I’m mostly excited for that. It’s fun playing, but it’s even more fun when you get to go and see the bands.
MM: Is there anyone you plan on stalking while you’re there?
WH & EB: Bill Murray.
ML: We’re playing a show for the Dickies Road House. One of the members of The Strokes is going to be DJ’ing. I’m excited for that. We’ve never been there. We’ve never been to the festivals we’re playing and we always wanted to go to these things and now it’s like, we’re playing and we’re going! So it’s just double rainbow.
Photography by Koury Angelo
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