Interview: Misterwives


The indie pop band Misterwives just released their sophomore full-length album Connect the Dots. It’s a technicolor shot of adrenaline to the music industry and quite simply one of the most fun listens of the year. Just before their explosive set at Firefly Music Festival, we got a chance to sit down with Misterwives’ Mandy Lee, Jesse Blum, Etienne Bowler, Marc Campbell and Will Hehir, to discuss a variety of topics. In our discussion, we touch upon how some politicians have a tendency to hide immoral action under party politics, why the music industry is a tough place to work, and just how many drummers is too many drummers in a band.

We’re here with Misterwives at Firefly Music Festival. You guys just released your second full-length record Connect the Dots last month. I know you guys are excited about that for sure. Now that it’s been about a month have you guys been pleased by the reaction or surprised with the songs fans are gravitating towards?

Mandy: Yes to all of the above. We’ve been very pleased with how everyone has receiving the new music. They’ve been far too gracious. And it’s pretty cool that everyone has a favorite song off it. There hasn’t been just one. Every tweet goes through the whole entire list of the album.

I know sometimes you’ll see a post like “What song do you want to see on tour?” and the replies are just every song on the album.

Mandy: Yeah! It’s really amazing, because you never want to have just like one song and then filler. That’s not how we approach an album. So it’s cool to see people gravitating towards others.

So when you went in to start writing Connect The Dots did you go into the writing with a conception of what you wanted it to be in relation to your first record? Or did that start to take shape as you were writing the record?

Mandy: We definitely wanted it to be a gradual step up from the previous album. We really pushed ourselves sonically and lyrically to create the best music that we could. But yeah it kind of just happened, where we said “alright, let’s rip it off like a Band Aid. Let’s start writing and see where this takes us.” And naturally the whole concept and theme of Connect the Dots came together from how the music came together.

So were there songs on this record that were particularly difficult to write or put together? Songs that perhaps you really wanted to get on the record but weren’t sure if they would make it?

Mandy: “My Brother” was one that I had the most difficulty with.

I can see how that would be difficult to find a place for in the tracklisting, considering its a step-down in tempo from a lot of the other tracks on the album.

Marc: It was. We actually recorded it as one of the first three or four songs. We actually tracked the whole thing and we were like 95% done, and then we went back to other songs. And then it ended up being one of the last songs we finished for the album.

Mandy: Yeah, we went back over it in our apartment. We were like, “We have to redo this. It’s just not feeling right.” But I like slow tempo songs. That’s how we started out was doing those kinds of songs.

I have always loved those songs from you guys. I saw you guys before the first album came out and remember seeing “Not Your Way” and how the tempo would change around and gravitating towards those songs.

Mandy: That’s this guy here. Our drummer. (points to Etienne)

Etienne: I like fast. Drummer like fast (everyone laughs)

I feel like you’re sitting back there saying “I’m kinda bored by this slow stuff let’s speed it back up again.”

Mandy: It’s nice to have a break and collect your thoughts.

Will: There is no fast if there is no slow. (everyone laughs again)

That’s so poetic. So at the start of a new album cycle, do you guys set goals for yourself for where you want to be by the time you start the next one, or are you just enjoying the ride?

Mandy: We’re definitely enjoying the ride, but we’re also setting the bar high. We just want to be as big as we possibly can and grow our fanbase and continue to fulfill this dream.

Etienne: Yeah, we’ve put so much energy into the record. And then so much energy into the live show. We just want that to be successful.

And lyrically I know you guys definitely pushed yourselves pretty hard on this record.

Etienne: We pushed ourselves so hard (points to Mandy and everyone laughs)

So I wanted to bring up “Revolution,” because it’s a song that I gravitated towards when I was listening to the record. It’s certainly the most expressly political song on the record, I would say. So was that a song that was written before or after the election? I don’t want to talk politics if you don’t want to.

Mandy: Yeah, to me it’s not even politics. It’s human decency and human interaction.

Marc: Were you talking about “Oh Love”?

I was talking about “Revolution” but I suppose “Oh Love” could apply here as well.

Mandy: It applies as well, yeah. But “Revolution” is the more positive outlook on things. It was during the whole election season (that we wrote “Revolution”). There has been so much injustice, and wrongness, and turmoil and negativity. We wanted the message of unity and equality and love to ring louder than all of that. But it is really hard to see all of these things happen. And you feel really powerless. And we’re just lucky we have music to be a vehicle to bring to people together and spread that message.

That’s so great. And you know I didn’t want to bring it up and discuss it if you guys didn’t want to because I know it’s difficult. But for me that was a big part of the song. I know for me when the election happened and the Muslim Ban was signed, I personally was in the process of applying to law school. And when I saw there were a dozen lawyers sitting on the ground at JFK filing paperwork to allow refugees and immigrants to enter the country, and I decided I had made the right decision right there.

Mandy: Oh wow, good for you.

So that’s why that political song, even if it’s just meant as a more unifying rallying cry, still means a lot.

Mandy: And it’s so crazy that that is deemed political when it’s really just about being a good person. It’s just the foundations of morals. And it’s sad that in this day and age that’s what counts as politics because things are so fucked up.

And people can say, hide their immorality behind the guise of political party.

Will: The political veil, yeah. You put it in a different platform and you have the capacity to all of a sudden say it’s for political reasons, so you don’t have to deal with the fact that you’re being a dickhead.

Jesse: To me, it makes me really happy to be a part of an organization that is striving for something better and to have a platform where we can do it. When (Mandy) came in with that song it made me really happy.

So the other song I wanted to talk to you about for a bit was “Machine.” The first album had a few songs like this as well which were addressing the music industry and the commoditization of success and sort of the assembly line production of music. Has managing that side of the music business gotten easier for you guys as you have had more success?

Mandy: Noooo. Nope.

Jesse: It’s just the same annoying thing forever.

Mandy: It’s just the same nonsense. And you would think if a label could see how far we’ve come.

Or there’s people like me where you have to go from one interview right into another interview unfortunately.


Mandy: Oh, not it’s not that at all.

Jesse: That’s not what we’re talking about. You know that, right? We don’t mean you.

I know I was just being self-deprecating for a minute. I know you’re discussing the label politics of it all.

Mandy: It’s the man. We’re sticking it to the man. Who doesn’t let you be who you are and write your own music and have your own brain and your own thoughts. Who doesn’t let you be expressive and celebrate individuality. Those are the things that are shunned, and you are told you’re not gonna make it, and you need to play by the playbook, and all this crazy shit that really gets your blood boiling. Cause you would think, we’ve done pretty well just being ourselves and you would think they’d see that and say, “maybe there is something good here.”

Some people will say, “you need a single for this album,” and you’ll be sitting there saying “I wrote the best 12 songs I could” or whatever.

Mandy: Yeah, because you don’t have ten writers on it, that’s considered a gamble for them.

Marc/Will: They’re scared of the real. They treat it so much like a business. Where it more comes down to metrics and things.

Mandy: Numbers!

Instead of it being about connecting to your audience, connecting with people.

Mandy: Rather than listening to the music and being like, “Do I like this or not?” instead it’s all about, “well, your numbers don’t show the growth we want.”

And who knows, there’s a million different things that could go into why the first week sales aren’t there… And that’s another thing, the first week sales is what decides it now?

Mandy: Yep, that is it.

You could have millions of people listening on Spotify, but if you don’t sell 100,000 copies in Wal-Mart apparently people care. It’s a bizarre set-up.

Marc: It’s insane.

Jesse: Thank you, statistics. For nothing.

Mandy: Well, Jesse’s just working on getting a hacker.

Jesse: I’m gonna be working on modifying the numbers.

All you have to do is go into Hits Daily Double and add a few zeroes and you’ll be fine.

Jesse: How hard could it be to hack into Billboard? Probably not hard.

I wanted to ask Mandy, there’s a lot more love songs on this record than on the first record.

Mandy: Yeah (leans in towards her fiancee Etienne) But it’s really them too! (motioning to everyone else in the band)

So how has performing these new songs, and being able to perform them next to your fiancee. How has that affected your enjoyment of these new songs?

Mandy: Yeah, it’s just been really amazing and fun to be able to perform these songs and he’s playing the drums behind me and we’re a unit. And it’s really not just the two of us, now. It’s also to the crowd too. It’s a love song to everybody. We’re the luckiest people in the world to be able to do this together, and to fulfill our dreams and to be in love.

Jesse: It’s very nice to be around that.

Mandy: He doesn’t talk much about it, but I talk too much about it, hence why there are so many of those songs.

You think you guys are going to play your own wedding? Or how is that going to work.

Mandy: Hell no (laughs)

Hire another band for that!

Mandy: We do want to make it like a music festival though.

Live band weddings make all the difference in the world. It’s crazy how much the difference between a DJ and a live band at a wedding makes.

Will: Yeah, definitely.

Mandy: Oh yeah. Live music is incomparable.

I have one more silly question for you. I’m a big fantasy football. I see the looks on your faces already so I’m not going to ask you about sports.

Will: Thank God.

There’s not always a big overlap between sports and music, I get it. But I will ask you, we used to do this thing on our site called the Fantasy Band Draft, where you pick a guitarist, bassist, drummer and singer to form a fantasy supergroup to like play this festival or whatever. Any bands out there. Who would you pick?

Mandy: Okay on the drums…

Jesse: We could do either Chris Dave or Dave Grohl. Someone with the name Dave.

A lot of people do pick Dave Grohl.

Marc: Or Taylor Hawkins.

You could just have Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins.

Mandy: 2 drummers! Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins.

We already know they have good chemistry with one another.

Mandy: We’ll definitely have Chance The Rapper.

For sure. He was amazing last night.

Marc: I feel like Flea has to be on bass?

Mandy: Is it just Chili Peppers all around?

Etienne: I know cause I would really want John Frusciante.

It’s too bad you guys were in Carrboro last night because Chance blew it out of the park here. It was until like 2 AM.

Mandy: I know. It’s insane. Hmm, for singers, we should pick someone alive. Obviously, Prince or Michael Jackson would be great, but…

Jesse: I was thinking like an a capella group with like Prince and Michael Jackson, and just all vocals.

Etienne: We would put Prince on guitar too.

Mandy: James Murphy, on percussion.

I saw him this summer too, it was incredible.

Marc: That’s good. He’s a genius.

Mandy: Who else?

Marc: I think we should go back to Chris Dave on drums.

Jesse: So we’re having three drummers? Three drummers, seven singers.

Mandy: No we need a keys player, synths?

Marc: Kenny Kirkland?

Jesse: I don’t know. All I can think of is like fusion guys.

Mandy: I know, I know.

Jesse: No one who would just want to be in the background just playing.

Marc: How about the guy in Spinal Tap (Viv Savage), for comedic relief.

Mandy: And Beyonce, just because she’s Beyonce.

Jesse: We need to get Beyonce.

Mandy: She’s the lead singer.

For those following along at home that means Misterwives’ Fantasy Band Roster is as follows:

  • Chris Dave – Drums
  • Dave Grohl – Drums
  • Taylor Hawkins – Drums
  • James Murphy – Percussion
  • Flea – Bass
  • John Frusciante – Guitar
  • Viv Savage – Keyboards
  • Prince – Guitar/Vocals
  • Chance the Rapper – Vocals
  • Michael Jackson – Vocals
  • Beyonce – Lead Vocals

So I have one final question for you, that I forgot to ask before. I know we were just talking about Chance the Rapper. Last year, you guys released the “Same Drugs” cover, and it was one of my favorite things that came out last year. Are there any plans to do another cover maybe in a different or the same genre for this album cycle?

Mandy: We have a cover coming out in like a week actually. We recorded it with Spotify.

Etienne: You will have to check Spotify to find out what song we covered. I would say it definitely pushed us. Mandy is very impressive on this one.

Marc: It’s really a wild ride.

Jesse: One could say it’s the wildest of rides.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.

Misterwives are on tour now supporting their new album, which you can listen to on Apple Music or Spotify. For more tour dates and information, you can visit their website.