Interview: MisterWives talk new music, make plea to actor Aaron Paul

Misterwives, BottleRock

Photos: Jon Ching

Fans of New York pop sextet MisterWives were given a treat at BottleRock Napa Valley when the band busted out one of five new songs written for the record that will follow up debut album Our Own House. “The Machine” is bouncy, energetic and sharp-tongued like the older material in MisterWives’ arsenal. But while the debut album expresses joy at their good fortune, some of the newer material—“The Machine” included—blasts those people who have tried to get in the way of the band and their intentions.

After their set, frontwoman Mandy Lee, drummer Etienne Bowler, bassist William Hehir, guitarist Marc Campbell, multi-instrumentalist Jesse Blum and saxophonist Mike Murphy all met with RIFF editor Roman Gokhman. The jovial, comedic chat was the second time he had interviewed the band since last summer. At that time, Lee had explained how she and the band had written the majority of Our Own House in Bowler’s childhood home’s treehouse, and espoused that one of MisterWives’ greatest traits was that none of the band members had ever had a fight…

The last time we spoke in person, you told me you had yet to have a single fight within the band, is that still true?
Etienne Bowler
: Yes, yes it is.
Mandy Lee: Yeah, it is true.
Jesse Blum: Yes. We’re good.
William Hehir: Affirmative.
Marc Campbell: “Marc Campbell can confirm.”
Hehir: We have continued to yet have a single fight. We’re not in the business of fights; we’re in the business of music.
Lee: No, but Marc secretly is fighting all of us because he’s (wearing a polo shirt that has) got a hidden middle finger cat on his shirt pocket. [ed. Note: Campbell’s shirt had a cat on and above the pocket. Pulling the pocket down revealed the cat showing a middle finger].

Mandy, we also talked about your love of vegan cooking and how you were convincing your band mates to slowly become vegetarians or vegans. You had some success with Will and Etienne. And in a little bit you’re heading to the culinary stage where you will do some sort of vegan cook-off with X Ambassadors, right?
[A couple of the vegan non-conformists within the band guffaw] Lee, to them: Oh shut up. We’re about to have our first fight.
Bowler: Perfect timing.
Lee: I wouldn’t say “convincing.” I just cook the food, and if they like it, that makes me happy.
Bowler: I like it.
Campbell: It’s either good or it’s not. It’s simple as that.
Hehir: Mandy’s an incredible cook.
Lee: Thanks, y’all.
Bowler: The X Ambassadors can suck it.
Lee: Yeah, we’re about to battle them. Battle them to the death.

How does the competition work?
Lee: I don’t know, but we’re making a vegan spring roll and they’re making a meat spring roll, and we are going to crush them.
Hehir: Mandy’s using the term “we” very loosely because it’s going to be her.
Bowler: We’re going to be there, but that’s it.
Lee: No, Etienne’s an amazing cook. He can handle cooking.
Blum: Will can chop onions without crying so he’s going to chop those.
Lee: That’s always his job at home; to chop onions because he doesn’t cry. We talked about this already? It’s such a phenomenon to me.
Hehir: I have no soul.

Perhaps just because you already have caring eyes, Will.
: He does have caring eyes!
Lee: He does.
Hehir: Thanks. You’re so kind.

You’re going to make this spring roll right on the spot?
: I don’t know what ingredients they’re giving us.
Hehir: There was a lot of people there when I walked by.
Campbell: Do we have to feed everybody?

Misterwives, BottleRock

MisterWives perform in Napa during BottleRock 2016. Photo: Jon Ching/staff.

“Seven thousand spring rolls, and who can make them fastest.”
: Wait, I’m scared.
Campbell: If we each had a fryer we could use…
Lee: We can do it. We got to work together, OK? Communication. Marc, no monkey business. You just supervise. Sorry, we’re coming up with our strategy here. Everybody else on deck.
Hehir: Marc’s going to pour whiskey in it.
Campbell: I’m more of a sabotage kind of guy. I’m going to keep asking them questions.
Lee: Yeah, Marc, go mess with them. He’s going to mess with their head.

You played a new song today. Are there others coming along?
: Yeah. We’re like five songs in, all very different but totally us, and exploring territory and having a blast with “not caring about what other people want” kind of music.
Campbell: We played three new songs now this year. This was the newest one that we did today.
Lee: We’ve just been recording them and, like, “Let’s try it live, let’s see how it goes.”

What themes are you writing about? Are there themes or are each of the songs completely different?
: I never really go into writing as like “here’s a theme.” It’s just kind of, like, what I’m feeling in that moment. There’s a love song, and then there’s one about the whole band and what we’ve been through. How far we’ve come. Then another one that’s a big F-you to all the people who try to make us something we’re not. There’s a song about my brother, who’s bipolar, and mental illness. It goes everywhere. It’s just life, you know? I don’t make conceptualized albums, just kind of whatever you’re feeling in that moment and what you’re dealing with. That’s what I write about.
Campbell: The next one’s going to be about spring rolls.

Misterwives, BottleRock

MisterWives perform in Napa during BottleRock 2016. Photo: Jon Ching/staff.

What’s the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last nine months?
: I had a baby.

: No.
Campbell: We did meet the Chili Peppers in the last nine minutes.
Lee: Yeah, I think that’s the best.
Campbell: I mean, our headline tour, the Scrapbook tour; that was outrageous.

You had a lot of fun with WATERS. [Note: At BottleRock, MisterWives invited San Francisco band WATERS, also playing at the festival, on-stage to dance].
: They’re the best. Today was just like a family reunion. It felt so amazing. I would say meeting (Chili Peppers’ drummer) Chad Smith and our headlining tour. I kinda can’t remember anything before what just happened in the last 10 minutes.
Bowler: It’s definitely been an exciting few months. We got to go to Japan, which we never thought we would ever do. The idea of getting to work on the second album… I think everything’s just very exciting. Chad Smith definitely has been up there. We also just met (actor) Aaron Paul.
Hehir: We’ve been recording music, which is extremely exciting. I had a favorite song that Mandy made, but she made another one recently, and now it’s my new favorite song, so that is incredible to me personally.

These new songs were not originally written in a treehouse, I presume?
: No. It’s been cold! Now it’s summer, so maybe I should get back in there.
Bowler: The second half of the album will be!
Lee: As tradition.

[Into the recorder following the conclusion of the interview]:
Bowler: Aaron Paul, if you’re reading this, please hang out with us.
Lee: Be our friend.
Bowler: Be our friend. Thank you, Aaron.
Lee: You seemed annoyed by us at the airport.
Campbell: Sorry.

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