In Which we ‘Connect the Dots’ with MisterWives [INTERVIEW]
MisterWives is a poptastic band from New York, creating earworms faster than lead singer Mandy Lee can churn out homemade donuts. Their energy is undoubtedly contagious, and they’re bringing it back to the city this week. So it was only fitting that we caught up with bass player Will Hehir to hear more about their infectious sophomore release, Connect the Dots, the ever-changing New York music scene, and to find out the secret for success of being in a band and on tour with five of your closest friends.
Bowery Boogie: How’s your Connect the Dots tour going? What do you guys love most about being on the road?
Will Hehir: This tour has been great. It’s been so much fun to play a lot of the new material. This summer was a hodgepodge of headlining shows, co-headlining shows, and festivals – it was nice to get our feet wet. But to embark on this tour has been so much fun because it’s been in some of the biggest rooms we’ve played. And the crowds have been absolutely incredible. Being able to play some of the new music and see the crowd’s reaction to it is definitely very heartwarming.
BB: We caught your set at Governors Ball this past summer. How does the festival gig experience compare to your regular shows?
WH: It’s definitely different. At a headlining show, you’re playing to people who have specifically come out to see you, so you can take more liberties in terms of what songs you choose to play. There’s a different kind of ebb and flow with how things are. We always try to keep it as high energy as possible, but a regular show affords you the opportunity to take a step back, play some slower stuff and experiment with things, which you wouldn’t necessarily want to do at a festival.
BB: What do you think about the New York music scene?
WH: I absolutely adore it. We’re all from New York, so it’s very close to home for all of us. And New York is so incredibly lucky – and we were so incredibly lucky growing up – because every act that you would ever want to see in any genre would always find its way into New York City, be it in Madison Square Garden or Bowery Ballroom or Webster Hall. At the end of the day I’m a die-hard New Yorker; I don’t think I’d ever be able to leave the city. It’s nice to be able to tour and see the country and world, but it is very nice to come back and, oddly enough, get on the subway and experience the familiar sights, sounds, and smells.
BB: What makes the Lower East Side special, despite all of the new developments, gentrification, and the crumbling of the music venues?
WH: It’s definitely discouraging to see the crumbling of certain music venues, but I don’t think the music scene will ever die. To me, the music scene is really about people who are interested in making music, and New Yorkers will always prevail in the sense that they will find a way to accomplish whatever it is that they want to do. If they want to put a band together with their friends, they’re going to be able to find a resource in New York where they can go and make noise, even if they’re not able to do it in their apartment.
It’s sad to hear about smaller clubs and places closing, because for us in particular, those were huge parts of our career from the preliminary stages. Like if Pianos were to close, it stings a little bit to think about that. Because when we first started out, to get to play a show at Pianos and be able to invite all of our friends, that was huge – because that’s a legitimate venue, with a sound guy and you could actually get to feel what playing live there is like. And we did that with places like Arlene’s Grocery and The Canal Room (now defunct).
I hope this trend doesn’t continue. And I hope that we stop building fucking high-rises for the sake of adding more people to the city, if it means it’s going to be tearing away at the culture of developing artists.
BB: How was creating Connect the Dots different from your debut Our Own House, and did you return to the treehouse to write the songs?
WH: (laughs) No, the treehouse was less involved in this one. The album seemed very natural and fun in a lot of ways. Making the Connect the Dots album was amazing because we had been out touring for so long – I think maybe three years – so I think collectively we all felt comfortable musically and personally. Mandy had a lot to say and a lot to express in writing these songs. Tracks like “Drummer Boy,” “Coloring Outside the Lines,” and “Chasing This” are some of the larger ones, and then we tackled some frustrations that exist in the political world today in writing “Revolution” and “Oh Love,” which was written two days after the 2016 election.
We finally had the opportunity when we were home in August to have some time to work on the new songs that Mandy had come up with, to see what she had on chord progression and melody, and we were able to jam on that. It was something we weren’t necessarily able to do with our EP and first album.
On top of that, to be able to work with Butch Walker in L.A. was a delight.
BB: Did you guys actually attempt to do the dot-to-dot on the new album’s cover art?
WH: We all did it because we are all a little weird and into arts and crafts and shit like that. I love the idea – it’s something Mandy and Etienne came up with – not only is it a fun activity, but it’s also more representative of what the album is. Each of the songs individually focuses on a certain aspect of life, but then when you put them all together, it creates this portrait of a bigger picture. You can’t have the happy songs without some of the sad songs. The light without the darkness, that sort of thing. Each of these songs – they’re all unique and individual – but then when you put them together, you see the grand scheme of things. And that’s the underlying philosophy of this album.
BB: First show you attended?
WH: Ozzy Osbourne with my buddy in the eighth grade. We were both huge fans, and it was around Christmas time. I remember that because Ozzy Osbourne came out on a sled like Santa Claus.
BB: Of course he did.
WH: Yeah, I mean, because he’s also fucking Ozzy Osbourne, so he can do whatever he wants. Yeah, that show was a big one for me.
BB: I heard you guys like to eat a lot of treats while on the road. What’s your go-to?
WH: We’ve been pretty big on the donut scene. Mandy learned how to make her own donuts. I bought her a deep fryer – I thought it was a really great idea at the time. And then I saw how many donuts could actually be produced, and I realized I was probably going to get diabetes.
BB: You guys have any pre-show rituals?
WH: Right before we go on stage, we get together and put our hands in, sort of a huddle, and Mandy will say a few things about wherever it is that we are playing. We’ll follow it up with a few “MisterWives!”
Before that, in the dressing rooms, Mandy’s usually bedazzling an outfit. Etienne brought a juicer on this tour, so he’s been making juices for everybody – in an effort to keep everyone healthy.
BB: To offset the donuts.
WH: Ha, yeah. It’ll be like 11am, and he’ll say “Wanna do a shot?” But instead of alcohol, he hands you a shot of ginger. Tastes like gasoline, but it’s supposed to be good for you?
BB: What do you hope listeners will take away from your music?
WH: I think whatever they want to extract from our music is great. We attempt to make music as authentic and real as we possibly can. We want to inspire others to take away a positive mindset, as well. Like, yeah shit sucks when you’re going through a breakup, but on the flip side, there’s some level of positivity, in terms of finding out who you are and growing as an individual.
BB: Getting to hang out with your really close friends, doing something you love – sounds like you’re living the dream. What’s your recipe for success?
WH: I honestly don’t know. I remember what it was like to be in bands before, where you’d always enjoy some elements of it, but you’d have to overlook this shit, or a guy you don’t always get along with – there are certainly things that don’t work. But with this band, it’s not like we did anything different to avoid that.
When we met, it was just one of those things where we knew knew who we were as individuals, we knew collectively what we wanted, and it just clicked. We don’t fight. We don’t argue. If someone has an idea it’s taken with value – if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There aren’t any egos involved.
I think the key to it all is about keeping your eyes open. And keeping your heart and mind open, as well.
I also think it’s a matter of knowing who you are as an individual, and then knowing what you want, and not settling for anything until you’re fully comfortable. It’s more of a family than anything else.
MisterWives plays Terminal 5 tomorrow night at 7pm.