ABOVE: MISTERWIVES. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERVIN LAINEZ
MisterWives are married: not legally, but musically. The band, comprised of Mandy Lee, Etienne Bowler, Will Hehir, Marc Campbell, Dr. Blum, and Murph Dawg, has formed a bond over the past year that they're ready to share with the world. The New York-based band will release its debut EP Reflections early next month, which features rock, dance, and pop-driven tracks that capture Lee's strong vocals. For a band that just got together a year ago, MisterWives have had quite the journey so far. The band was picked up by PhotoFinish Records earlier this year and completed a tour with Canadian indie-rockers Half Moon Run.
We're excited to premiere "Imagination Infatuation" by MisterWives, which captures the spirit of the band: it's a fun and free-spirited track that encourages dancing. With tracks like these, Lee showcases her unusual girl-power panache: Gwen Stefani's knack for lyrics, Stevie Nicks' spirit.
ILANA KAPLAN: How did MisterWives form?
MANDY LEE: Our paths all crossed pretty randomly. Will and I met through a mutual friend, and shortly after became roommates, where we'd play music in our apartment and get noise complaints. Etienne and I worked a block away from one another in the city. He'd come in regularly for a soy bacon cheeseburger, and at some point during one of the many visits we started talking about music... before we knew it, we all started jamming. Marc and Jesse came on board a bit later. Etienne knew them both from previous bands and brought them on board. It took one rehearsal for everything to click, and then we all fell in love and lived happily ever after.
KAPLAN: How did your vocal training fuel this project?
LEE: Having gone to LaGuardia, they whip your vocal chords into shape. I've sang since I could speak, but going to a high school with a department dedicated to vocals helped tremendously. It's given me a sturdy foundation of knowing how to use my instrument properly. I also took my first songwriting class there, which was so inspiring. Once I had a taste of it, I couldn't stop. There are worse addictions out there.
KAPLAN: Is this the first band you've been in?
LEE: Nope. We've all been in previous bands before. Finding the right band is something like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This one is just right.
KAPLAN: Where did the name MisterWives come from?
LEE: It's a play on the Mormon term "sister wife." Instead of a man marrying a bunch of women and them all becoming friends, we reversed the genders. So basically, I married all the guys and they became friends. I've run into a few Mormons while on tour who were not happy about our name.
KAPLAN: What's the story behind "Imagination Infatuation"?
LEE: It's about when you make someone out to be far more amazing than who they actually are. Embellishing beings seems to have been a phase in my life.
KAPLAN: Your songs seem to be driven by "girl power" and not taking any shit. There seems to be a lot of relationship stuff in there. Are all of the tracks about one particular person?
LEE: Yes to girl powah! Have to keep my inner Spice Girl alive. The songs were inspired by different individuals but wound up having a cohesive theme. So I guess all those dudes rolled into one made a big monster, so hypothetically the songs are all about one person.
KAPLAN: Does opera play a big part for you when composing music?
LEE: It doesn't affect my songwriting really, just helps when it comes time to sing. Maybe our next album will go more Susan Boyle meets Pavarotti.
KAPLAN: Do you guys write all of your songs together, or do you lead the process?
LEE: As of now, I've written all the songs. I usually write the skeleton and bring it to rehearsal, where the guys fill it out and write their parts until we get it right. I'd really love for us to write together; we still are a new band, so we've not yet had much time to lock ourselves away in a studio and make music together from the ground up.
KAPLAN: What's the heaviest topic that you've had to write about? Was it a big challenge for you?
LEE: It's never a challenge. Writing music is what helps release all the heaviness, it's like free therapy. I may cry like a baby during the process, but after it's all out, I feel a major sense of relief. Every song hits my core a certain way, but "Lullaby" is one that strikes most for me. Writing about heartbreak from a former relationship is far less intense than heartbreak in your family.
KAPLAN: Definitely. Your first single "Coffins" is a really beautiful track. What went into making this track? How long did the process take?
LEE: I played the song for Will and Etienne and we immediately started recording that night until the wee hours of the morning where we all start to lose our minds a bit. The vocal booth was a closet in Etienne's bedroom, and with barely any recording equipment we tracked the song and maybe got the best sounds we've ever gotten. A couple of weeks later we recorded the strings in Etienne's dad's office where there are high ceilings that have natural boomy sounds. The cellist and violinist were beasts and nailed everything in just an hour. It's a somber song, but was a definitely a fun one to make.
KAPLAN: What does 2014 hold for you guys?
LEE: We're really excited to release our debut EP on iTunes January 7; it will be the first official MisterWives music available. We're also very eager to record our full length album and lock ourselves away until it's done. It's been such a fun year touring and were definitely ready for more in 2014. We hope to hit up some festivals along the way too. It's hard to believe we will be celebrating our one-year anniversary as MisterWives on February 1!
MISTERWIVES' DEBUT EP, REFLECTIONS, COMES OUT JANUARY 7. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, PLEASE VISIT ITS WEBSITE.