MisterWives Speak Their Minds on Pop Audience, Fighting Misogyny + More
If you want to see a band having pure, unadulterated fun doing what they love, look no further than MisterWives. The New York City-based group's current form goes back to 2013, featuring lead singer Mandy Lee, drummer Etienne Bowler, bassist Will Hehir, guitarist Marc Campbell and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Blum, and they're having the time of their lives at this year's Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.
After releasing their Reflections EP in early 2014, the band's momentum has snowballed. MisterWives appeared on Good Morning America, opened up for bands like Bleachers and Twenty One Pilots and dropped their full-length debut album, Our Own House, back in February via Photo Finish and Republic Records. Diffuser chatted with MisterWives backstage to see how they were handling their success so far.
Not to sound creepy, but I was watching you guys while you were doing a photo session by a tree. You looked as happy as little kids who play on a jungle gym. Is there ever a time when you're not having fun, like sleeping?
Will Hehir: Even when we're sleeping I'm rolling around throwing my hands up in the air.
Mandy Lee: We're still partying when we're sleeping. We're still playing a show while we're sleeping. In our bunks we're all synchronized.
You did have a fake band name called 24 Hour Party People, right?
Lee: That's not a fake, that was the original name. It was the three of us [Etienne Bowler and Hehir].
Etienne Bowler: It was a real Facebook event created with that band name that Will did. Great job, Will.
Lee: But we do have a side project called Meat Wolf that is on the rise. We're opening for Metallica later today [laughs].
How is your rookie experience at Lollapalooza going so far?
Hehir: Best. Day. Ever. This festival means the world to us. We've been talking about it since we got booked. We're so excited. I was here four years ago just to go and it was so much fun. I got to go to a bunch of after parties and just dreamed of doing this.
The band started off as a trio and now there are five members. Were you worried about any chemistry problems?
Lee: No. It was kind of accidental how we came together. I just had a randomly booked show and we played during rehearsal. We were like, "Wait! This is awesome. Let's keep doing this." It just happened real organically and I never forget that first rehearsal when we just gelled really well. Now we're living the dream at Lollapalooza.
Our Own House is unique where listeners can find themselves in different music realms depending on what track they're listening to. "Hurricane" is pop perfection, yet "Coffins" has a darker element. How do you find that balance in moods for the record?
Lee: We just play what we like and what we love. There are five of us and we all have very different musical backgrounds. Music is just this incredible, transcendent thing where there's so many different genres, so why just play one thing? I write the song, bring it to rehearsal and whatever genre it comes out is what it is. It's not a premeditated thing where we're like, "Oh but we gotta be indie cool." It's just how I felt that day. It's reggae, it's ska, then we have pop.
Bowler: Whatever we're listening to that week will probably influence whatever song or sound Mandy brings to us.
Lee: We don't ever want to be pigeonholed. There's just so many amazing genres and we want to explore it all and try to do it the best we can without it sounding like a cacophony.
There has been this blur between alternative and pop for the last several years. Artists like Vance Joy are opening up for Taylor Swift. We love your cover of "Riptide." How long did it take to arrange?
Bowler: We rehearsed it once. [Spotify] wanted us to do a cover. I heard it on Snapchat, and Mandy and I looked at each other and we were like, "That song is dope."
Lee: I was sitting at the keys and I was like, "I really like this new song." This was before it was massive. I was playing it on the keys and then we had a rehearsal. We were doing that Spotify session and we had to do a cover for it so we did that.
Is the pop audience getting smarter when it comes to new artists or is pop music itself trying to broaden its fan base?
Hehir: I think the audience is always intelligent. Everyone just listens to what they want. It's the exposure and the cross-blending of different genres that comes up. There's always a resurgence that happens in circles. The '80s will come back, the '90s will come back. It all kind of meshes together as time moves forward. The ability to listen to music on Spotify and other streaming services really provide different areas to listen to it.
Marc Campbell: I think there's always breakthrough things in pop music that might not necessarily be pop music.
Lee: Pop is just "popular." That's all it means.
You brought up the '80s and the music video for "Reflections" instantly reminds me of the classic The Breakfast Club movie. You said in a previous interview that you received several treatments that you weren't cool with.
Lee: We're never going to do a music video where it's like, "Oh, breakup. Mandy sad, crying. Making out with boy then he disappears. Continues to cry. Shattering glass. Fire." We did a version of that music video. I watched five seconds of it and was like, "F--- no." I'm sorry, this is just not us. We're not going to do this very cliché version. Yes, it's a breakup song, but let's do something a little more out of the box. We're trapped in detention while everyone else at school is free and we're trying to get out, which is kind of like a breakup when you see the other person moving on and great and you're like, "Why am I in detention?" We just wanted to have fun with it. The day you see a video like the one I was describing earlier is the day I think this band will not exist.
It's no secret that women in music face misogyny on a regular basis. Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches is one of many females who aren't afraid to fight back. Do you face those same challenges?
Lee: Absolutely. It's really sad in this industry that it's much harder for a woman just as an artist. If you're a female it's, "Oh, but you got to show more skin. Let's talk about your hair." Look, I just want to f---ing write music and play with my band. That's all I'm here for. There's nothing wrong with that stuff but women get the brunt of it. When we're on sets at certain things and they're like, "Yeah, Mandy. You can't do your hair like that." I will shave my hair off. This is not what music is about. It's sad but I wrote a song about it and I think that's the best platform to speak your mind. Hopefully we see gender equality sometime soon.