Misterwives Interview: Mandy Lee Opens Up About the Band’s Quick Ascent

By Rosa Barney

It is good to be Mandy Lee right now. The lead singer (and only female) of Misterwives just turned 21, went abroad for the first time and recently quit her day job to pursue music full time. Though Lee is barely able to drink legally she is wise beyond her years. Her voice is accented with the emotion and experience that usually comes with age but in this case it comes from natural intuition.

Misterwives is a relatively new band based in New York City and even though they have only been officially together since late 2012 their sound is strong and cohesive. Originally Misterwives had three members—Mandy, Etienne and William but in the last few months they have adopted three additional members—Marc, Murph and Dr. Blum. Their name is a clever play on the term “sisterwives” since Lee is the only female. We were able to sit down with Lee to chat about her recent milestones, dating Etienne and the inspiration behind their moving and impactful track “Coffins.”

So, tell me what you and the guys are working on now?
When I get back from Paris we are going to start recording our EP. Universal is giving us access to a studio. I want it to be like an old school experience. I am really looking forward to getting a chance to record live drums, it will be awesome. Then we are hoping to do the record in October, we have been talking to a bunch of producers and trying to figure that out but for now we want to get the EP out. We want our fans to have a place to listen to our music other than our SoundCloud page.

Will the EP have all new songs?
It will be a balance, some new songs and some songs that are already on the soundcloud but they will be revamped. We want to redo the production so that they sound bigger and better. Everyone makes music through a computer these days and I am really looking forward to doing it the old school way. It is going to sound awesome.

I heard that you are trained as an opera singer, is that true?
I studied opera in high school, I never intended to be an opera singer but it was one of the choices I had at LaGuardia. So, as part of my training I studied French, Italian, German and English. It gave me a foundation for the music that I am creating now and really helped me develop my voice. Once you get to be a junior or senior you are allowed to take different electives and one of the classes they offered was songwriting and that is when I started writing music so that class really helped me branch out and explore songwriting. The first song that I brought to that class was “Oceans.”

How has your songwriting process evolved since those early days when you were in high school?
Usually when the rest of the world is sleeping is when I am able to write. I don’t play the piano well but enough that I can have some sort of structure for a song before I show it to the rest of the band and it helps me write the song. Usually what happens is I have a melody stuck in my head and it keeps me from sleeping or I have words that need to come out… So then I sit down at the keyboard. I can’t force myself to write a song, if I say “hey, I want to write a song,” nothing happens. Ever. It has to be in the moment.

At what point do you bring in the other guys once you have started writing a song?
Once I have an actual skeleton of a song then I bring it to them and we figure out everyones different parts and how we want it to sound. In the past I have never showed them anything that was partially done but now I feel more comfortable and I want to start bringing them in earlier. We all have different styles of music but we are trying to accomplish the same thing. I think it would be cool to experiment and start working on songs from scratch all together.

Speaking of different styles when I saw you all together it was very apparent that everyone has different styles aesthetically, do you have different styles when it comes to music and how you work together to create music?
We all have different favorites and different styles but it all blends really well. I mean, when we are on our way to go play shows there is never an argument about what to listen to because we all like lots of different music and that definitely helps when we are making music. Somehow as different as we are we all get each other. If it is good music we all love it and appreciate it.

Are you going on tour soon?
We just got an offer for a tour, actually, in October. We are working with a really great booking agent so I am really excited for what they have in store for us, we will be starting the tour in California and finishing in New York. I am excited to not shower and be on the road and just have an awesome experience.

Rumor has it that you and Etienne are dating, can you tell us about it?
Well, I was already making music at the time that we met, I was doing my own thing and recording solo stuff. We were working a block away from each other at two different vegan restaurants and he would come in all the time and get the veggie cheeseburger. He would sit at the bar and we would talk about music and other things, we hit it off really well. He became a really good friend and actually he was in a relationship at the time, so nothing happened. Then he broke up with his girlfriend and I was trying to set him up with my friends and one day just the two of us were hanging out and it was just amazing. I looked at him funny and I was like “holy fuck, how did this happen”? It was totally an accident but it is wonderful and we get along amazingly. People say being in a band and being in a relationship with somebody is a major no-no but we make it work and it is never a problem. It is the best thing getting to create music with someone that you are in love with.

Has he inspired any of your songs?
Yes, actually [laughs], that one will probably be on the EP. I feel very inspired right now. There is so much change but it is all incredible change. It has all been a lot of hard work, non stop work, but it is so worth it for what we are trying to achieve.

For a lot of people “Coffins” is their first introduction to Misterwives, can you tell me the story behind it?
It is about the loss of a friendship with someone. He was my best friend and we were in the band together and it just got really bad. The friendship completely died. He was really important to me and now we don’t even talk anymore. He is amazing but our friendship just turned really bad.

A lot of people can relate to it differently though, it can be about a romantic relationship ending, a friendship, a death of someone special—in my case it was a friendship. It was hard because the more we tried to keep it alive the more we just didn’t get along and it sucks because now the band is starting to kick off and he isn’t a part of it anymore. He was the original guitarist of the whole thing and now he is out of it completely.